Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Electric Literature

Yet more news of digimodernism in literature. Why so much recently? Maybe because literature has hitherto been so far behind the digimodernist game. There were digimodernist films (well, one anyway) in 1993 already. Two New Yorkers have created Electric Literature, a fascinating and entirely positive venture. This comes from their website:

Electric Literature’s mission is to use new media and innovative distribution to return the short story to a place of prominence in popular culture.

As A.O. Scott wrote recently in the New York Times:
The blog post and the tweet may be ephemeral... but the culture in which they thrive is fed by a craving for more narrative.”
Fiction transports us. It uniquely captures the experience of human consciousness like no other art form, revealing underlying truth and opening us to life’s possibilities. Like any creative act, writing fiction carries within it an implicit belief in the future. Electric Literature was created by people who believe in the future of writing.

We're tired of hearing that literary fiction is doomed. Everywhere we look, people are reading—whether it be paperbooks, eBooks, blogs, tweets, or text messages. So, before we write the epitaph for the literary age, we thought, let’s try it this way first: select stories with a strong voice that capture our readers and lead them somewhere exciting, unexpected, and meaningful. Publish everywhere, every way: paperbacks, Kindles, iPhones, eBooks, and audiobooks. Make it inexpensive and accessible. Streamline it: just five great stories in each issue. Be entertaining without sacrificing depth. In short, create the thing we wish existed.

Here's how our model works: To publish the paperback version of Electric Literature, we use print-on-demand; the eBook, Kindle, iPhone, and audio versions are digital. This eliminates our up-front printing bill. Rather than paying $5,000 to one printer, we pay $1,000 to five writers, ensuring that our writers are paid fairly. Our anthology is available anywhere in the world, overruns aren’t pulped, and our back issues are perpetually in print. We hope that this model can set a precedent: more access for readers, and fairness for writers.

Publishing is going through a revolution. There's opportunity and danger. The danger lies in ignoring or resisting the transformation in media. New platforms present an opportunity to adapt. We believe the short story is particularly well-suited to our hectic age, and certainly for digital devices. A quick, satisfying read can be welcome anywhere, and while you might forget a book, you’ll always have your phone.

To us, literature is what is important, not the medium. If eBooks, Kindles, or iPhone apps help literature survive, then we’re all for them.

People of our generation—with one foot in the past and one in the future—must make sure that the media gap is bridged in a way that preserves and honors literature. We don’t want to be sentimental old folks in a world where literary fiction is only read by an esoteric few.
Andy Hunter & Scott LindenbaumEditors
editors@electricliterature.com

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