Last week it was announced that, for the first time ever, more fiction novels were sold in e-book form than in hardcover.  That’s a scary thing for purists who like the feel of paper in their hands, and worry about all that will be lost if technology either degenerates in some electronic holocaust or progresses to the point that it leaves today’s e-books obsolete. 

I sympathize with the traditionalists.  I love my Nook, but it lacks the advantages of my physical library.  I can’t pull a book off the shelf and lend it to my wife or son or a student, and share with them the magic of an author’s inspired words.  Yes, there is a “Lend” feature, but my wife’s Kindle isn’t on speaking terms with my Nook.

But there is one advantage to e-books that I appreciate and hope to use to my own advantage:  the rebirth of the short story.

Print media in our age had all but abandoned the short story.  True, there were annual “Best of…” anthologies, but who read them?  The traditional outlets–newspapers and magazines–had either gone out of business or had severely limited the stories they published (and of course they preferred established writers whose names on a cover could stir up a handful of additional sales.  Textbooks tried to choose and include modern short stories, but they preferred the avant-garde, the politically correct, and (again) the known authors rather than allow popularity, reprint history, and longevity to determine what was literature worthy to be read.  But e-readers have changed that.

I have read more short stories in the past year and a half than I had in the preceding 20 years.  I’m cheap, so I troll the “Nook Book Deals” for free or low-cost titles that interest me, and I have discovered a world of hopeful writers, and a handful of really good ones.  I have encountered everything from “Flash Fiction” to character sketches to novellas and novelettes that I never would have seen had my wife never given me my Nook.  (Caveat:  there is a LOT of trash out there, so be discerning in what you download!)  And it gives me hope as an aspiring writer.

Regular visitors to this site know that nearly every Friday I post a short story or character sketch inspired by people I met in the hospital.  My goal, if I am up to it, is to write 20 or 25 of these little vignettes, and then arrange and publish them in electronic form.  I won’t have to find a publisher or spend a lot of money on printing and binding; the advent of e-books has made self-publishing feasible and affordable even for someone with such a skimpy writing resume as mine.  And while they will never substitute for my primary income, I can give a few away stories to build interest, and then charge a reasonable fee for the collection to reward my effort.

If you should wonder why I am weekly giving away a story that I may hope one day to sell, fear not; for every story that I post here, there is another in the file waiting to go into the book.  As I am growing healthier, I have progressed from one story per week, to two, to three–and one day, maybe, I can write every day.  It takes me about two hours to write a story in longhand on a yellow legal pad, and then another three or four to edit, revise, rewrite, type, and proofread it.  I never type or revise a story the same day I write it–I let it age for a couple of days (or more) so that I can approach it with a fresh eye.  I have discovered an interesting phenomenon:  for whatever reason, after two or three days I often do not remember writing the words on the paper in front of me, so I can approach them more critically and objectively.  And, yes, I frequently do research to supplement my knowledge of a specific condition or treatment; and I sometimes pass my work along to medical professionals for their input regarding the accuracy of the writing and the ethical considerations of writing about medical patients.

Let me encourage Chris, and Lora, and Kim, and Marina, and Gaileen, and Amy, and Steve, and Ken, and all the other former students and associates who were aspiring writers–the time is now.  There is no excuse.  You are the future of literature, and the e-book is your medium. 

Update:  The first story–a new one–is now available for free at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/208433.  Pending review, it will go to distributors like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  In the meantime, even if you don’t have an e-reader, you can download it as a PDF file and read it on your PC.  In the first 12 hours, without any publicity, it was downloaded 34 times; won’t you make it 35?

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