In an e-mail to yours truly, Finn Harvor (whose blog is called The Screen-Novel Manifestos) observes:
. . .I think it's pretty much the case that online writing tends more toward ephemera than "permana". It's too bad, really, because I don't think most people posting online *want* their work to be read that way; it's simply that posting is easy and effective. I suppose the hope that a lot of more serious bloggers have is that one day their cyber-work will find its way into print. . . .
Is this really true? Is it the case that many bloggers harbor the hope they will be able to leave their temporary residence in the blogosphere and find a more permanent home in print? For those whose blogs are their only access to a community of readers, is the weblog a way to attract the attention of those who can usher their writing into the more upscale neighborhoods of print publishing?
Speaking for myself, I started this blog only after my writing had been appearing in print for a while. I found print-only publication (at least in the kind of journals and literary magazines in which my work appeared) to be frustrating because once your precious piece appeared it may as well have been transmitted to the outer reaches of the solar system for all the indication you got that anyone was reading it. And while people do complain about the "ephemeral" nature of blog-posting, once the current issue of a print publication is superseded by the next, only the library stacks stand between your intricately worked-over essay and publishing oblivion.
When I discovered the existence of literary weblogs, I immediately saw them as an opportunity to reach an actually existing audience and to communicate with other bloggers and readers in a reasonably palpable way. Doing so required altering my style and approach somewhat to meet the demands of the cyber medium, but to a great extent I really haven't had to define my ambitions down in order to adjust to the discursive conventions of the web. Briefer, more concise writing, less burdened with "scholarly" gestures, but otherwise no less "serious" in intent than what I wrote with print in mind. (And the ability to return to certain subjects partly compensates for length restrictions.) I now see my blog writing as a satisfying complement to whatever print writing I might continue to do, but even if I miraculously became a hit in print (I'm not anticipating the day), or even if I never published another word in a paper publication, I'd still see writing for the blog as a worthwhile thing to do.
Many of my litblog colleagues are indeed appearing more often in print (and doing a hell of a job at it), but I don't see much evidence they're planning to abandon their blogs for the presumed advantages of "print culture." The very notion that there is a "print culture" and a "cyber culture" seems to me pernicious. Good writing is good writing, insight is insight, whatever the medium in which they occur. In my opinion, we have reached the point where we're getting at least as much of these things on blogs as in the mainstream media. Long-form essays and criticism are still more often to be found in literary and scholarly journals, perhaps, but their time in cyberspace may yet come as well.