Yesterday I bought, downloaded, and read Sam Harris' new e-book, Lying. (No, really, I did!) It was a quick read. Amazon lists its "print length" at 26 pages. While not as thought-provoking or groundbreaking as Harris' full length books, it did make me consider how honesty and dishonesty affect my life. It was definitely worth my two dollars.
That's right; it only costs $1.99, and it's only available in e-book format. This is the first "book" of its kind that I've seen on Amazon. It straddles the gap between essay/article/blog entry and full length book. I like the idea that someone can write thirty pages and then charge a small fee for people to download it. Obviously this won't work for all genres or authors. If what you want is for your ideas to reach the largest number of people, then you'd better be giving your words away for free. But if you've spent a few weeks polishing your too-short-for-a-book thoughts on a topic, and are already a respected author or person that people will want to hear from, then it seems like a great way to make a little money for your troubles.
Apple has already shown the value of pricing music and software down at the $1 level; consumers are much less picky about deciding what to buy when the prices are so low. It will be interesting to see if other authors begin publishing shorter works, perhaps single short stories, as electronic books.