Print versus 'Net Publishing: One Very Biased Fan's View

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Title: Print versus 'Net Publishing: One Very Biased Fan's View
Creator: Lorelei Jones
Date(s): August 2, 2001
Medium: online
Fandom:
Topic: Fanfiction, Zines
External Links: Print vs. 'Net-publishing, One Very Biased Fan's View/WebCite
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Contents

Print versus 'Net Publishing: One Very Biased Fan's View is an essay by Lorelei Jones.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.

Excerpts

I used to think the web was a second-rate publisher, at best, a place to stick your stuff until you felt confident to submit to zines. I also thought the greatest thing that could happen to an author was for an editor to request to put in print one of the stories she had up on the 'net. This is a very common viewpoint in fandom, I've noticed. It's slowly being questioned and ever rejected by certain people, but the overall concensus still seems to be that 'net-publishing is several steps lower than zine-publishing except in the accessibility arena. This widely-held opinion has led to quite a few debates and even some open hostility. Those fans most involved in zine writing, editng, and publishing adopt a rather condescending attitude toward those fans who prefer working with the 'net, because thus far the track record of the two mediums would seem to support the argument that hardcopy print is better in so many ways. Those fans who conduct most of their activities online are often defensive in response, resentful of the implication that their preferred medium is somehow intrinsically inferior. Having been on both sides of the argument, I think they're both right. And both very, very wrong.
Now, it is true that any idiot with an ISP and a keyboard can publish whatever they want on the 'net. While that is also true of any idiot with a keyboard and a nearby Kinko's, it cannot be denied it's easier to throw up a website on the internet than to do a print run of a fanzine. The immediate and accessible nature of the internet makes it more likely that crap will be published on there that would not have been in print. However, the difficulty and wait involved in print has not guaranteed that crap has not been published (I don't know of a single fandom that doesn't have at least one zine or zine series that is worthy of a Hall of Shame award), and I suspect it has prevented certain excellent works from being made publically available because the author, for whatever reason, couldn't publish her work. I know a few very excellent authors who wouldn't dream of publishing their stories in a zine, but happily put them up on the web. I don't know all their reasons, nor do I understand all the ones I do know, but there's denying that for these authors, the web is the only way to publish. And for me, who would not have had a chance to read their stories otherwise, that's a definite argument in the web's favor.

The main advantage print zines have over web publishing is the tradition of editing. A tradition that, given some of what I've seen offered on dealers' tables in past years, is not holding up as well as it might otherwise. There are some who argue this is a result of the web and its immediate nature, but I fail to see how that could be the case. If your readers have web published fandom to occupy them while you work on your zine, it would make more sense to me that you would actually have more time to go over every detail, to offer a superior product to those who, having internet access for other reasons, no longer need to put out the money to buy fanzines in order to get their fannish fix.

No, the 'net isn't free (for most), but it also offers more than some fanfiction and fanart, no matter how beautifully rendered or formatted. The accessibility of fanfiction in a medium many consider a growing necessity is just a fringe benefit, easily justified when you also bank, communicate, research, trade, study, and take tests online. Fanzines remain an indulgence that is rather difficult to name as anything but indulgence, and I think that is where the oft-repeated lament about paying for fanzines comes from. If the overall scheme of things, they may be cheaper than your ISP, but they also don't offer the other services your ISP does. As for the extra filter of editing that is one of print's main claims to superiority, editing can happen online just as easily. Currently, there is no tradition to back the practice, but there are certain circles who are working to make it so.

Even the ongoing argument of the portability of print zines versus the web is losing weight in the growing availability of handheld planners and other devices, 'net access via cellphones and laptops, and the ever viable option of just printing a story out to take with you.