Recently I was updating some info on my web site when I noticed that a couple of links to stories online no longer worked. I had to assume the journals in which the stories were published had closed.
One of the journals in question was print, the other an online operation. The first story sits in a volume on my bookshelf, and despite the demise of the publisher, I will always have that copy. The second story, however, is gone for good. (I did print a copy of the web page it appeared on, but somehow that just doesn’t count.)
It’s almost as though that second story was never published. And believe me, I’ve already considered sending it out again, but that’s considered cheating in the literary world. Best I can hope for is to try an online journal called The Reprint, which is dedicated to republishing works that have disappeared from the web.
I’m an old fashioned writer. I enjoy holding the published works in my hands and seeing them in plain view. But the possibility of losing published stories to the ether grows with each journal that shifts from print to the Internet.*
Sometimes journals produce their publications as pdf files, which can be downloaded and converted to book form. I can almost live with that. But sometimes the issue is strictly html. I admit, I’ve gone so far as to download an entire online issue, and because I used to be a graphic artist, painstakingly redesign it as a print journal. The process is tedious to the point of being absurd. Plus, printing one or two copies of a 200-plus page journal, whether pdf or self designed, is expensive. A single book with a color cover can cost $20 to $30 at the FedEx store. Forget about any color inside.
I still believe a writer should be paid for his or her creativity, not have to spend time and money just to provide proof that a story was published. But the corporatization of literature is changing all that. We already have to pay many journals to submit, and I can’t help wondering when most journals will resort to charging authors for a copy of the printed result to help meet their operating expenses. Some (Narrative, for example) already charge readers to access online content.
Maybe I’m too old fashioned. Maybe I can’t get used to the idea of literature as something transient, to be read and discarded like the morning newspaper (oops, we hardly have them anymore either).
For now, I will continue to be careful about where I submit my work, choosing print journals almost exclusively, and only resorting to online magazines when I’m solicited by a publication or have run out of viable print journals to submit a story to.
*Yes, there’s the Wayback Machine, but seriously, who would go that far to retrieve an online short story?
Controversial Book Review Update: (See my blog of October 27.) I’m still working on it. I’ve decided to turn it into an essay, to help explain my perspective. I’m preparing to show it to a few trusted people first, and hope to have it finished in another week or so.