Prairie Fire’s Andris Taskans on the Future of Zines


Andris Taskans answered our questions by email on April 18.

1)  We all know that Dan Brown and his ilk can sell product in any form, ebook, pbook or otherwise. But what do you think will be the impact of ebooks and ezines on literary publishing in the near term?

There appears to be a generational gap between readers of traditional print literary magazines and readers of ezines and ebooks. This gap should narrow as the holdouts either embrace the new media or die off. Ezines appear to be superior to pzines in a variety of ways, including immediacy, ability to respond to readers and lower overhead. With postal and other shipping costs already at an all-time high, the relative ease and economy of electronic transmission should encourage a growing number of publishers (and their funders) to consider, first, adding e-editions and then, eventually, dispensing with paper ones altogether. Have any new paper lit mags started in the past five years? With one e-reader able to hold, 750-1,500 titles (approximately equal to 3 or 4 times the entire output of Turnstone Press since its founding in 1975), literary book publishers, too, will have to rethink their business models. Generally, if a cost can be cut, it will be cut. Once enough readers are downloading literary titles to their ebooks, the publishers will have no reason to produce physical objects called books except perhaps as specialty items.

2)  How will your role as an editor and literary magazine change as a result of the increasing adoption of ebooks and ezines?

Over the past 20 years, Prairie Fire Press has gone from being an organization that publishes a literary quarterly, to one that puts on readings, publishes a book or two, has a website, and features online book reviews. In the next few years we should become available on one or more electronic newsstands. Other forms of diversification will likely follow. Our editorial process has been mostly consultative and collaborative. I think it will become even more collegial in the years ahead, as no one individual can hope to play the role of arbiter in a time of such rapid change. I’m less than a decade from retirement and, while I hope the print edition of Prairie Fire continues for the duration of my term, I’m not going to bet on it surviving indefinitely.

3)  Do you use or have you tried using an e-reader? What is your impression of them?

I’m slow to embrace new technology. I’ve never used an e-reader and I’ve only once seen anyone use such a device — a young woman reading on a bus. Outside of (distant) Facebook friends, no one I know has one, although I’ve certainly read about their merits. (I’ve also never owned a cellphone, iPhone or any similar device. Although I use computers, I do not own one.)

4)  How do you think the McLuhanism that equates medium with message will apply to ebooks and ezines? That is, will artistic forms such as the novel, the short story, and the poem actually change because of the new delivery media, including e-readers, iPhones etc.?

I think artistic forms will change, but I don’t feel qualified to guess at how those changes will manifest. The writers who seem to have had the most material success utilizing new media are the creators of action-oriented and/or role-playing games. Of course, some writers have created interactive works of literature, but it’s too early to tell if hypertexts and their ilk represent the wave of the future. I think we’re going to see a great deal of experimentation, with a multitude of different approaches, including collaborative works and works that cannot exist fully in any other medium.

What about the impact of so-called enhanced books that include video and music?

Most of these will pander to popular taste and be forgettable. With luck, a few talented individuals (or groups) will create works of beauty and wonder. Are we looking at a sea-change in the notion of authorship, with the single creator being replaced (or enhanced) by the creative team?

5)  In what ways will paper magazines and books change in the next few years because of ebooks?

Paper magazines will be with us for a while, particularly throwaway magazines filled with advertising and art magazines whose physicality is a key part of their appeal. Topical magazines, those devoted chiefly to commentary, and literary magazines will transition to online & ezine formats. If present trends continue, most books in ten years will be ebooks, with paper books relegated to a niche market (art books, chapbooks, handmade books, etc.).

Post a Comment

Your email address is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Andris Taskans

Andris Taskans is editor and co-founder of Prairie Fire, one of Canada's leading literary magazines.