The San Francisco Chronicle has an article about the success of the free online literary journal, Narrative, which Tom Jenks and Carol Edgarian started five years ago with an initial readership of 1,200. Now they have 40,000 registered users.

"This is a revolutionary period," says Jenks, 57, who has held fiction editor positions at Esquire, GQ and Scribner's. "And as with all revolutionary periods, it's one of enormous opportunity - I don't think there's ever been a greater period of opportunity for writers, for literary work."

"I think the transition for writers (from print to digital) is painful because it's new," adds Edgarian, 46, the author of the critically acclaimed novel "Rise of the Euphrates." "But the opportunities are enormous."

OK. Good stuff. Refusing to accept the (supposed) rising tide of illiteracy. A mission statement about bringing great literature out of the Gutenberg era into the digital age. Publishing the likes of Joyce Carol Oates and Scott Spencer, profiles on writers such as Ann Beattie.

And then, later, there's this:

Narrative may be atypical in terms of circulation for new literary magazines - most "small magazines," on- or offline, have a regular following of about 5,000 people - but its business model, if you can call it that, is decidedly nonprofit. Almost all of its 65 staff members, including Edgarian and Jenks, toil unpaid. There is no advertising on their site, nor do the editors give much thought to marketing or promotion.

Ah yes, that tremendous, revolutionary opportunity the digital age offers so many of us: writers and editors not getting paid.

March 6, 2008 7:08 AM |



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