ONLINE BOOKSTORE FEATURED TITLES
Best of Irish Poetry 2009
Eds. Paul Perry and Nuala Ni Chonchuir
Done Dating DJs
by Jennifer Minniti-Shippey
Winner, 2008 Fool for Poetry Competition
Richesses: Francophone Songwriter Poets
Edited and translated by Aidan Hayes.
INTRODUCING SOUTHWORD JOURNAL ONLINE
THE FIRST FULL ONLINE ISSUE WILL APPEAR JUNE 2009
FOREWORD FROM SOUTHWORD No. 15, THE LAST PRINT ISSUE.
I am a lover of books. Apart from their contents I love their tactile quality. I love the way, when they are designed well, they can be objet d’arts. I love how easy they can be on the eyes – I’ll never read Proust or Tolstoy on a computer screen. Yet….
Clay tablets and stone are more ancient and cumbersome technologies for the conveyance of the printed word (a literal misnomer but you know what I mean) than papyrus and it is understandable why cheaper and simpler papyrus and ink replaced the more rigid media for the recording of thought and information. Yet, arguably, more information about early history has survived into our times on the more durable and obsolete stone than on the scraps of surviving papyrus.
Now we face a similar transition. The word as visual symbol is on the move again, this time from paper and ink to ether and binary code. There will always be a need for books until such time as we can store their contents in chips directly connected to our brains, but many of the books which will be printed in the future will be expensive, rare things.
It is possible that however few people read this page, it may be read distantly in the future by someone who does not have access to the more widely read future forewords in the digital medium. That is a risk we must take. This is the last Southword we plan on printing.
The book trade has undergone a complete change in culture in
recent decades. The large chain stores with their huge profit margins have
undercut small independents on the bread and butter titles which turn over quickly and in large volume. They have stolen a massive
percentage of market share, putting many small independents out of business. At the same time they have significantly cut back on the number of different titles they are prepared to stock – anything which takes longer than six weeks to sell is considered dead stock. Poetry books fall into this category and no amount of marketing initiative will reverse this development. More poetry books are sold now in the presence of the author – at launches, workshops, festivals and other readings – than can be sold through bookshops.
Heavy book buyers frustrated with the narrowness of even the largest bookshop’s range buy exclusively online these days, so making the
culture of the large chain store irreversible. Indeed the imminent collapse of Borders illustrates how bankrupt, figuratively and literally, is their
The small literary magazine has it really tough in this arena. It can survive and thrive after a fashion but only with enormous commitment of human resources and financial capital. With our commitment to festivals, workshops, author tours and other publications the Munster Literature Centre does not have the resources to develop the sales of Southword above a couple of a hundred copies per issue and thus its continued print publication in the current financial climate has become untenable. It has become environmentally untenable too. And I believe authors and readers can be better served by us continuing to publish it as an online journal. The work will be more accessible, will attract wider readership and the contents will have a longer “shelf” life in the medium term through authors linking to their pages from their own websites and blogs. The savings from printing costs can be used to bolster our other ventures serving writers and readers. The online edition will maintain the same rigorous editorial standards as the print edition and we will continue to pay contributors the modest amounts we have been able to afford previously.
Those of you handling and reading this print edition I thank you and applaud you. I trust you to follow us on our new development.
Southword 16 will be published in full next June on www.munsterlit.ie
Director, Munster Literature Centre