1. In 2008, ‘the overall rate at which adults read literature (novels and short stories, plays, or poems) rose by seven percent.’ NEA study.
2. 2 million adult Americans publish personal creative writing (NEA study, 2002). Most writers are voracious readers.
3. Amazon has said that customers buy more than 3 times as many books after they buy a Kindle e-reader.
As Paul Vidich says in his article at themillions.com, the decline in reading short stories is linked to the decline in mass market magazine readership, rather than a decline in reader interest.
Now, as the digital revolution unfolds, we’ll see more and more new online literary magazines and mobile publishers of short stories spring into being.
And what all of us have to bear in mind is this: Creating short form content isn’t just about length. To engage readers, as Joseph J. Esposito says in his excellent discussion of growth in publishing on Tools of Change for Publishing, ‘Publishers will need to seek out writers who comprehend the new medium…’ and he’s right. Just bunging a chapter of a novel in an app with a poor-quality audio recording as ‘enhanced content’ will not do.
eChook writers understand how to grab a reader’s attention with the first line, and create a whole new world and a compelling but meaningful story in just a few pages.
NB I believe the printed book will never disappear. I buy my books in paperback as well as digitally. In the future, we’ll have economic, environment-friendly print-on-demand books, and exquisite, as-yet-undreamt-of collectors’ items instead. Not too shabby.