I've been engaged in a coversation with some young friends who wish to start a literary journal. I'm arguing that they should provide all of the content for each issue digitally (i.e., on-line). I'd love to hear comments from people who have edited either print or on-line journals, as to the relative advantages and disadvantages of each. Here is a note I sent them recently, detailing my own thinking re: the topic:
Biggest practical advantages to print (IMO): (1.) Better resolution. Screen resolutions are getting better, but they’re still only (what?) 1/4 or 1/5 as sharp as print. (2.) Portability: it’s a lot easier to take a 5 oz. journal to bed than a 7-lb. iPad or Kindle. (3.) Write-ability – if you mark stuff up, like I do, print is cheaper and better than a tablet computer that does so. All three of these problems will be resolved, sooner rather than later, but for now, they aren’t.
Biggest practical advantages to on-line: (1.) Cheapness. This is going to be important, if you don’t want to spend time doing your own fundraising, grant-writing, etc. (esp. since we’re at KU); you can have bigger, more frequent issues, for less money; (2.) Accessibility and immediacy. It’s easier to get, so more likely to be read. How many people send in the check, then wait for the thing to arrive – or even go to the library? How many journals do they already subscribe to? How many people in other countries subscribe to US lit journals? (3.) More content options: audio, video, MUCH easier/cheaper to do graphics, visual art.
As to the prestige thing, I don’t at all mean to suggest that the Internet is losing in prestige – quite the contrary. Internet publishing is a fact of life; there are fewer print journals now than there were 10 years ago, plus more well-respected on-line journals, and I think that trend is only going to continue as budgets everywhere shrink. Only the very wealthy institutions are going to be able to financially afford print. This is my principal reason for hoping you all decide to go digital: to adopt a forward-looking attitude. That’s something I think our CW program could use more of.
I think there is indeed some of that dead-tree fetishism lingering in academe – though that is disappearing quickly, as more peer-reviewed journals go on-line. It’s usually the cultural conservatives who see on-line journals as the death of Western Civilization. In fact, you can pretty much tell how conservative a poet’s poetics are by seeing whether s/he has any on-line pubs. If there are lots, s/he’s probably more experimental; if there aren’t any, s/he’s probably pretty conservative.
I expect there is a greater reliance on print for fiction, since there are more commercial publishers. But, by the same token, such a journal needs to be very well capitalized going into it. And stay well-capitalized.
As to access to computers’ being an impediment: I would love to think there are inner-city schoolchildren who are or will be reading literary journals produced by Euro-American college students. But let’s face it: everyone who’s reading this thing is going to have access to a computer. And if it’s print, they’ll either have to afford the subscription price or have access to a library that carries it – big if’s. As for sifting them, there are sites such as Selby’s List (www.selbyslist.com) and Web del Sol’s list of e-journals (http://webdelsol.com/index-new-magazines2.htm) that do a good job of weeding out the rubbish. And there are some storied periodicals that have gone exclusively on-line (e.g., TriQuarterly: http://triquarterly.org/).
One does have to decide for oneself, however, and that holds for print as well as on-line; hopefully, if you’re an aspiring writer, that’s something you’d like to do – and it’s a whole lot easier to sift on-line. There are a lot of crappy or mediocre print journals: The [insert place name] Review – though often you don’t know that until you’ve bought it. For these reasons, I believe on-line is actually a good bit more democratic than print.
Literarisches Events (in and around Lawrence KS)
- PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Thursday, September 11, 7:00 p.m., Spooner Hall, KU Campus.
- PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Friday, September 19, 7:00 p.m. Lawrence Public Library. Sponsored by Raven Bookstore.
- DENNIS ETZEL, JR. & RACHEL CROSS. Lawrence. Thursday, September 25, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
- TONY TRIGILIO. Lawrence. Thursday, Oct. 2, 4:00 p.m., English Room, Kansas Union, KU Campus. FREE.
- CALEB PUCKETT & JUSTIN RUNGE. Lawrence. Thursday, October 16, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
- BEN LERNER. Kansas City, MO. Thursday, October 23, 7:00 p.m., Epperson Auditorium, Vanderslice Hall on the KCAI campus, 4415 Warwick Blvd.
- KRISTIN LOCKRIDGE & ROBERT DAY. Lawrence. Thursday, December 4, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.