Open Question: Will Genre Fiction Die Off With Traditional Readers?

In a recent Washington Post column, Jonathan Karp outlines a theoretical scenario where the convergence of technology, self-publishing and consumer taste will force traditional book publishers out of the “disposable book” market. Karp writes:

Many categories of books will be subsumed by digital media. Reference publishing has already migrated online. Practical nonfiction will be next, winding up on Web sites that can easily update and disseminate visual and textual information. Readers of old-fashioned genre fiction will die off, and the next generation will have so many different entertainment options that it’s hard to envision the same level of loyalty to brand-name formula fiction coming off the conveyor belt every year. The novelists who are truly novel will thrive; the rest will struggle. [Emphasis added.]

On first blush this “generational” point makes sense: multitasking and abundant entertainment options don’t mesh with the languid pace and time investment required to enjoy genre fiction. But — playing devil’s advocate here — are hyperactive tastes a defining characteristic throughout a person’s lifetime? Isn’t it possible that today’s texting teen will, at some point in his/her life, gravitate toward the long-form storytelling found in genre fiction?

Please share your thoughts in the comments area.

(Via Peter Brantley’s read20 listserv)

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