Ok, if Joe Konrath can dish out all these "predictions" about the future of publishing, so can I. But, of course, it wouldn't be a Book Brouhaha post if I didn't put a short story spin on it.
I admit that I like short stories and that I write them. But I am going to try and be as impartial about this as I can. I think I can safely say that my prediction attempt will be somewhat credible. Those that know me well can tell you that I am extremely analytical. This strong streak of logic in my brain makes me alarmingly good at simulator-style computer games and Monopoly. People always try to beat me at that game. And I laugh at their puny attempts.
Short stories are always going to sell differently than novels. That's just the nature of the beast. Someone who writes a single novel could reasonably expect 100 different people to buy it. It's a lot like a movie. Movie makers are banking on the fact that there are only so many movies out at one time and people are looking for ways to kill a few hours.
You are going to be one sad cookie if you're banking on your short stories to sell like this. It won't happen. Unless you're already hugely famous. Otherwise, no. A short story author needs to bank on having 100 stories published and finding ONE person that wants to buy all 100. It's more like a TV show. TV show producers are not hoping for a blockbuster weekend. They're hoping to maintain the same repeat audience over the course of the entire season and then maybe go on for another season.
Right now the sales of short stories are held back by two things: ignorance and accessibility. By ignorance I mean that not a whole lot of people actually know what a short story is. They think they do, but they don't. Read more on my thoughts on educating the short story reader. Consequently, people aren't quite sure what to do with a short story just yet. People still approach ebooks the way they do physical books, it's not an "on-the-go" experience. They sit down and want to kill a few hours. Short stories don't take hours to read, so they feel gypped.
This leads to accessibility. Even IF you like short stories, there's no way to really find them without digging. Amazon kinda tried to fix this with their half-hearted Kindle Singles section. It's a weak sauce attempt. But they get credit for trying. Other than that, the only way you can really find short stories to buy is just by stumbling across them. Oh! What do you know, it's a short story. Smashwords is the only site I've seen so far that even gives the option of organizing by length. And even then it's for works less than 25,000 words. That's still a big category.
So all this combined leads me to my prediction of the future:
Technology is now moving at an exponential rate. The line between electronic gadgets is becoming more and more hazy. Look at cell phones, ipods, ipads and ereaders with touch technology: they all essentially do the same things. They all have apps, games, internet, etc...
In many ways, the short story is the ultimate ebook. It's the kind of thing that doesn't have to be stared at for two hours straight. Unlike the novel, it actually has the ability to integrate into this on-the-go culture that's now emerging. It's both an instant gratification buy and fast entertainment.
Short stories will be less of a weak replacement for a novel you buy on a Kindle and more something you buy on an app on your phone. The untapped reading market here is not the people who don't have ereaders. It's the people who already have potential ereading devices but aren't yet reading on them