Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reinventing Publishing Again

Some thoughts on the new and evolving world of online & Internet-influenced publishing, a topic that came up when I recently signed up to be part of a "blogsplash." What's that, you ask? Well, check back on March 1.

In the meantime, I read this recent essay by Ted Genoways of the Virginia Quarterly Review about the supposed death of literary fiction. Similar to essays about the death of poetry that seem to crop up every few years, this one was in a way a justifiable lament, but on the other hand was limited by the author's point of view.

The fact that some publishers and literary journals are moving to a nonprofit model is intriguing. And I think it could make sense to ask people to "pay" for their literature after they read it, by making a donation. I almost never buy new books - they're just not in my budget. I get books from the library, and if I like them and can justify their taking up space on my bookshelf, then I buy them.

Narrative Magazine seems to have come up with one solution to the changing (virtual) landscape of publishing. Their magazine is free to read but they charge a fee for submissions and for special access to certain content. This could addresses the issue described by Ted Genoways of over-worked editors drowning in "navel-gazing" submissions.

Small Beer Press, publisher of "good, weird, interesting" books, has this to say about making books available online for free: "We love books. We want to keep on publishing good books... If everyone downloads books straight to the Kindlenub in their head, we might be in trouble. But if there are still people who like to read books on paper, maybe some of them will read some of these downloads and then decide they would like the actual books... In other words: as with any book, if you want to read it for free, you can. We’ve just made it easier for this book to reach the 6 billion readers out there!"

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