Monday, June 15, 2009

I'm with Dave Eggers

I don't believe print has to end. I don't believe it will.

I don't believe people want to read books on Kindle, or any other such device, or perhaps not "only" read them there, or online.

I just don't buy it. And I don't think we have to buy it either.

And the new magazine store that opened up on Mont Royal very near me tells me I may be right. I have said it before, and if I'm wrong, I'll eat my words.

I really hope I am not wrong about this, but I have to ask, why must it be so? Because someone, or some corporation wants to make a lot of money by patenting the technology that will "handle" the next generation of books? Just because something can be done doesn't mean it should be done, or that we have to support it being done, or that this new technology need replace other ways. If nothing else, we can certainly learn that fact from the 20th Century.

And because I don't buy it, or don't buy it as the only future, once again I urge everyone to simply keep buying and supporting the book, the magazine, the writer, the publisher, because yes, things are changing in markets the world over, but change is not necessarily a bad thing, and of course, change doesn't end either.

Perhaps newspapers have been complacent in the face of all this change--like the east coast fisheries that kept on fishing itself out of Cod, knowing all along it was coming and doing nothing differently. And perhaps literary journals are too, and worse, perhaps we the consumers are a bit complacent, accepting the presence of such things without doing much to support the publications we love. It's hard, and it's expensive, and isn't there a way to find other sources of funding?

Speaking of all this, an interesting lack of coverage in the literary world around the recent Magazine awards in Canada. The Malahat did very well but sites such as BookNinja etc., didn't even bother reporting. Do magazines not matter? I know, I know, I keep saying this, but personally I love it when The Walrus, or Geist, roll in through the mail slot. The Griffins are all well and good, but would we have those without the literary journal? How do we get from beginner to prize winner without small publications? Without magazines?

On the other hand, guess how many copies of Malahat are sold annually? Something like 800. Can we increase that? Can Malahat bump its circulation by adding an online portion? The fact that I can get the New Yorker online doesn't stop me from having the print version and I don't aniticpate canceling my Malahat if they could give me an online archive. The future of print is not "out of our hands." Technologies come and go people. Do you want kindle? And if you do, how do you want it?

As for the matter of subscriptions, etc. How many students of Canadian literature have a subscription to The Malahat, or West Coast Line, or The Capilano Review, or The New Quarterly--journals all doing an exceptional job of publishing new and established voices. Those of us teaching creative writing can include an issue or two on our syllabus and bump up circulation that way and also let the kiddies know the value of these publications.


Ross Brighton said...

I, too, am all for print. How would someone like Susan Howe, or Myung Mi Kim, or Caroline Bergvall - All of whose work directly (in my opinion) involves the page and the action of it's turning in their work - translate into a foreign medium without their work being altered, and not necessarily for the better?

Al said...

There's no need to worry until the technology can replace the feel of the page on your skin, the smell of the ink and binding, and the look of the text from reflected light (as opposed to emitted light), never mind the durability of a hard-cover waiting on a shelf and the mystique of finding a long-lost treasure.

evie said...

I'm with you, too, Sina. Maybe a generation will come of age soon for whom the materiality of the book won't matter (and their poets will create poems that engage the electronic medium in which they will mostly be read -- as some do already), but there are many many years ahead of us before the book-buying public (those of us who spend the most money on books) will pay only or primarily for e-readers and e-texts.