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December 30, 2007 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Small is Beautiful - The best new journals. (via Guardian / Observer) selected by Stephanie Merritt. "Published out of tiny offices or even editors' apartments, funded by grants, donations or founders' savings, distributed by direct subscription or in selected independent bookshops, paying contributors little or nothing at all, these magazines have nevertheless attracted such eminent writers as to give them an international reputation far beyond their limited circulation."
posted by adamvasco (29 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
It may be the fact that I do most of my short to medium length article reading on the Internet, but it seemed odd that to read what these journals had to say, I have to send money to the them, and then, after a short period of time, they will send me a volume through the mail. It's not really the payment part that gets me, it's more of the fact I can't get a pdf of the magazine. Heck, I can't even order the latest edition of the Believer, it's out of stock.

Out of stock? Out of stock! Out of stock refers to artichokes and video game systems, not information and erudition. Some of them even have limited editions. I can understand shackling oneself to the tried and true method of payment for journals and the like, it pays the bills, somewhat. But in the days of just in time publishing, self publishing, and electronic documents, why limit yourself to a set number of copies of information.
posted by zabuni at 10:49 AM on December 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hm. It starts with the Paris Review, which has been around since 1953 (and is hardly "little") and continues with two Dave Eggers products, which... well, it's Dave Eggers, who really doesn't need the publicity. Nice idea, but I wish she'd stuck more rigorously to "new" and "small." That said, A Public Space sounds interesting, and I look forward to checking it out next time I'm in a good bookstore.
posted by languagehat at 10:54 AM on December 30, 2007


why limit yourself to a set number of copies of information

"To Hell with Journals aims to revive the role of the journal in England's literary scene.' It has a print run of 1,000, will be limited to 26 issues and aspires to become a collectors' item."

Emphasis added. (Also, screw them.)
posted by languagehat at 10:55 AM on December 30, 2007


Also, screw them.

Why? What's wrong with small runs? I think this is a great idea.

For those that like these kinds of things, you might also enjoy One Story and Visionaire.
posted by dobbs at 11:24 AM on December 30, 2007


What's wrong with small runs?

To me it reeks of snobbish elitism. Why would you want to artificially limit the number of your readers? Answer: "to become a collectors' item." I don't think that's a worthy aspiration. If your magazine is really good, it will become a collectors' item anyway.
posted by languagehat at 11:46 AM on December 30, 2007


This piece was, for those prevented by preference, cost or an ocean from picking up the Observer today, the mere concomitant geegaw to a larger article about Granta magazine, which I found reasonably interesting, having never read an issue of that periodical myself - a deplorable lacuna in my education I intend now to rectify at some future peregrination about the book-mongers of Charing Cross road.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:46 PM on December 30, 2007


Why would you want to artificially limit the number of your readers? Answer: "to become a collectors' item."

To become a collectors' item? Christ Jesus. What the hell are they making, Star Wars toys and Topps baseball cards, or literature and ideas? C'mon, anyone who treats the latter like the former can't be trusted to publish anything worth reading, trying as they are to appeal to the middle of the path so they can sell widgets, er, collectors' items.

Jags.
posted by John of Michigan at 12:52 PM on December 30, 2007


Only a select few can appreciate our erudition!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:54 PM on December 30, 2007


You idiots! You'd chop down every forest to feed your hunger for vast print-runs! Don't you see that some texts choose to conform to a code of ecological humility, selflessly allowing other works to share the world's precious resources? And for that single virtue, you castigate them! Ingrates!

If you morons were in charge of the publishing industry, we'd all be up to our gonads in useless information - meanwhile, we're way passed the point of "peak ink." India will become a rival superpower, and you morons will be writing your blogs in fucking CRAYON.

So, in summary: fuck you.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:06 PM on December 30, 2007


the quidnunc kid: Perhaps a few years ago, that'd be true, but the rise of the Internet has changed the equation. Don't like HTML? Check out .pdf mags.

Or perhaps you're joking, and my Ironometer needs to be calibrated. Last night, I was out practicing for tomorrow night, so I'm a little off today.

But check out the .pdf mags link. There's a lot of interesting stuff there.
posted by John of Michigan at 1:15 PM on December 30, 2007


Or perhaps you're joking

Dude, the quidnunc kid is always joking. I start smiling as soon as I see his username beneath a comment. He's a blast of absurdist jollity amid the gun battles and earnest discourse that leave the hallowed halls of MetaFilter a blood-soaked, information-ravaged mess (did you realize that Jessamyn and cortex have to take turns mopping it up, while Matt alternately whips them and tosses them dented cans?), and I for one am grateful.
posted by languagehat at 1:33 PM on December 30, 2007


Thanks, John of Michigan, for the link (and thrice-worthy languagehat for the exposition).

But, dear John - since we've already passed peak ink, how long do you think it will be before peak LINK? Did you ever think of THAT? Pah!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:37 PM on December 30, 2007


Huh. I don't think of any of those journals as being very small. I guess these things are relative.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 2:38 PM on December 30, 2007


peak LINK?

Jesus wept, no, I didn't even think about that!!!1! There is a finite number of links, no? And how much of that link deficit can we blame on our own y2karl?

Food for thought, indeed.
posted by John of Michigan at 3:38 PM on December 30, 2007


Small Spiral Notebook, an online (2001) and print (2004) literary journal, has a nice little page of links called "Literary & Sites of Interest."
posted by xod at 3:40 PM on December 30, 2007


Answer: "to become a collectors' item." I don't think that's a worthy aspiration. If your magazine is really good, it will become a collectors' item anyway.

I mean, I can see why their phrasing might rankle, but I think your supplying a better reading of it here. I suspect they meant that they want to be a "really good" magazine, to the point where people will collect it. And call me old fashioned, but part of being a really good magazine is being a really good physical object, and "limiting" yourself to 1,000 copies (which seems like a huge number to me, but I live in the world of journals that hit 100-300 copies max) is a way of ensuring that you can afford to create nice objects.
posted by Casuistry at 4:05 PM on December 30, 2007


And call me old fashioned, but part of being a really good magazine is being a really good physical object, and "limiting" yourself to 1,000 copies (which seems like a huge number to me, but I live in the world of journals that hit 100-300 copies max) is a way of ensuring that you can afford to create nice objects.

True, and I am full favor of limited physical press runs, with good materials, and other cool extras. The information itself could still be given as a pdf, or even better, as a web page, for no additional cost to the creator, with possibilities to monetize it in a variety of ways.
posted by zabuni at 5:17 PM on December 30, 2007


I suspect they meant that they want to be a "really good" magazine, to the point where people will collect it. And call me old fashioned, but part of being a really good magazine is being a really good physical object, and "limiting" yourself to 1,000 copies (which seems like a huge number to me, but I live in the world of journals that hit 100-300 copies max) is a way of ensuring that you can afford to create nice objects.

I would consider McSweeney's and Granta's printed editions to be collectible, simply because they're nice books (as opposed to magazines). You don't have to have a limited run to be collectible (unless by "collectible" you mean "worth a lot of money someday"). Then again, they've been around a while and probably have more money behind them.
posted by Koko at 5:25 PM on December 30, 2007


Um, hello, The New Leader is back, is free and is online. It is probably one of the best publications I receive. So go suck a dick Neural Computation, cause I don't need your big words and math for electrical engineers. I gets my kicks for free now, and people can understand me at dinner parties.
posted by geoff. at 5:46 PM on December 30, 2007


Fresh from commenting on the thread about Chris Anderson's spirited (if miguided) defence of the ecological impact of magazines ...

I don't care much for the ideology of a journal that wants to become a collector's item, the quality of its content will decide that, not its print run. But since when did writing become so debased that it was never worth waiting for? Many other sources of diversion and learning are available instantly while you wait. Does the wait not make the arrival a little sweeter?
posted by WPW at 8:10 PM on December 30, 2007


The New Leader link uses the vhttp protocol, which is reserved for very exclusive journals.
posted by lukemeister at 8:35 PM on December 30, 2007


It is the online collector's addition.
posted by geoff. at 9:27 PM on December 30, 2007


Addition to an edition that is. Sorry, it is hard to communicate this sort of thing to the non-erudite, knuckle dragger.
posted by geoff. at 9:33 PM on December 30, 2007


languagehate: To me it reeks of snobbish elitism. Why would you want to artificially limit the number of your readers? Answer: "to become a collectors' item."

Notice: small mags have low print runs not bc they aim at becoming collectors' items but bc they have few subscribers and bad distribution deals. Not everything is a goddamn conspiracy.
posted by It ain't over yet at 9:56 PM on December 30, 2007


but part of being a really good magazine is being a really good physical object, and "limiting" yourself to 1,000 copies ... is a way of ensuring that you can afford to create nice objects.

Good point, and put that way I can buy it (er, I mean "accept it"—at the prices these precious little mags charge, I can't afford 'em).

Notice: small mags have low print runs not bc they aim at becoming collectors' items but bc they have few subscribers and bad distribution deals. Not everything is a goddamn conspiracy.

Notice: I was quoting their own fucking explanation. Learn to read.
posted by languagehat at 6:57 AM on December 31, 2007


To become a collectors' item? Christ Jesus. What the hell are they making, Star Wars toys and Topps baseball cards, or literature and ideas? C'mon, anyone who treats the latter like the former can't be trusted to publish anything worth reading

So, the first edition of Ulysses (1922), published in a limited edition of 1000 copies (100 copies signed, 150 copies numbered and 750 copies on handmade paper)? The first edition of T.S. Eliot's Poems (1919), handprinted in a limited edition of 250 copies? The edition de luxe of Proust's A l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs (1920), limited to 50 copies? Not worth reading, according to you.

I can think of plenty of good reasons to publish in a limited edition -- to pay homage to these founding texts of modernism; to uphold the values of craftsmanship in an era of mass production; to uphold the virtues of obscurity in an age of globalisation; or simply for fun. But even if the purpose is simply to make money by producing a collectors' item, is that such an unworthy aspiration? Why shouldn't writers and publishers be allowed to make money?
posted by verstegan at 7:08 AM on December 31, 2007


I can think of plenty of good reasons to publish in a limited edition

Sure, and your points are well taken. But I would posit that there's a difference between books and magazines. As you say, limited-edition books are a time-honored tradition (and I've got a few myself). But a magazine, traditionally, is a vehicle to bring writers to readers rather than an objet d'art in its own right (though of course many have been beautifully designed). It seems odd to me to say "I want my poems to appear in this tiny edition so that in twenty years people will pay large sums for it." I would think authors would want their works to be read as widely as possible. (Note that all the works you cite were also published in mass editions.)
posted by languagehat at 7:27 AM on December 31, 2007


. . . to pay homage to these founding texts of modernism

Umm, thinking about the chronology here, I don't think there was an editor sitting down with the production team in the 1930s and saying, "Y'know, this book is going to be one of the cornerstones of modernist literature. (Just trust me on this, guys, I can read what the public is going to want in thirty years. Seriously.) So let's just limit it to 300 copies, okay? That way, it'll be a collectors' item, and everyone who bought the first run will keep them in their mylar bags and become rich. When? When the Internet is invented, and Ebay is started!"

See, I don't think they were publishing small runs for the same reason you think they were.

(I had an acquisitions editor once who thought he could predict the "next big writer." Didn't work out all that well.)
posted by John of Michigan at 3:15 PM on December 31, 2007


Also, you ask, "Why shouldn't writers and publishers be allowed to make money?" Damn good question. It's a business, just like widgets, condoms, and rat poison, so writers and editors HAVE to make money, or the business folds. So, it's in their best interest to sell to as many people as possible.

Artificially limiting print runs to create a collectors' item? Whom does that benefit? The collector. NOT the writer. NOT the publisher.

There IS a real love of literature and writing in publishing. Yes, it IS a business, but the writers, editors, and publishers--at heart--want as many people to read their work as possible (and not just for mercenary reasons).
posted by John of Michigan at 3:19 PM on December 31, 2007


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