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I know there's no sharp line between the two - lots of people like both novels and shorter fiction. Even though I'm mainly a novel reader, I'll still read a novella occasionally, and I know there are plenty of people who read novels, novellas, and short stories indiscriminately. But I read this post (part of a larger series) a while back, and the recent thread about novels and novellas made me think of it again.

http://insultswordfighting.blogspot.com/2008/01/new-taxonomy-of-gamers-supply-and.html

The post is about video games, but I think some of the points could apply to novels as well. It talks about how people tend to fall into two camps when thinking about the length of a game. For some people, a game - a good one, at least - can never be too long. The longer a game is, the more they feel like they've gotten their money's worth from it, because they've gotten more entertainment for their dollar. Others feel like they've gotten their money's worth out of a game when it provides a complete experience that they can finish in a reasonable amount of time. For these people, a game that costs $60 isn't worth the money if they play for fifty hours and are only half-done, because they've only gotten half a game out of it.

The same thing could be true for readers. Maybe there are two ways of looking at a book - whether it provides you with the most hours of entertainment or the most complete experience. (In addition to novels vs. novellas and short stories, it could also apply to whether people like series novels or stand-alones.) Obviously it's not as cut and dried as all that (just like it isn't that cut and dried for games, as some of the comments on that blog post point out), but I think it makes a decent starting point.

I tend to fall into the former camp when it comes to games, so it makes sense that I'm the same way about books. It would be very hard for me to find a good book that's too long. (Obviously a book padded for length is worse than the same book written with tight prose, but in that case the length also makes the book less good, which doesn't make it a good example.) Although I have to say, I don't seek out series books as much as I used to - with all the books I already want to read, the thought of getting into a new series can feel daunting. When I find a really good series, though, as long as the books stay consistently good I don't want it to end. I don't need the wrap-up in order to feel satisfied, as long as the good books keep coming.

What do the rest of you think? Does this seem like a plausible way of looking at reading? What do you look for when you read - is it more important to get a complete experience or more hours of entertainment?
 

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When I love a book, it can't be too long. I used to go to the bookstore and look for series based on how fat each book was, or at least how many books in the series there were. A big part of reading for me is reading to escape. I want to go get lost somewhere else for a long time. As long as the writer can deliver joy for me, I don't care how long it takes to get to the end. Like you said, don't pad it, but, if it's good, it's good. I get what I call "book hangovers" from the really amazing ones. Sometimes, it's so bad you have to start it over again. I'm pretty sure I'm not remotely alone in that. Doesn't mean a short story or a novella can't do that, but typically, the longer I am immersed in something, the more time it has to seep into my very bones and really begin to consume me, making me dream about it and stuff. That's the sweet spot of reading for me.
 

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A good story always ends too soon, whether it's fifty pages or five hundred. For me, it's all about quality. I read to be entertained or to learn something. If a book accomplishes either of those, I feel it is money well spent.

That said, if a book is poorly written, I feel cheated, even if it was free.
 
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