ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Out of Print and On the Line

Working with print publication in a digital era often makes one feel like an anachronism. In the race to compete with online-only publications that have mushroomed in the last decade, online-first has become the publication model to which many print publications have transitioned. The advent of digital publishing has also brought in a great amount of flexibility, especially for news, media, and opinion publishing in terms of both format and time. 

EPW too forayed into online publishing with its Web Exclusives section in 2012. These were short-form topical articles that we were now able to get to readers as soon as they were edited. We were able to publish articles with photographs (in technicolour, no less!). EPW on the web has come a long way since. We started the Engage section on the website two years ago and that has brought our static archives of over 50 years back in circulation using different digital formats, apart from continuing with the Web Exclusives’ mandate of publishing online-only articles. 

In the digital era, the continuing constraints of print publishing seem wholly absurd. Take, for example, the strict adherence required to the schedule followed by the printing press (EPW must be forever thankful to our printers’ for patiently waiting on the printing formes we [try to] send them [almost on time] through the week), but also the postal department holding the postage subsidy hostage to particular predeclared days on which posting just has to be done (Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the case of the EPW) and to the weight of each issue (causing all hell to break loose, every year without fail, especially when the annual double issue in June–July is to be posted). Then, there is the Office of the Registrar of Newspapers for India that regulates everything from the size of the font of the title on the cover page to the information about the organisation that is to be declared in every edition and the number of advertisements we can carry. They together ensure that there is no wiggle room for the Weekly to be brought out as the Economic and Political Whenever-we-please.  

While furiously scanning the copious text before it can be sent to the printers, a lot of what one ends up splitting hairs over seems like quirks and idiosyncrasies from an era bygone. Having your brows all knotted, trying to cut out one word from a title, or 3 lines from a text—all because physical pages and print layouts are not quite endless or responsive as the digital format can be—is a special order of frustration. Moreover, once the pages have been sent to the printing press, there is no going back (a certain misspelling of the word “public” will forever be the copy editor’s nightmare). It is all too easy to fix such errors in an article published on the web (though even the web is not all too forgiving, thanks to screenshots, cached websites, and the like). 

The print format, much to the dismay of our ever-disconsolate authors, can also accommodate only a limited number of articles every week. We do sympathise with our appreciably long-suffering and patient authors, who gaze woebegone at our website week after week, waiting for their article to appear. Meanwhile, our loyal print readers might be listening earnestly for the postman’s step outside their door week after week, waiting to have the EPW in hand and leaf through its formidably packed and un-stirringly stark pages, before begrudgingly logging on to our website and reading it online anyway.

For now, I will try to resign myself to the irony of this write-up appearing in the online-only Blogs section. 



The views expressed here are personal and do not reflect the collective view from the journal.