With the alacritous rise of the World Wide Web networking communities across the globe, groups and individuals working in and amongst the literary arts are now able to engage in dialogues and literary pursuits that were previously unavailable to them. As the WWW’s network of linked sites becomes increasingly available, a proliferation of literature is being turned out online â€“ writer home pages, searchable archives of poetry and prose, hypertext projects, whole texts online, bulletin boards for the discussion of writing, all types of literary focuses are appearing on the Internet. Along with these has been the emergence of hundreds of online literary magazines, which are changing the very nature of how readers access literature, how writers produce and market, as well as how literature is presented and published. A whole new precedent has and continues to emerge in Internet literary publishing, to a point where those involved in the various aspects of Internet literary communities â€“ writers, editors, patrons, etc. â€“ are raising important questions as to the role of online literary magazines (ezines).
Online publishing represents an important part of the evolution of literature, and within the natural process of evolving there are important initial stages. Robert Kendall in his interview for Poets & Writers begins by talking about Ted Nelson â€“ a computer scientist who first coined the term hypertext. Nelson was the first to envision how literature could be made widely accessible to the world. What some might have thought was ludicrous in 1965, is now a near-reality to Nelson’s vision. This is in a large part due to the efforts of many online literary journals offering patrons a broader, more comprehensive selection of poetry and prose than ever before. Ezines are not only offering more diverse selections of traditional forms of writing, but sites such as Dennis Gaughan’s Poetry Café also offer multimedia presentations, thereby transcending conventional distinctions between artistic media.
Currently, we are at a point beyond the wondering of how such an endeavor can be brought to fruition. We are at the point of questioning: what are our motivations? And how do we make the most of a vision come true? These questions are being raised all over the Internet by readers who are expressing what they are interested in seeing from ezines, as well as by the publishers, who are asking how can they best offer the readers what they want, and further, in what ways can they best contribute to literary publishing overall.
In the current issue of Perihelion, editor Jennifer Ley hosts a round-table discussion posing some of these questions, such as the role of ezines in the big picture of literary publishing. After reading articles such as Robert Kendall’s in Poet’s & Writers, and observing the discussions on a number of the online literary forums, the overwhelming consensus seems to be that ezines operate in such a way as to eliminate boundaries between not only readers and writers, but between writers and publishers. Ezine editors are reconsidering traditional publishing categories and working to eliminate certain bureaucracies that have been established over time in much of print publishing.
In essence, ezines and their publishers are an integral redefining force in literature. By taking a step beyond the limitations of print publishing to develop a system that removes barriers between those who want to communicate and those who want to listen, ezines are finding better ways to meet the needs of writers and their patrons. It is becoming increasingly evident, the role of these journals is not only essential to furthering excellence in online literature, but to furthering excellence in literature overall.