I don’t have a Kindle yet, or a Nook, or an ipad. But I do have an iphone, on which I occasionally read short sections of books while waiting in the security line at the airport. Although I’ll never, ever give up ink-and-paper books, I can imagine a kind of reading schizophrenia, wherein I read certain types of content the old-fashioned way, while enjoying some fiction electronically. I think one of the best uses for e-book technology is the short fiction form. New self-publishing platforms are a terrific way to introduce readers to an author’s out-of-print work, or to feature work that is available only in an old issue of a hard-to-find literary magazine. I often receive inquiries from readers who want to know where they can find a story of mine that they read about online–the most frequent request is for “An Exciting New Career in Medicine,” which appeared in Playboy some years ago. I always encourage them to try to hunt down a back issue–but wouldn’t it be nice if the works were easily available?
So I’m conducting my own experiment, and have just published a short story, “The Great Amphibian,” on scribd.com, which has been getting a lot of attention lately as an effective publishing platform for writers who are trying to get their work out into the world for the first time. But websites like scribd.com and smashwords.com also stand to make a big impact on established authors with a hard-to-find backlist of short works. “The Great Amphibian,” which is available for free on Scribd, won the 2006 Mississippi Review fiction prize and appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of that journal. It was also anthologized in Don Noble’s “A State of Laughter.”