October 28, 2010 | Graham

What would online-only mean for Meanjin?

The SMH carries a story that literary magazine Meanjin is to become an online only publication.

I’ve mixed feelings about that.

For starters Meanjin shares a Queensland heritage along with OLO, with its name in fact deriving from the aboriginal name for the land where Brisbane is situated. So, along with many Queenslanders I feel a pride in the magazine, even though I rarely read it, because it is one of the family grown-up and made good.

Queenslanders still have an unjustified chip on the shoulder when it comes to academics endeavour.

I’ve been a little surprised sometimes to suggest to writers from Queensland that they pop into our office next time they are in town for a coffee when as often as not they say “It’s OK I don’t get down to Sydney/Melbourne very often”.

They frequently appear genuinely puzzled to find we’re Brisbane based and are just as likely to say “I never thought you would have done something like this from Brisbane.”

In the modern world of digital publishing there are a few good things happening in Brisbane. Larvatus Prodeo our neighbour on The Domain is a Queensland initiated publication and Wotnews is also a Brisbane-based concern.

For that matter, before Queensland, and more specifically Nambour, had exported Kev and Wayne to the national stage, she had already exported Nambour-born Stephen Mayne, the founder of Crikey.

Be all that as it may, Meanjin moved to Melbourne in 1945, 5 years after it was founded. Things were very different then in Queensland, both socially and geographically. Brisbane really was the outer limits of civilisation with only the far north after that.

It was also one of the publications where I aspired (unsuccessfully) to be published back in the days when I wrote poetry.

Meanjin has always struggled to survive, and the move to online only seems to confirm that there is little market for specialist literature offline and that this move is part of the gradual and final decline –  a little death.

Perhaps more than a little death. While I am an enthusiastic proponent of online publishing that is primarily for the field of news and current affairs where content and currency, not so much presentation, are what is important.

I don’t buy literature to read online. If I am going to buy a book I want something that I can hold in my hand, dog-ear and mark with a pencil (or occasionally furtively with a biro if I’m desperate and caught short on graphite). Certainly it’s current site is not encouraging and bears little relationship to the elegant covers that I associate Meanjin with.

But perhaps the modern generation is really different, or perhaps the economics will be so much in Meanjin’s favour that it won’t matter if the market is much smaller.

So all the best Meanjin. As the Internet knows no barriers perhaps your centre will migrate a little closer to home.

Posted by Graham at 2:53 am | Comments Off on What would online-only mean for Meanjin? |
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