Electric Literature launched a redesigned website Tuesday with a new emphasis on being a digital destination, simultaneously announcing the appointment of a new online editor, Lincoln Michel. It's an admission of what has been apparent for some time: Electric Literature is an online powerhouse and is leaving its print magazine behind.
While the print-going-digital story is familiar, it's not what co-founder Andy Hunter had planned when the magazine launched in 2009. Then, the idea was to couple print and digital, to publish a literary magazine simultaneously in print and digital editions that would look good on a text e-reader and an iPhone. Believe it or not, in the pre-iPad days, the prominence that the magazine gave to digital literary fiction was, at the time, forward-thinking, and top writers -- Colson Whitehead, Aimee Bender, Michael Cunningham -- were enticed to contribute.
But Electric Literature hasn't published its print magazine since September 2011.
The following spring, it launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for a digital-only project, Recommended Reading. Each week, a piece of short fiction is published online and via its app with a recommendation from a writer or publisher. The short stories are free; the Kickstarter campaign brought in almost double its original goal of $10.000. Recommended Reading continues and is now on its 105th installment.
Recommended Reading was begun by Benjamin Samuel and Halimah Marcus; Marcus is now its sole editor. Samuel, now an editor at large, departed earlier this month for the National Book Foundation, which presents the National Book Awards.
With Electric Literature's website retooled, Recommended Reading has equal weight with destination content -- feature stories, interviews, book news -- that's mostly still to come. It hopes to be, as Hunter wrote in an email, "forward-thinking, intellectually engaging, and humorous hub for all things literary."
New online editor Michel, a co-founder of Gigantic, has already gotten started. In one of his first posts he updated a century-old rejection note to reflect the tired ideas seen in the submissions to today's literary magazines.