Revolutionizing Literature: Literary Magazines and the Digital Age

by Alexandra Cichon

Screenshot of DIAGRAM's website

Screenshot of DIAGRAM’s website

In the wee hours of the morning, with the DIAGRAM magazine tab open in my browser, I surf the magazine’s current issue, absorbing each pixel of avant-garde poems and clicking rapidly between diagrams. Besides my unequivocal love for the concept DIAGRAM pushes—“odd but good”— oozing from the crisp white and black aesthetic of each issue, the magazine’s sole presence online is surely a blessing. As a college student, my budget to purchase the dozens of literary magazines I swoon over is slim (that being said, it’s actually zero). After reading and researching DIAGRAM, I was delighted to know that it was strictly published online, where its accessibility is far greater than that of a comparable print magazine.

That’s the thing: the internet revolutionized the average Joe’s ability to connect to things they would’ve otherwise never connected with. It also improves the circulation of unknown authors’ works. DIAGRAM is a well-known little magazine, with a readership of typically 15-20,000 people a month worldwide. And while other small magazines may not be as well-known, their readership is an integral part of their existence. If just one person informs another of a magazine’s presence on the web, they’ve gained themselves another reader, and so on and so forth. This is not impossible for a print magazine, but much more unlikely. Accessibility—that’s where the power of online magazines lies. Jane Friedman’s essay, “The Future of the Gatekeepers” speculates on this topic, in that essentially online magazines squash the outdated role of the gatekeeper.

The prestige surrounding print publishing and reading well-known literary magazines seems to dissipate when publications flirt with the digital world. Friedman’s argument calls out the hypocrisy of print publication. She critiques the reliance of placing limitless value and prestige on print magazines by pointing out soaring production costs and growing time constraints. She concludes by saying that not only do online magazines better understand how to market their content, but that they, more so than print publications, “serve as supporters and partners of writers.”

The internet is the space to break down the confounding irrelevance of literary magazines because it can work much more closely with the community of writers and readers. The beauty of the online magazine is the community of people surrounding it, beyond its masthead or contributors. Online magazines act as a ground for fishing out new and wonderful authors, giving them the time and space to submit work, and potentially be discovered and read by a wide variety of audiences. Themes of magazines range across the board. A magazine like DIAGRAM considers submissions that are more avant-garde or willing to experiment; this includes poems, fiction and schematics. On the other hand, an online publication, Narrative.ly, celebrates its theme of storytelling, “focusing on ordinary people with extraordinary stories,” publishing mostly memoirs and nonfiction. A great online resource for scouring through the lot of literary magazines is Poets and Writers, Inc., which can help sort through publications online on the basis of what genre/subgenre they publish, whether they accept online submissions, and what format they are printed in. Resources like this are available for free to anyone with access to a computer or cell phone. The beauty of the internet is its ability to create a community of people and foster love for whatever they have bonded over. In a world where college students access most of their information online, having literary or art magazines on the internet is a blessing for both the poetry or prose lover, and the publishers of the magazines. Words are powerful and breaking down who can posses these words, print them or read them, is the first step in the literary revolution.

Alexandra Cichon is a senior studying English at the University of Connecticut. She is on the poetry panel at the Long River Review.

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