You’ve probably seen this statistic in one form or another, lately: eReader ownership nearly doubled over the holidays. Print vs. media is a huge and exhausted topic of concern everywhere, for publishers and writers and readers alike. Often it’s “the legacy of print” pitted against “new media”; whether the printed page is sustainable; how the interactivity and immediacy of the Internet can short-circuit your memory, slice away your attention span; how, in spite of that, the longform essay actually thrives.
We at IR are also discussing it. We like the physical artifact of the book, the perfect-bound, typeset magazine that exists by itself, that isn’t housed within the frame of a screen. There’s its exclusivity. But we also consider the negative aspects of exclusivity: Only some people access to the content. Only some people can read it. We recognize the importance of accessibility, that other literary journals are accomplishing the shift in different ways–Gulf Coast, The Journal.
A friend and reader for IR walked into the office as I started this blog post and grudgingly admitted that print and digital media will continue to coexist. I’ll add that ideally, they should coexist. I read The Rumpus and The Millions and HTMLGiant with Google Reader; I have print subscriptions to other literary magazines. All these publications compete for your attention, but they’re also active in the literary community—they make conversation about good and bad writing, they publish writing that is excellent and maybe weird and maybe not your thing and maybe totally very much your thing. They define and question art and ask you to figure out what it is, too.
The underlying matter to the print/media question is how we can sustain our readership and, consequently, our production. How long can we keep doing this? Hopefully forever.