The short story has been the focus of many start-ups recently. eBooks and digital delivery have made the form-factor easier and more economical to deliver than ever before. Is publishing about to go through a transformation similar to that of the music industry, where consumers have moved from buying albums to singles? Is long-form fiction about to be ditched in favour of the short story?

I'll make my case straight away - I don't think the short story will have as big an impact as people believe. I believe that there is a developing 'niche' in short story fiction, which may serve a number of new entrants well. But, personally, I feel that this area will remain relatively small - and is already beginning to become slightly crowded with enthusiastic start-ups and established players.

The reason I believe this is that short stories are not what generally attracts people (like me anyway) to reading. Reading for me is split into two categories: 
  1. Times when I am bored and want something quick to read, which requires minimal attention.
  2. Times when I have significant time to devote to reading, and want to indulge myself in a book, its characters and its plot.

Category 1 tends to be filled with reading news articles, features, or Twitter. I can read these while half watching TV, and this time allows me the opportunity to catch up on the stuff that is happening in the world (something which I tend not to do enough of).

Category 2 tends to be when I am going to bed or travelling. I generally have ample time to kill, and have set the time aside for reading. The main thing I tend to struggle with is starting a book - so once I have started a book, I like it to hold my attention for as long as possible. I enjoy exploring the world of the characters, getting deeply involved in their world. And once I start to get intrigued and attached to the story - it makes me go to bed earlier every night, to fit in more reading and immerse myself in the world of the story even more.

My argument is that short stories just wouldn't provide me with enough 'meat' to get into a book and enjoy it as much. I don't think that the detail is there and I would enjoy it as much. One other crucial point is that I don't feel the same value is there - if I did get really into the book, it would be over really quickly. I personally would feel that I was constantly forking out more money for books, and this would start to curb my spending.

Perhaps a way round this would be the subscription model, like that announced yesterday by Tim Waterstone, the founder of Waterstones (amongst other influential industry figures), in the form of Read Petite - a subscription model of publisher-submitted short-story content. Read Petite will also offer long-form journalism, and I can genuinely see it performing well within the short story/quick r niche. But would I subscribe? I'm not so sure.

Maybe I just haven't found the right short story yet? I also realise I'm only one person - and many probably prefer being able to dip into a short book. But, at present, I can't see a reason why I would ditch long-form fiction in favour of a short story.

What do you think of the recent rise of short stories? Do you prefer a quick read, or something that holds your attention for days/weeks? Let us know! Comment below, or tweet us!


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