For me reading is primarily about escaping into another place or time and getting caught up with the lives of new people. I like to become absorbed in another life for a while. Therefore I tend to read novels and over short stories. I have had several anthologies of them that have been sitting on my shelves for years because every time I spy one of them I think “I should read that” which is immediately followed “but I’d really start that novel instead”. Ultimately if I have an hour to sit and read I would rather spend the time with a novel, or part of one, than several short stories.
However, of late I have started to consume short stories quite willingly and it’s all to do with format. These days I take my eReader or my iPod nano everywhere I go. Often I have both. I have been caught without reading material too often in the past so now even if I don’t have room for my current physical book I don’t leave the house without at least one of my digital options – the eReader for ‘print’ books and the iPod for audio books.
I bought the Discount Noir anthology of flash fiction stories in electronic format primarily because a blog friend and author had a story in the publication. After reading her excellent story, and because I had my eReader with me at most times, I found myself dipping in and out of the collection whenever I had a few minutes reading time to spare – waiting in a queue, waiting for a meeting to start, on short bus trips etc. For those times when I wouldn’t be able to read much of a novel, having a short story to hand is a treat and I am nearly finished the collection. I have even used my eReader’s note-taking capacity to keep track of new-to-me authors whose other work I would like to read.
At roughly the same time I bought a copy of Sounds of Crime which contains 5 short stories by well-known authors (Val McDermid and Peter James among them) which are only available in audio format. Again I found the format of this collection really handy as I just put the collection on my iPod and when I had roughly the right stretch of time ahead of me (the half-hour drive to my parents’ house for example) I listened to the next story in the collection.
I still won’t turn to short stories for my designated reading times (at night before bed or on those weekend afternoons when I should be doing housework). But I will be actively seeking out short story collections that I can add to either of the digital devices that I routinely carry with me so that when the situation doesn’t feel right for long fiction I will have a selection of short stories to read or listen to.
My plea to publishers of new anthologies like Original Sins is to make them available in as many formats as you can because while I may not be interested in having a dead-tree version of this short story anthology I am dead keen on having a digital version of it. Now please.