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Meanland – ‘No thanks, I’ve seen an old issue at the library’: on the responsibility of the reader for the decline of publishing

So you, the reader, want to save independent publishing in Australia? Go forth and buy a book. Be daring: buy an armful. The truly intrepid might add a subscription, or several, to one of Australia’s exceptional literary journals – a commitment to the health of the Australian literary scene, if you will.

This isn’t to imply that readers have money to burn, or that they should spend all of their disposable income on books and journals. Yet, readers – above all, those of the aspiring writer variety – are often reluctant to part with their cash when it comes to investing in Australian publishing. And for aspiring writers and readers alike, this is precisely how we can define purchasing local printed commodities: an investment.

Interrogation of the cultural foothold and relevancy of the literary journal aside, this appeal is directed to those who do benefit from their relationship to and the preservation of ‘the journal’.

A short time ago, Melbourne blogger Samuel Cooney wrote this assessment of the dilemma facing modern publishing:

See, we live in a consumer-driven world, and people want to read. Sure, they are no longer browsing in the traditional places, and they definitely aren’t as willing to simply hand over money for a set amount of printed text. That straightforward customer–supplier link is now somewhat outdated. However, as long as some of us write stuff and others read it, there will be a publishing industry.

Quite true – people do want to read; readers aren’t seemingly willing to ‘simply hand over money’; and the exchange between reader and writer described above does resemble a publishing industry. But is it a sustainable publishing economy?

No, said George Orwell in 1946 when painting a portrait of a similar book/newspaper/journal dilemma …

Read the rest of the essay over at Meanland.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

Subscribe | Renew | Donate November 9–16 to support progressive literary culture for another year – and for the chance to win magnificent prizes!

Jacinda Woodhead is the editor of Overland. Her PhD research examined abortion politics in Australia and nonfiction as political intervention.

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