Even literary magazines are going electric

By Branko Brkic 30 October 2009

Like books and newspapers, the highbrow world of literary magazines is saving on overheads by embracing digital.

The literary magazine is one of those media animals that’s always struggled to get by. A labour of love more than a venture for profit, its contributors, editors and backers are almost exclusively aesthetes – that is, people with a highly developed sense of the artistic, people who’d rather spend their time constructing or enjoying a beautiful paragraph than getting paid by the hour. As such, the costs associated with the printed word – printing, paper, distribution – have tended to sink literary magazines faster than Spanish warships at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Enter Electric Literature, a New York-based quarterly literary magazine that allows readers the opportunity to savour its product on Kindle, e-book, iPhone or print-on-demand paper. The brainchild of two MFA writing graduates, Electric Literature has already published such big-name US scribes as Michael Cunningham, Colson Whitehead, Lydia Davis and Jim Shepard. In November, award-winning novelist Ricky Moody will tweet a short story via the brand in three days.

The price of subscription for the electronic version is US$24, and US$48 if you insist on reading in dead-tree format. So far, 800 subscribers have signed up, with 1,600 literature buffs having bought single issues. Those figures could soon rocket through the roof, though – gushing reviews on the magazine have been published everywhere from knock-and-drop blogs to The Washington Post and New York Times.

Read more: New York Times


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