"The new, post-print literary media are certainly amenable to brevity, a genuine advantage for reading off a screen," Scott writes. "The blog post and the tweet may be ephemeral rather than lapidary, but the culture in which they thrive is fed by a craving for more narrative and a demand for pith. And just as the iPod has killed the album, so the Kindle might, in time, spur a revival of the short story. If you can buy a single song for a dollar, why wouldn’t you spend that much on a handy, compact package of character, incident and linguistic invention? Why wouldn’t you collect dozens, or hundreds, into a personal anthology, a playlist of humor, pathos, mystery and surprise?"
Personally, I doubt that Americans are on the verge of falling in love with the short story. But it’s encouraging to see someone with the stature of A.O. Scott speculating that e-books could actually spur interest in a great literary form, instead of destroying it.
Already, in fact, Amazon has a Shorts program, started partly with short stories in mind. Fictionwise also offers a short story market. I hope that other publishers and stores will think in similar terms if they have not. Meanwhile you can even read short stories for free via sites such as Feedbooks, Manybooks.net and Classic Short Stories. So maybe imagining a playlist filled with Carver, Munro and Cheever isn’t such a stretch after all.
Related: Karen’s audio interview with Frank Daniels of Ingram. Yes, that’s Karen, not A.O. Scott, in the photo. Maybe someday LiveWriter will do captions well!