It’s an easy trap to fall into. Certain time-honored tales or the latest bestseller are the go-to answers for “best ever” questions. But “ever” is a long time, and most of it hasn’t happened yet. Most people haven’t happened yet, either, for that matter. The world’s population is growing. There are 7 times as many people alive today as there were in 1800.
The same goes for books. Despite there being roughly 375,000 sci-fi/fantasy books on Amazon right now, more are coming, and the rate is continuing to increase. In 2014, 77,200 were added to the online bookseller’s shelves. That’s a 25% inscrease in a single year! Self-publishing is certainly responsible for the lion’s share of that growth, but the rate is still phenomenal. Even if you assume that the rate will plateau, or even fall off, it’s safe to assume that in the next several years, the number of fantasy (and sci-fi … Amazon’s search doesn’t break them up) books in existence will have doubled.
Now you can, of course, cast aspersions at the quality of books that anyone can publish with no oversight. That topic has been beaten to death. I think at this point it is undeniable that there are excellent works coming out of the self-published ranks, and even if you doubt the possibility that one of those will be the best ever, there are still plenty of offerings coming from the big-name publishing houses and smaller imprints alike.
So if you’ve thought that there would never be a better story than