• Print vs. Online

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in WBN News & Events     Comments 9 comments

    Well, usually I’m writing here from the point of view of an editor of Anomalous Press, but I recently started submitting my own work again after a bit of a break working on a long project. And I found that the first few places that occurred to me to submit my work were print journals. I was surprised at myself–there are a lot of online journals I read regularly, subscribe to, and thoroughly love. But without even really considering it, I sent my work to a wonderful print journal I’ve read for years, and was really thrilled to have it accepted there.

    Then I got to thinking. Who was going to read this work? And when? And for how long? Most of my other publications (primarily translation work) are available online, and I include links to them on my blog, email links to friends and family, post links on my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I even recently found out that a link to one of my translations was added to the Wikipedia page on the original language book! I’m certainly not deserving of my own Wikipedia page (yet…) but gosh it’s exciting to have my work linked from Wikipedia.

    The print journal I’m being published in is respected and known, at least in certain circles. It’s one I read every issue of, and really like. But all of a sudden it felt so…impermanent. Isn’t that strange? Thinking of print as impermanent while the web has some kind of permanence to it. Of course, that’s exactly the reverse of how most people have thought (and still think?) of the mediums. That the web is some kind of ephemeral place where things disappear after a certain period of time. But somewhere among the media educators and media artists that I’ve been reading recently in preparation for a class I’m teaching this summer I came across this kernel of wisdom: The internet never forgets.

    This is meant as a warning to all those people in their teens and early twenties who might post pictures of themselves doing really stupid things on Facebook, which of course in five or ten years an employer might stumble across because even if you delete it, someone else might have saved it, re-posted it, Facebook actually owns it, etc. But even outside of the posting-drunk-pictures realm there’s a certain truth to this now. Once a webpage goes up, anyone can copy it, save it, print it, grab a screen-shot of it, or even create an image of it using free citation browser plug-ins like Zotero. Not only that, there are organizations who do just that, Archive.org and their Way-back Machine being the most prominent.

    The print journal will get distributed to bookstores and libraries and subscribers, remain on the shelves for a few weeks, a few months, even perhaps forever in a library, bound and collected. But to my mind that is somehow less permanent, because it is less accessible, than material available online. In all my thinking about this, I did discover a fabulous online journal called The Reprint, run from Zine Scene, which only publishes work that’s already been published in print, but is not available online. And they just started accepting poetry submissions.

    But readers, what about your work? Do you prefer to find a home for it online, or in print? Or both?


    Erica Mena is Founding Editor of Anomalous Press. She writes poetry, and translates, and makes hand-made books, and sometimes wishes she were braver. She moves more often than once a year, but never without her growing collection of mythical animals. She has been called Alluringly Short.

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    Justine Tal Goldberg

    I’m torn on this issue. On the one hand, print as a medium still has more clout than online. (But then again, it probably depends who you’re talking to. Sometimes I fear that my 14-year-old cousin has never handled a real live book.) On the other, publish online and you can link forever. None of this “My book is out of print” crap. I guess what I’m saying is, in this day and age of constantly shifting publishing terrain, I think it’s prudent to strive for a mixed print and online presence. That way, you don’t miss a beat.

    Laura Roberts

    I agree with Justine that a mix of print and web sources is best, but I also think choosing between the two is kind of silly at this point. Most print journals do maintain a web presence and publish at least some of their print edition online as teasers for people to buy a copy. While I sometimes wish they’d put ALL of their content online (behind a paywall, if necessary), as the editor of an online magazine I can also understand that it’s a lot of work to do that. I do think it’s incredibly weird that scholarly journals… Read more »

    David Duhr

    I think a mix is good, too, but I must admit one thing: I can’t remember ever being excited about some writing of mine appearing online, but when I get a magazine or newspaper with my words in it, I still get a little bit of a rush. I also think online publishing will always be seen as print’s stepchild. Not by everyone, but by a majority. (Same with self-pubbing vs. traditional, but that’s for a different post). And like Erica and Laura, I say that as an editor at an online publication. Is it a value judgment? Or is… Read more »

    Jose Skinner

    My former teacher Chris Offutt has a story and an interview in current Iowa Review. The interview’s also online. His FB friends tell him “great interview!”, but nary a word about the story. Because who has a hard copy of Iowa Review? Sad, but the way it is. I’d rather read on paper, myself, but I don’t subscribe to IR either. What Erica says is completely true, paper is now the ephemeral medium, and the ease of access for online stuff is incredible. I’m wondering, though, if this ease of access will begin to inhibit people’s writing. I mean, are… Read more »

    David Duhr

    I have an online-only book review at Iowa Review, and yet in cover letters I write that my work has appeared in the Iowa Review. True? False? Both? Like with Offutt’s deal, many more people read this review than would have were it printed in the magazine. To be honest, though, I’d rather have seen it in print, even though that would come with the knowledge that fewer people read it. That says something about me. Although I’m not yet sure what that something is.

    (We don’t live in an inhibited society, Jose?)

    Jose Skinner

    Yeah, paper’s good. I love the stuff. But maybe I’m romanticizing. It’s the words that count, no?

    Who did you interview? I think an interview’s an art form. It should count in some category.

    Our society isn’t inhibited enough! INUO (In My Unhibited Opinion). Every asshole and nitwit expresses his opinion these days. Including this one!!

    David Duhr

    Ah, *that* kind of inhibited.

    Justine Tal Goldberg

    We like to hear your opinions, Jose. Keep ’em coming!

    […] Erica Mena starts a good discussion in “Print vs. Online.” […]

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