On My Commitment

April 28, 2015

Rathalla Review 2014 Annual Issue: CoverNo, I haven’t been institutionalized yet, though my family would probably be happy for someone to arrange that.

The headline means that a printed copy of my story “Commitment” has arrived, embedded in the handsome 2014 annual issue of Rathalla Review, a selection of pieces that appeared in the online magazine during the year. I’m honored to have my work included, and it’s made me think once more about the print-vs.-electronic debate.

Though I’ve spent most of my adult life working on physical books printed on paper, I don’t mind reading on screen. Either way is fine. I doubt that e-books will make printed books obsolete, and I’m not worried about the matter. There are bigger issues in the world.

In deciding where to submit my writing, therefore, I tend to choose magazines that people I know will be able to locate and read. Literary magazines that appear only in print are generally seen by only a few hundred subscribers. I can tell my friends I have a story in such-and-such a journal, but they’re unlikely to buy a physical copy even if they can find one. (And I’m too poor to buy copies for all of them.) But if I say the story is free on a website, they’ll check it out. Advantage: electronics.

Still, it’s nice to get a print version as well, and it may survive long after websites are revamped and electronic links go dead. Paper is surprisingly durable for a thin, flimsy medium. There’s a reason we’ve used it for centuries.

I do not love the scent of glue, however. That’s one quality of a contemporary printed book I could do without. Old books that are smyth-sewn smell better as long as you brush off the dust first.

Postscript: After admiring the annual print issue in physical form, I discovered it’s also available online. Click the picture above to go to it. The electronic version has no smell whatsoever.

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