In 2008, Harvard Business Review Press introduced a series called Memo To The CEO and I was intrigued the minute I saw them.
The books were around 100 pages. The trim size was small to signal a short reading time. The topics were specific but highly relevant to leaders, ranging from strategic alliances to lessons from private equity to manage the media. They felt like pithier, long-form articles than what you’d find in the Harvard Business Review. A total of ten books were published over the course of two years.
The series had some branding trouble because readers didn’t know if the books all belonged together and needed to be read in a sequence. Titles were priced was similar to a full-length business book, creating a value question. And though the books’ subtitles pushed utility and takeaways, the topics were still narrow.
Harvard Business Review Press went on to publish other short form books. Their Classics series reprinted articles from the magazine like Blue Ocean Strategy and Drucker’s Managing Oneself. They are simple paperbacks that cost half as much as Memo To The CEO books.
I still feel like there is a place between periodical and book that needs to be filled. We need essays and manifestos that are timely and have enough space to explore the topic. A ten to fifteen thousand word count takes pressure off an author to write more to fit a longer book length form. I wonder if the rise of subscription boxes signals the market potential for an offering focused on original business content, one that combines magazine and book publishing business models.