As a reader, I prefer the portability of print. Today is sunny & 60 degrees. I'm taking my daughter to a park. I will throw a recent issue of Field in my bag to take with me. I don't have the capability to get the internet everywhere I go. Nor do I want to take my laptop with me everywhere just so I can use the wi-fi to read a journal online.
I do most of my work on a computer. I don't want to have to do all of my recreational reading on a computer. I will read a print journal cover to cover because I can bookmark where I left off. I can take it everywhere. Simply taking all of the content of what would have been a print issue and putting it online with links from a Table of Contents is all well and good in theory, but I have to ask:
- How many people actually sit and read all of the contents of an online journal that publishes several authors/genres per issue?
- Even the ones you like?
- If you have to take a break before you finish reading the issue, how do you remember your place when you get back to the issue? Do you make a sticky note about it?
- Do you read it straight through or pick and choose which authors you want to read first?
- Do you read work by the names you know first?
- Do you read the work by names you don't know?
- Am I out of the ordinary for being the kind of reader who reads a journal straight through, front to back?
But, thinking one can simply transpose the contents of a print journal to electronic format? No way.
To me, the best format for online journals is one that regularly publishes a single author -- such as No Tell Motel and Anti-. Online distribution is great for this sort of format, especially when the publishers are well-versed in the capabilities of social networking. Even better if the authors published by the online journals are good social networkers as well.
I agree that it's not fair that people's attention spans (mine included) are so short that they won't sit and read through an entire issue of an online journal, nor will they click on every single author listed in the electronic TOC. Of course, there's no guarantee that people will read a whole print issue all the way through either.
But given the choice between sitting out in the sunshine reading a print journal all afternoon or sitting and staring at a computer screen all afternoon... I know what I'm gonna choose.