Gabriela Ybarra

Ms in Integrated Marketing, New York University

This conversation is closed.

How do you see the future of literature? Do yo think that shorter forms such as poetry and microstories will gain more weight?

Now that immediacy seems to be ruling our world, many have the fear that less people will take the time to read and write long novels.

Do you believe in this? Why or why not?

Which genres and themes do you think will gain more weight and why in the following years

Closing Statement from Gabriela Ybarra

Thank you very much for your contributions!

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    Mar 12 2011: The point you are making is extremely valid. I already see in myself that increased use of digital media is lowering my attention span. I can no longer sit for as long with sustained concentration. The utilization of technology is actually rewiring the way we think. Rather than focusing on developing sustained concentration on a single activity, or brains are now more inclined to develop multitasking abilities. I believe that what you are saying is true, and that shorter forms of literature will probably become more popular in the near future. While now it seems sad, I feel that soon enough it will seem completely natural. Just as the Shakespearean suspense-of-disbelief went out of style when increased effects became accessible, long novels may endure the same phasing out process. It is not necessarily something that literary world must lament, but rather the development of a new style they must embrace.
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    Mar 14 2011: Although e-books are the obvious future I do not forsee the length of literature decreasing. However, we might start to see more short stories in the form of novelas. A series if you will. Long novels might evolve into 3 or 4 mini plots. Think Eclipse and Harry Potter. Both very successful in recent years. Also, both were successful films, but its greatest support came from the readers.

    Microstories in the form of anthologies seem likely. Quick-reads with an opportunity to continue when ready.

    Some replies mentioned attention span. Do a compare and contrast of ADD and "immediacy"- is it the nature of our evolving society and our technologies? Marketing is quick to feed our senses. Supply and demand are becoming more immediate. We are becoming more restless. (note, as a teacher I can say ADD and ADHD truly do exist. I need to deliver quickly and concisely in order to reach such children. Would it not make sense to apply this to the whole popluation? My fear however is that we might lose the beauty of diversity. I hate the idea of a cookie cutter society or mode of delivery)

    As for literature - I have been observing a few trends over the past few years. First, as an educator I have noticed that our most successful students read rather large novels. I've also noticed that these students are not only fond of literature they also enjoy math and science. Keep in mind that I teach at an IB middle school.Grant it, not all demographics are alike. However, I just happen to be the one teaching our struggling readers. They on the other hand HATE reading, but once I teach imagery, symbolism and add a few videos to the course they come alive. These students realize that they are very visual and begin to see reading in a whole new light. Another observation is when I travel. I am nothing less than a people watcher. I like seeing trends in stores, airports, flights and hotels. People are in fact buying books and reading. Many still flip through nice sized novels. Great thread!!
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    Mar 8 2011: Fascinating question. It feels right to suggest that people will be reading shorter forms. Maybe that will happen / is happening. But I believe that novels will begin to approach games, that you will be able to put yourself into a story and influence its outcome, potentially with a group of people, and that eventually these games themselves will be seen as works for other people to experience and modify as they see fit. Like 'Lost', but with you in a co-starring role. Do you remember when your parents would tell you a bedtime story with you as the hero? I think that games and the web can enable a return to that and raise it to an art form as more and more people grow up gaming and want the same experience in the rest of their lives.
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      Mar 8 2011: I love that idea! When they were young my kids had some books called something like Choose your own ending or Write your own ending. Depending on what alternative they chose they turned to a specific page and then chose again and were directed on until they got to their unique ending. I alway thought that movies could and would eventually offer the same sorts of choices with short intermissions or choice points that would elaborate on a part of the plot or take the viewer in another direction. It would be even better with the myriad of choices that could come from a game!
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    Mar 13 2011: I personally agree that over the next few years e-books will become increasingly popular. However, I think that this is just a temporary trend. There is something romantic about the notion of reading print books that I don't think will go out of style so quickly. After a couple of years of relying almost exclusively on digital media, people will miss print and will most likely return to this form. There may be fewer packing the bookstores than before, but they won't be completely obsolete. Bookstores are not only a place to purchase books. They provide a place to read, drink coffee, socialize. People enjoy going to bookstores far more than they enjoy online shopping for the most part.

    Now back to the main question: I agree with the point you are making Mr. Wilkinson. There are obvious successes of modern long novels such as the Harry Potter series. Still, if you look deeper into the content of the book, the long novels are divided into short chapters and the plot lines are relatively easy to follow, even without complete concentration. Maybe the issue here isn't necessarily the physical length of the book, but the writing style. Novels that can be easily picked up and put down after short periods of time are more likely to gain popularity at this point than novels that require enduring concentration.
    • Mar 14 2011: What I think should happen in this case, because I tend to agree with the romantic notion of reading print, is that, to remove the waste of cutting down trees for millions of books, smart paper technology should be implemented into book form, allowing a blend of modern and traditional. You could download as many books as you wanted to the device, select which book you wished to read at that time, and have the words develop on multiple pages. Length of the story would be an issue, of course...but I'm sure that could be overcome with a bookmarking system or page selector or something. I think I'd be more inclined to have an e-book/kindle/nook/etc if it came like this actually ^__^
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    Mar 13 2011: What an intriguing conversation!
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    Mar 8 2011: I think we still have a lot of literture that is untapped. How much have any of us read of Chinese literature? For a long time to come, stories from other cultures will spill into our lives and they will generate new fusions and new literature. I don't think people will ever give up reading and writing. It is a human need to learn and to communicate and we have just developed better tools to fascilitate those needs.
  • Mar 4 2011: this is a really interesting topic, especially with the explosion of things like the kindle and digital books. I would argue exactly the oppisite of people who think books are on their way out (well maybe books are, but literature as an institution? Not likely!) In this age of digital communication and instant feedback, I think more and more people will be inspired to write down their feelings and thoughts and stories. The avenues that we take to share them have certainly changed, but check out the parallel to the music industry. It used to be that In order for a musician to make a living he or she needed a label, a promoter, a manager.. etc all behind them to get their music to their audience. Now, with Itunes and MySpace and all of the new methods to publish their work, more and more people have the means to make a living making music without all of the things they needed before, and it is much more accesible for people to enjoy.
    It is my hope that something similar will happen in the writing industry (heads up publishers!). People will be able to bring their work directly to their audience without worrying about a publisher or distribution. Sure the experience will change, you wont need to go to the bookstore anymore, but an entirely new and easier method to get their work out there is available to writers, so hopefully all this modernization will bring an effect opposite to what people are worried about. Just better get used to reading on your kindle :)
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      Mar 5 2011: Interesting thought! So, you believe that bookstores are going to disappear? That's kind of sad, but they will probably end up just like antiques or design stores. We will probably buy more the object than the content of what is inside in physical books. We will download the content in our kindles and iPads to read. Buying books will be like buying records in couple of years.
      • Mar 13 2011: Book stores will not disappear. E-ink technology still has a long road ahead of it. It doesn't even have the same resolution that books have nor do they have color. Plus people like to go to book stores to drink coffee while sitting on comfy chairs and not just buying books.
    • Mar 12 2011: I agree with this...maybe even more than reading people will start listening to books. We have audio-books these days and they're preferred because they're on the go. So if you can multitask, like someone else said, why would you not be interested in what the book has to offer? But it's hard to listen to something with all your attention while you're focusing on something else, so fiction will probably rule the future. Maybe.
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        Mar 13 2011: I driive a lot in my profession and listening to talking books keeps me sane. Even at home,I have one playing as I do mundane tasks.
        In a different point, I am not sure why anyone would think shorter forms of literature would be any more or less popular in the future. Writing is easier than ever and open to many more people so I would think it would roughly maintain its proportions.
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    Mar 17 2011: I think digital media has opened up a new way of thinking and new possibilities for communicating. The idea of transliteracy fascinates me. Maybe we're still adapting to this new form of communication and this is why we find it more difficult to ingest more time consuming digital media. My hope is that digital media is opening a world of greater communication and understanding. Perhaps as we get more comfortable at ingesting and creating digital media, we'll see amazing new artists begin to emerge that use all of the existing mediums that are available rather than limiting themselves to one form...
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    Mar 16 2011: No, I don't. I love to read and write novel, and in recent times I've meet alot of people who still love and prefer this form of written word. Poetry and short stories barely gives a reader a quick snap of a situation, will novels give one the chance to fall in and out of love with all the characters at pla, while it gives the writer a chance to play and be creative.
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      Mar 17 2011: I disagree -- many short stories give the reader ample opportunity to fall in love and sympathize with the characters involved, if done correctly. I end up loving Anders by the end of "Bullet in the Brain", and if it were any longer than it is, it would do something drastically different than it does. Not any better or worse, just different. And if poetry doesn't give writers a chance to "play around", I don't know what does. A lot of contemporary poetry works hard to subvert the traditional concept of sentence structure, and once you deconstruct a thought down to its essentials as poetry tends to do, you can build it back up however you want without the constraints of typical subject>predicate>direct object sentence. Not saying that novels can't do this, but novels have to sustain an engaging voice for a far longer period of time, and the brevity of voice that short forms allow for readers to engage a type of voice, many novels would fail at attempting.
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    Mar 15 2011: I believe the BOOK is the perfect medium as Tamar said, there is something romantic about the notion of reading a book, of holding something in your hands which is organic to the touch. I feel as though I am sharing a small piece of time with the author. I don't feel that way when I am looking at a computer screen. Story telling was as far as we can tel one of the first methods of communicating, from drawings on cave walls to spoken word and eventually to book form. I hope it remains with us for ever.
  • Mar 15 2011: cant read anything long with add
    I was going to read all that but then decided no way.
    I think the future is in digital based media be it black and white and with 2 elements, its still a lot easier to understand.
    Poor people watch cartoon while you cook, mass media and core/root words that are understandable/relatable.

    Pictures and cofee shops with wifi and lasertag will save bookstores if anything does.
    unless ofcourse homedopt starts selling uber wall paper that has natgeo pictures on it.
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    Mar 15 2011: In immediate Future i think the probability of micro stories replacing novels is quite sleek.

    when one reads,he/she is transported to the world of author's imagination. Readers live the story.Cry in adversity, laugh on jokes, thrilled on murder, amazed by resolving mystery. This is essence is very hard to capture in micro stories and movies.

    BUT......................

    On the other hand, Tech is moving at the mind blowing rate and its highly possible that one might come up with a tech which makes it possible to experience the same feelings in much smaller time. Reading(or whatever it may be called) will be much more efficient and productive.
    And believe me this time is not far away but not in immediate future at least!!

    Have a Great day!
    I would love to hear your thoughts on my reply(_was it convincing_)
  • Mar 14 2011: Even though new devices like the iPad and ebooks on these devices will become popular and more people start reading, books will never disappear....BUT literature will digitalize more in short 'microstories' as you call them. People will express themselves more via social media instead of paper & pen style.

    A short example...
    100 years ago, wooing a lady was done by writing love letters to her, well honestly thats what my dad did in a few decades ago, now eveyone uses social media to express their thoughts....

    Are human thoughts literature? Well, that's where it all starts...
  • Mar 14 2011: Great question.
    I love reading and writing---and appreciate both longer and shorter forms of literature. I'm afraid we're moving toward the place where we'll be able to download novels into our brains and immediately comprehend them. I'm only half-kidding.
    I think the genres that will gain popularity are zombie and apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, oh and romantic comedy will always be there. How about a romantic comedy about two zombies falling in love with a post-apocalyptic scene as the backdrop? Too soon?
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    Mar 14 2011: in my opinion,people now have less time to sit down to read one longn novels.They may think it's just so boring and a way of wasting time.However,shorter forms such as poetry and microstories cost people less time to understand,
  • Mar 13 2011: I think that novels will be important tomorrow, as they are now. It is currently the only way to be immersed in a version of reality, that is specifically not one's own. While movies and tvs may give a person the satisfaction of a short story, a novel can thread one through complicated understandings.
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      Mar 15 2011: Hi Patricia, I totally agree that movies are not a substitute for literature, they are their own thing. I recently red a comment by Paul Auster that said:

      “And that's why books are never going to die. It's impossible. It's the only time we really go into the mind of a stranger, and we find our common humanity doing this. So the book doesn't only belong to the writer, it belongs to the reader as well, and then together you make it what it is.”

      There will always exist people who will need to enter the mind of strangers and let go their imagination. My question is if the novel will still be the main genre to do so. As Tamara Hoffman mentions earlier in a comment, a development in style might occur. I think this makes a lot of sense as the Internet revolution is probably one of the most profound changes that humanity has experienced, and this must be reflected somehow in literature.
  • Mar 13 2011: Actually, I think that our lives are moving so fast and developing rapidly. Everything changes in a minute , in seconds may be so yes we wont have time to read long novels full of details and made of hundreds of pages. Instead we will be reading small stories that can take 1 hour may be in order to completely read it. And of course , eventually the papers would disappear from our lives and the ipad and tounchscreen devices would be dominant.
  • Mar 13 2011: Depends. The problem with microstories and poetry is that they can't make a book unless there are enough of them to make the book thick enough. This isn't the case for e-books. If an e-book had a daily literature feature, microstories and peotry would be what's used.

    What I'm trying to say is that a good way to add wight to microstories and poetry will gain weight if e-book companies started a daily story feature.
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    Mar 12 2011: As a writer I am trying to tailor my writing just that way. One of the great things I love about TED is the fact that I can get great information in a short time. I don't think it makes it any less valid but for me I have learned so much just watching the TED talks so why not with literature? That's not to say that a good yarn need be short, just look at JK Rowling, she proved beyond a shadow that a long book , if good will get the audience. I have just discovered Michael Morpurgo of War Horse fame and a lot of his books read about 150 pages and they are great reads.
  • Mar 8 2011: I'm not sure Gabriela (by the way, have you come across an artist in Brooklyn by the name of John Mitchell?); what strikes me as an interesting contradiction is that the short story as a literary form seems almost dead while novels (albeit novels with two-page chapters) seem to maintain popularity....
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    Mar 8 2011: Good topic, truly I always considered the idea of simplifying knowledge to be beneficial in many ways which could fall under immediacy. My idea came from how people do become less interested as time goes on especially if they had no interest to start with. I would argue books are already a dying fashion with good and bad reasons. Good that computers allow reading to be cheaper and faster, and bad because people are reading less and finding websites such as sparknotes to their tool of choice.

    I agree, poetry and microstories will become more and more popular literature as books become a dying fashion. The genres that will last longest in my opinion will be anything revolved around human experience. Fictional, factual, and theorized.

    As long as technology progresses paper is less needed or at least it should be. The future of literature is in the hands of those who can use it to teach life lessons with stories. Religion has a lot of literature although it used to create faith it really is just writings that can be interpreted differently by anyone. Literature will never die though just be more of a study than a hobby eventually, eventually everyone will just openly share their ideas with others for nothing.
    • Mar 14 2011: With the Internet, While I read novels during my High School years, I find myself reading more content currently than when I was in High School.
  • Mar 5 2011: I guess we'll see... Netflix made brick & mortar video stores obsolete, maybe bookstores are headed in the same direction. But hey, a lot of people including me still have record players & buy records but like you said we have to go to special shops to get them. I guess time will tell