August 30, 2010

Them as has, gets – updated

Some literary journals, such as New England Review and Ploughshares, have begun charging for e-mail electronic submissions. In other words, if you want to submit poetry or prose electronically to these publications, you need to pony up $2 to $3 dollars per submission.

Excuse me?

I first discovered this on the Avoiding the Muse blog, by New England Review’s C. Cale Dale Young, where he defends the practice, in response to a critical post on Steve Fellner’s Pansy Poetics.

In thinking this over, I’ve tried to be as fair to these two journals as I can. Here’s the best I can do for their side: e-mail [and the internet] lowers lower the barriers to submission, increasing the workload in reading and responding to them, without lowering costs or increasing revenue for the magazine. It’s not really about the money; literary magazines aren’t for-profit ventures, but labors of love. The writers would be paying for postage, paper and printer ink to send a postal submission (which is still free at these magazines). Nobody wins if the magazines don’t survive.

I hope somebody can make a better argument, because that one is pretty weak tea. If it really isn’t about the money, but — as I suspect — about discouraging submissions, re-raising the barriers, un-democratizing literature, that’s worse than simple greed. If it’s only about reducing workload, that’s understandable, but this is an incredibly wrong-headed approach.

Let me make it clear: I know I’m no Seamus Heaney, but you are not providing me with a service by agreeing to read my submission. I’m doing you a service by sending it to you. Even if it’s the most pathetic drivel written this century. And what you are asking most writers to pay for is the privilege of being rejected.

New England Review and Ploughshares certainly won’t mourn the loss of my poems, but they won’t be seeing them. I won’t pay a (regressive) reading fee, though I could probably afford it. Call it a gratuitous act of solidarity.


1. I typoed C. Dale Young’s name in the original post. My apologies.

2. I should have said “electronic submissions,” not “e-mail submissions.” I don’t think it changes the principles involved, but it was inaccurate.

3. My comment (in the comments) about a “form-letter comment” was gratuitously snarky. Again, apologies.


July 18, 2010

Container and contained: thoughts about books and ebooks

Filed under: books,reading — crcb @ 11:57 pm
Tags: , , ,

I read the following in Jeff Gomez’s Print is Dead: Books in Our Digital Age: ” I am who I am because of books, because of the words that others and I discovered between the hardback and paperback covers of worn and dog-eared novels.”

Now, Gomez’s book is no luddite screed, but I have heard similar statements from those who view ebooks with horror, when they can bear to look at them at all. I imagine like laments greeted the first appearance of paperbacks. Many who had grown up with hardback books probably considered these newcomers frauds, cheap pretenders to respectability.

Gomez’s hyperbolic title notwithstanding, printed books aren’t going away. Hardbacks didn’t vanish. They have their advantages in durability and mystique. Even now, any tome with claims to substance or scholarship must first appear in hardback (as Print is Dead did).

I love paperbacks, and still recall the sometimes brittle, faded or taped-up covers of many childhood and adolescent reads. My daughter might someday have fond memories of a scratched and scuffed e-reader, when prices drop enough for her to have one. But for her, for me, for any lover of reading, the physical object held in the hand is secondary: it’s the words that transport us out of our own physical containers that we truly cherish.

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