Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Journals: Paper vs. Electronic

There's an interesting discussion going on over at Diane Lockward's blog. She began the discussion by referencing an editorial by Ron Effen in Free Lunch. Ron Effen asserts that online literary journals can't be as good as the paper kind. Lockward disagrees, and she discusses some of the benefits of online journals, some of them ones that print journals can't provide. The comments section continues the discussion.

Monday's post gives Lockward's ideas of what makes a quality, online literary journal. Anyone who's ever thought of starting an online literary journal should read this entry.

I must confess to only recently coming around to approving of electronic literary journals. I've always had my eye on future jobs, and I tend to see publication through that lens: what will make me a more favorable job candidate? Until recently, online publications wouldn't have been taken as seriously as paper publications. That statement is probably still true at more institutions than I want to think about.

But after having some online publications, I've come to agree with Lockward. Some of those electronic journals do a better job than paper journals, and they have a lot more resources at their disposal to create a beautiful object, since they aren't bound by paper or postage issues.

Plus, in an earlier age, I worried about privacy. I worried that an online presence might lead to unpleasantness (those were the days when cyberstalking was in the news). I worried that future employers/students would discover one of my poems online more easily than a poem that existed in a paper publication, and that somehow, that online poem would cause problems. Now, obviously, I've stopped worrying about that.

These days, I'm thinking about permanence, and I'm wondering how to ensure that my poems exist after I'm gone. In my younger days, getting one of my poems into a Norton anthology seemed like a sure bid towards immortality--or at least, towards having a wide audience. These days, I'm not so sure. I like to think that random readers are more likely to stumble across one of my poems on the Internet--most readers aren't out there buying Norton anthologies, that's for sure (I suspect that most students can't afford those hefty anthologies these days). In my younger days, it seemed that books stayed in print forever, and that the library always kept books in stock. These days, the infinite storage capacity of cloud computing has its appeal.

Diane Lockward promises a post where she'll tell us online journals that she likes. I'm looking forward to it.

1 comment:

John Guzlowski said...

I agree completely with you about online journals.

I published in paper journals for decades and never heard from one or two readers who had seen my poems somewhere. Even the first rate journals didn't circulate the way online journals circulate.

A paper journal puts out a thousand copies. Maybe half the readers read your poem. An online publication gets thousands and thousands of hits. The poems get out there in ways that paper journals could never approach.