Print Lives

It’s a new media cliché by now that “Print is Dead”. The internet offers faster delivery of information on demand, anywhere you are. News arrives directly into your pocket. It updates in real time and it’s interactive. These are all advantages to digital, taken at face value. And yet, we’re seeking to launch a print magazine. Why?

It’s one of the more common questions we get. Why a physical magazine? Why not just do an eBook or a digital PDF version of a magazine? There are advantages to digital, to be sure. The costs relating to physical production and distribution—the printing and shipping, including international shipping—is the largest chunk of expense in a project like this. Avoiding those costs would cut the budget nearly in half. It’s attractive enough of an option that it has always existed as a potential plan B. But there are some real advantages to print, and good reasons that it’s stuck around.

There are a myriad of articles available that discuss the drawbacks of new media as a news or information delivery platform.  For those who are interested, the Columbia Journalism Review has a good article about the trouble with new media, and the resurgence of print. (Of course it doesn’t escape me that this article is written and presented digitally, and runs into many of the same issues. Long form journalism online isn’t a popular format. We appreciate it if you read this far.)

For the reasons outlined in the article above, print is still a strong form of media. Yet even more generally, there has been a resurgence of physicality across all types of art. The music industry is famously seeing record numbers of the sales of vinyl records every year, even as the overall percentage of sales of physical music media plummets. Cottage industries of handmade goods are thriving on places like Etsy, and of course the furry fandom is filled with examples of custom art, fursuits, and other merchandise.

As convenient as the internet is for so many things—including publishing—there is still a real desire for tangible goods. The more of our media we consume online, the greater the desire for a physical connection to that media in the real world. Vinyl records aren’t an improvement on the listening experience, per se. Rather they’re a physical connection to the music. They are a work of art, complimentary to the music which might only otherwise exist in a digital space.

But there’s a flip side to this which is important to the furry fandom specifically: furries are an internet subculture. While it may not have started this way in the very early days, the furry fandom owes its continued existence to the internet. It grows, thrives, and expresses its creativity almost entirely online. While traditional artwork exists physically, and is only shared online once it has been digitized, furry artwork by comparison almost always starts off as digital, and only exists physically if someone takes the time to print it out. When it is done traditionally, it must be scanned so it can be shared online with all the rest. Furry art is one of the first, and quite possibly the largest art movement to exist primarily as new media.

This is why we believe a print magazine is so important. There’s nothing wrong with taking digital media, curating it, and re-presenting it digitally. But the real goal here is to move more of that art out of its digital native space into the physical world. The desire is there in the culture at large to have a physical connection to our digital lives. We’d love the opportunity to move some of this artistic expression, discourse and context off the internet and onto the page.

5 Replies to “Print Lives”

  1. An interesting thought. There’s value too in preserving a record of a moment in time. I’ve seen ancient (by furry standards) zines, for example that literally showcase the state of the art when they were published. If the entire body of work of a movement exists on a volunteer website running on the proverbial old server in someone’s closet, it can vanish forever.

    Your challenge will be editorial. What will you present, and consequently preserve? Your site says you want this to be something a furry is proud to show to their non-fur friends, but where will you draw the line on the pornography that is ubiquitous in fandom art? It’s disingenuous to pretend it’s not there, but including it will have an effect on the nature of the audience you can reach and the preservation you accomplish.

    1. I had actually written a paragraph or two about that, and ended up cutting it. This is a good place to mention it though. The internet is a fragile thing. If (or when) it goes dark, a large cross section of culture and human experience will go dark with it. It’s not that we’re trying to “save furry culture” or anything like that. But I do think it’s a good idea to have a record of at least some of it that’s not online. Like you say, a more likely scenario is someone’s personal server or website going down. It’s on a smaller scale, but the result is the same. In some ways that can be even worse because if it’s a small site like that doesn’t get a lot of attention, not only will it disappear, but there may not be anyone left who even remembers it.

      I don’t think it’s disingenuous to not include furry pornography any more than it is when regular art magazines don’t include regular pornography. There’s plenty of room in our lives for both. At the moment, furry pornography is so ubiquitous that it’s drowning out non-pornographic work. It would be great if there was a way to shift that balance a little, and that’s one of the goals we have in mind for the magazine. I expect I’ll have to address it in at least one or two articles on the website here, so in that sense we won’t be pretending it’s not there.

      The more difficult editorial decisions will involve the grey areas. What do we do about artistic nudity? Most likely we’ll be erring on the side of being too safe. This is for several reasons; it probably deserves an article of its own because there’s a lot to say there. Consider though that the audience for furry pornography of any sort–even tasteful artistic nudity–is so incredibly large and it receives so much attention, there is just no situation where us leaving it out would be detrimental to the fandom. Contrariwise, if we include it, it could very well be detrimental to our goals of attracting a diverse audience, including people outside the furry fandom who appreciate the fine art aspect but have no interest in nude anthropomorphic animals, no matter how tastefully done.

      You raise some good points though. I’ll probably address them in a separate article and reiterate some of the things I said here.

  2. I got active in furry fandom in 1980. When furry fanzines were published in the 1990s, I collected them all: Anthrolations, Fantastic Furry Fanzine, FurryPhile, FurVersion, Mythagoras, PawPrint Fanzine, Yarf!, Zoomorphica, and all the others. In 2005 I donated them all to the University of California at Riverside’s Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy, which now has the largest collection of anthropomorphic literature and furry fandom publications in the world. How do e-publications fit into a library? How long would a furry art e-magazine last for anyone who wanted to get back issues, or do research in them?

    1. Wow, that’s absolutely fantastic to hear! I’ve been trying to do some research on those older publications, but there’s very little online about them. I would love to have the chance to see them in person. Thanks for letting me know.

      In some ways, e-pubs are easier to archive. Since they exist digitally, they can be copied easily and passed around among many people. More copies ensure more longevity. Unfortunately they tend not to be archived, at least not in the way a library archives written material. Perhaps with this in mind, the best solution is to distribute both digital and print copies. Additional print copies can always be reproduced on demand from properly formatted digital files, and the existing printed copies can be archived in libraries and personal collections.

      Thanks for bringing this up. As the project develops, I’ll be keeping in mind ways to archive the work that’s been done.

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