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That a person may have gone a whole year without reading any book does not actually mean the person did not read any book. Actually, what this means is that they did not read any hard copies. This talk about many or most people shunning books looks like speech from old-fashioned people who refuse to accept the inevitable existence and growing popularity of soft copies thanks to digital technology.
Since the advent of e-books, hard-covers are gradually phasing out. Even Amazon is said to be selling its hard-cover stocks at throw-away prices to hook people to the new Kindle technology, the Kindle 2. With this novel technology, one can carry a whole library in his or her pocket to read it anywhere – even in the toilet, by the way (Weisberg).
With people becoming busier by the day in search of extra incomes and having little time for reading (hard or soft copies), considering their “shortness”, time-economy friendliness and the relief of reaching the climax as soon as possible to the time-constrained reader, the future of the almost dismissed short story is bright.
Today, it seems, almost nobody reads short stories; novels, on the other hand, seem to have continued to do well. Short stories, on the other hand, have continuously been shunned by most, due to refusal for publication by most publishing houses. Stephen King, blames the unpopularity of short stories not on readers, but on teachers and editors, saying today’s short stories are not written for readers, but, rather, for teachers and editors (Tyree).
However, this could end, thanks to digital technology and internet. With many people now able to publish themselves, neither the teachers nor the editors have control of the published content. Many good writers are dedicated to short stories especially due to the ability to instantly post them on the internet and avoid rejection by publishing companies.
The number of short stories being published every day on the internet and the dedication of the writers to their genre despite the little pay they get speak volumes about short stories’ resilience, the refusal to fade away. The growing number of high quality short stories only available online also gives impetus to short story writers.
Quarterlies sponsored by universities for instance “The Mississippi Review” have web editions that also feature short stories. The presence of seasoned online ventures like Blackbird, Drunken Boat, storySouth, just to name a few, and the daily emergence of new online journals (Tyree) is proof enough that short stories are not only here to stay, but also growing.
With most people already caught up by money-generating activities, it is becoming harder and harder to find anyone reading books to pass time, simply because there is no time to “pass”. Men and women, preoccupied with their occupations and family obligations, are finding themselves with little or no time to pause.
Those who can afford a little time to spare realize that they have a child who needs to be listened to, some gadget that needs fixing or even a spouse who needs an evening out. This means that very few people – especially those who are married –can afford time to read, unless it is part of their careers.
What about young people who are not yet married? The story is not very different; only the reasons differ. Today, young unmarried people are just as busy as the married people. They are always running up and down. Those in colleges are juggling with studies and, in order to support their studies, part-time jobs. This means there is little time to even watch TV, leave alone read. A young student is frequently required to finish course assignments, which they do between class and their part time jobs.
Even when they are traveling to work, they take their ipods with them to listen to their favorite music. It hardly occurs to them that they could take a book and read on their way to work and if it ever does, who would want to read a few lines of an entire book every day for a whole year?
Even the young unmarried people who have finished college and are probably working are today working harder than ever before in order to advance their professions early in life. Those with time to spare hardly ever spend time reading books; instead they buy magazines or journals which have information relevant to their careers.
This, however, does not mean that nobody ever reads books. How, then, would writers be surviving in the market? There is still a large number of people who still find time to read, probably by making it their duty to read a few pages every day, but this number is decreasing, dramatically. It is clear that if the current trend continues, very few people will be reading books in future.
So, what is the solution? The solution is in technology. This technology is already available in wireless reading gadgets like the Kindle 2, which gives the user the convenience of carrying many books with him as soft copies, i.e. virtual books. It is especially convenient for those people who travel a lot as it is very portable and can handle most document types. This will leave people with no excuse not to read books. With e-books already available on the internet, this kind of device will make it very convenient for many people, as it is a palm device (Ulanoff, 2009).
But such devices do not solve the time constraint problems, because people will still continuing being busier and busier every day. Besides, these kinds of devices are very expensive and until their prices fall, few people will be able to afford them in the near future. Another thing those who can afford them probably cannot afford time to read the books.
This could be solved later by introducing audio-book options in the gadget; until then the time problem will still be a big problem, if not a bigger one. This leaves us with one solution: the short story. The short story is the solution to the reading habits of people and its popularity will grow tremendously in future. With a combination of technology and style like in Denis Johnson’s short story collection, “Jesus’ Son,” (Johnson) the short story genre is bound to become the standard literature in the next thirty years.
Tyree, J.M “Here’s To the Death of the “Death of” Article: The future of the short story in a
digital age”. 12 October 2007. Web. 30 Apr. 2010.
Ulanoff, Lance. “Amazon Kindle 2: 10 Things You Should Know.” 10 Feb. 2009. Web. 30 Apr.
Weisberg, J. “Book End How the Kindle will change the world.” 21 Mar. 2009. Web. 30 Apr.
Johnson, Denis. Jesus’ Son: Stories. Publisher: Harper Perennial (December 15, 1993). ISBN-10:
0060975776. ISBN-13: 978-0060975777