Online or Print?

Online vs. print? David Lynn at The Kenyon Review throws his hat into the ring:

Some nuggets:

I set out the questions this way to make the point that this is not merely a hypothetical: something precious to me as a writer is on the line. Because, of course, there’s the larger issue as well: what does the relationship between the print Kenyon Review and the electronic KROnline mean for the writing community? Should authors be as willing — more than merely willing, should they be as happy and enthusiastic — for their work to appear in our online journal as in print?

The question was brought home to me in a recent conversation withG. C. Waldrep. G. C. teaches at Bucknell College and is one of the country’s most knowledgeable and gifted younger poets. He is also a valued editor of The Kenyon Review. Yet he was confessing his own mixed feelings about KRO. On the one hand, he likes the literature we have thus far posted on the site — indeed he has advocated for many of the pieces there — and approves of its design and presentation as well.

Nevertheless, G. C. made it very clear that some authors consider KRO nothing more than a “Kenyon Review–Lite.” Publication there, he argued, has less status, signifies less on a curriculum vita, than the print KR. Some writers, he told me, especially those who have passed through the opening thresholds of their careers, already have a book or two but have not yet been tenured or feel professionally secure, might not even submit their work to us any longer. They worry that if we chose a poem or story for Internet publication instead of print, they wouldn’t want to have to decline the offer and risk offending.


5 responses to “Online or Print?

  1. I believed that a couple years ago, but to me it was a matter of selfishness – I liked to show people my work in a book, it was something tangible in my hand, etc.

    Since then, I have realized I do the vast majority of my reading on line, through RSS feed, through e-mail, printing things from the web. I think more people read/have access to my writing through electronic pubs, facebook, blog, etc than they would of happening upon a journal.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still submit my work to all sorts of places (I keep a book always at the side of my bed), but I have lost that particular stigma of submission.


    • Hi BL,

      Yeah, whenever I do panels at conferences regarding online or print, I always hail the benefits of online publication: more people can read your work, nationally and internationally (as opposed to the few thousand, tops, that might read the Kenyon Review), and your work is archived online for anyone to search and read indefinitely, as long as the web remains up. Also, the web is a universal library, and most everyone has this library card. Plus, print journals are notorious for their response times–I’m still waiting for the response from a print journal I sent work to almost a year ago, whereas online you wait two, three months tops and can build a platform of stories/poems, website, blog, twitter, in a course of a year or two.


  2. I think it’s only a matter of time before the only-print-is-prestige crowd comes around, though it’ll probably take awhile. The quality of what’s available online has improved greatly over the years. I guess these print journals have survived the regular calls that they’re imminently doomed, but really, how much longer will that be the case?

    Ten years ago, I might have sought out a publication like the Kenyon Review and purchased a copy. Now, though, there’s so much good stuff online to read, and if you’re submitting, yes, the response times are much shorter (not to mention you don’t have to spend money on postage, paper, and printer ink, all of which have become ridiculously expensive, as I’m sure those publishing print journals know quite well).


  3. That said, I think online journals have their unique set of problems concerning quality. For every few submissions we receive and reject, there’s always folks who e-submit over and over and over within hours of rejection, as if they’re throwing shit to the wall and seeing what sticks. Steve Himmer of Necessary Fiction talks about this, too, over on the Pank blog–where people will submit several times a day, even! Anyway, we want to see someone’s best work, not every half-finished piece they’ve ever written (some people have bragged that they just wrote the enclosed submission a few hours before). There are journals I’ve wanted to submit to for years that, for whatever reason, I don’t feel as if I have a piece that fits their aesthetic. So I’m not going to waste their time until I do.

    I think all journals list it in their guidelines, ie, Submitters have a much better chance of publishing with us if they read a few of our issues and see whether their work fits with what we like. But, yes, the overall quality of work is much better than a few years ago, and with the unique features of the web (podcasting, twitter, message boards, workshop groups), print journals need to do more than rest on their laurels.


  4. From a writer’s perspective, it seems like it would just be poor marketing to avoid web publications. When people want to know about you, they don’t go and look you up in a book. They Google you. Thus, web publications are a necessity in order to get your work to the most possible readers.

    When I was in graduate school, we had a small room in one of the English hallways with a little reading area and a bookshelf full of the back issues of various literary magazines. I used to go in there and search for hidden gems. A few others I know did this as well. If not for the handful of us who made the effort, those back issues would no doubt have gone entirely untouched–and many still did–meaning much great work would have collected dust into perpetuity.

    I remember thinking how many more people would discover these gems if they were archived somewhere on the web and could be linked to.


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