Could e-readers like the Kindle create a real market for short stories?

(Disclaimer: This is a writing post, not a Bat Mitzvah post!) 

Finally — something I’ve seen about e-readers that is actually exciting and potentially good for writers!

The New York Times on Sunday had a story about how the Atlantic is going to start selling short stories for the Kindle, starting with two stories by Edna O’Brien and Christopher Buckley at $3.99 each. You can find the story here.

It struck me that e-readers could revolutionize the market and economics for short fiction. Imagine if you could buy a short story for 99 cents, like a song on iTunes…. You could buy one each morning to read on BART. Buy one on an impulse to read before bedtime. Email a link about a story you liked to a friend, and then she’d buy it…

I’ve never been motivated to write short stories because I felt there was no real market for them.  Okay, one lucky writer per week gets to be in the New Yorker and then a handful of writers appear in little journals that hardly pay and that no one besides other MFA students ever reads. But something like this could potentially create a mass market for short stories.

And if writers could self-publish to the Kindle, keeping all the revenue for themselves…. 99 cents per story purchased (which seems like a more attractive price point to me than $3.99) would add up pretty quickly.

I could imagine a bookstore/social network Web site set up to display, categorize, and review short stories. Kinda like Amazon does for books, with readers reviewing and giving stars to ones they like.

People eagerly waiting for new stories by writers they like. Very prolific writers turning out a story every week for a mass of waiting fans. Clicking a box to learn that if I like short stories by Writer X, then I may also like stories by Writer Y….

What do you think? I haven’t been excited about the idea of e-readers for novels or books. But short stories…. hmmm!


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One Response to “Could e-readers like the Kindle create a real market for short stories?”

  1. johnmangels Says:

    In all honesty, it has possibilities. But I’m not sure it will work. Because I’m not sure I’d buy them. And I say this as someone who writes (still, unpublished) short stories. The emotional truth for me is that, though I can appreciate them, they are over so quickly that I generally feel cheated. I want more.

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