Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shenandoah to Go Online Only

Remember the junior high “unit” about the Industrial Revolution, and how it was such an unsettling time, causing sweet, innocent peasants to get all worked up and discombobulated as they witnessed sweeping change in everything they knew and loved about life? That’s me, that’s now.

Shenandoah—one of my favorite literary journals—is going to online only in the near-future:

Shenandoah will publish in its usual format in fall 2010. In spring 2011, there will be a limited-edition anthology of poems published in Shenandoah over the last 15 years. And then will come the biggest change of all. "For the foreseeable future," said [editor R.T.] Smith, "that will be the last print issue of Shenandoah."

“Starting with the fall 2011 issue, it will be entirely online. A paid subscription will be a thing of the past. "It is perhaps inevitable when we look at what has happened to other literary journals," said Smith. "Literary magazines per se are going to have to change their way of conceiving themselves and of reaching their audiences. And this is all tied up in the deep inquiry going on in our culture about the future of print. There is time to make that transition and be an innovator."

“The way the journal involves students in its work will be innovative as well. "The interns will not just observe and theorize about the actual editorial decisions, from design to contents to policies," said Smith, "but they will also participate in the decisions, plus do things like screening submissions and blogging."

While this transition was handled about a zillion percent better than TriQuarterly’s transition—and Shenandoah will remain a professionally edited journal—this change is still hard for this reader to embrace, especially with the students (undergraduates?) becoming so much more actively involved. (Again, not that student-run journals are bad, but something is lost when the editors come and go and come and go.)

As always, I’m fine with online journals in theory, but, frankly, I’m less inclined to read them. I like to cart around a pretty book with me; I want to read in bed or on the Metro or in the bathtub. And, I’m sorry, I don’t want to read on a soulless screen—though I may have to adapt, so don’t hold me to this statement when at some point in the future I extol the virtues of my lovely new Kindle/iPad/Book-B-Gone.

Yes, yes—much better for Shenandoah to go online than to go bye-bye. Nevertheless, it’s hard being a farmer, rooting against those relentless factories.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.