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Short Story Revival: True or False?

“There’s something unsaid, a dread in the air….  And so there it was said, floating up and around in the atmosphere with all the delicious aromas, the superficial chatter and the sounds of cars making their way back into the city for the long work week.”

–Lori M. Myers ‘Cooking in a Room with Strangers’

 

Fact or fantasy, true or false, it is said that the revival of the short story is due in part to easy access to e-books for reading on a tablet or smartphone. Or is this just a myth?

According to Laura Miller, co-founder of Salon.com, the short story boom is bogus. In response to the New York Times article, ‘Good Fit for Today’s Little Screens: Short Stories’, Laura says, “Still, the idea that such programs have led to renewed general interest in reading short stories is, like much of the Times article, speculative and fueled by wishful thinking.” She expands on this here: ‘Sorry, the Short Story Boom Is Bogus’.

The “wishful thinking” comment begs for some research. Amazon’s Kindle bestseller list does not distinguish between novels, novellas, short stories, but you can compare Short Stories with the Romance, Fantasy and Science Fiction genre novels as well as with novels in Fiction Classics.

The genres (categories) are listed on the left. This comparison is between short stories and the rest (novels, novellas, novelettes). If a book of short stories was tagged as “Science Fiction” and it had an overall ranking that put it into the top 100 in Short Stories as well as Science Fiction, it would appear on both lists.

Compared to the most popular genre, Romance, short stories are way behind (the #100 bestseller in the Romance genre is ranked higher overall than the #1 bestseller in short stories), but compared with Fantasy and Sci-Fi and especially Fiction Classics, short stories do much better as shown in the table below:

Genre

Bestseller List

Overall ranking (Paid in Kindle Store)

Short Stories

#1

#261

Romance

#100

#231

Fantasy

#14

#260

Science Fiction

#12

#259

Fiction Classics

#4, #5

#196,  #531

Romance lived up to its reputation and came out well on top: the #1 bestseller in the Romance genre was overall #1 bestseller on Kindle, and even the #100 bestseller in Romance (#231 overall ranking) ranked higher than the #1 bestseller in the Short Stories category (#261 overall ranking).

However, in the Fantasy bestsellers list, only fourteen books (fourteenth book ranked #260 overall) ranked higher than the top ranked book in Short Stories. Similarly, only twelve books (twelfth book ranked #259 overall) performed better in the Science Fiction genre.

Compared with Fiction Classics, short stories performed well – only four books (fourth book ranked #196 overall, fifth book ranked #531 overall) in the Fiction Classics list ranked higher than the top ranked book in Short Stories.

The evidence suggests that, apart from Romance, short stories in e-book format are now on par with popular genres. Readers seem to enjoy the variety that short stories offer interspersed among their favorite authors and books. One reason for this might be that a short story can be read in the space of a single bus ride or train journey, especially with all the new forms of electronic reading devices and the increasing number of online e-book retailers.

This revival of the short story in electronic format has created an opportunity for writers that might not have presented itself otherwise. Many new and exciting writers are keen to reach out to readers by providing them with stories that entertain and enthrall. The demand from readers is there and authors are matching it.

Take the opening quote from the talented writer, Lori Myers. Lori is one of three Pushcart nominees (Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, Murray Dunlap and Lori M. Myers) who contributed short stories to Forever Families, the third in the Forever series of anthologies – Forever Friends (2008), Forever Travels (2010) and Forever Families (2012).

Lori’s touching story about a sister and brother, who have grown apart, is just one of twenty-seven stories that vary in length from concise to extensive. Every story, whether short or long, offers a unique look at family life. While some are poignant, others raise a smile.

The seven sections that make up the book take the reader through the joys of a happy childhood to the sadness of a death in the family, with fond family memories, faithful family pets, risky family business ventures, eventful family weddings and the ups and downs of family life in between. So, find a comfortable chair, download the book to your e-reader, then sit back and enjoy the diversity of reading experiences in Forever Families.

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