You may have noticed: instead of posting about books, I’ve been redesigning The Millions. I would love to hear any comments or suggestions. Also, check out the new feature: New York Times book headlines, just below the Ask a Book Question area.
The Millions was started on this day seven years, four urls, and umpteen layouts ago. Though it is now unrecognizable to anyone who hasn’t visited since nudging their Internet Explorer 6 over to that long gone blogspot address, the core mission that I developed in that first year for this project largely remains unchanged.
In those early months, when I was nearly broke and working at a bookstore, before I was married and went to grad school, and before I had much notion that this site would be anything at all (let alone what it is today), I wrote what would probably be the closest we’ve ever come to a manifesto (going against my subsequent preference to let The Millions’ larger purpose be self-evident). The nut: “Given that you and I will only be able to read a finite number of books in our lifetime, then we should try, as much as possible, to devote ourselves to reading only the ones that are worth reading, while bearing in mind that for every vapid, uninspiring book we read, we are bumping from our lifetime reading list a book that might give us a profound sort of joy.”
I’ve probably not lived up to that lofty goal in the years since, but it’s a nice sentiment to aspire to.
Funnily enough, at the end of that piece I wrote something that nearly seven years later is like a time capsule from an internet stone age: “Anybody know of any decent book blogs or websites about books?… I haven’t been able to find any besides Arts & Letters Daily and the various newspaper book sections, of course.”
Granted, this could be partially chalked up to my being an online neophyte at the time, but by any measure the last seven years have been a period of proliferating discourse about books and arts. And though the gloom in many corners of the publishing and media industries is sometimes warranted, I maintain that there’s never been a better time to be reader in terms of access to books and communities of fellow readers.
While this is a big day for The Millions, it’s nowhere near as big as August 16, 2009 was. That was the day that we relaunched The Millions in this new incarnation and the site, almost overnight, grew up and became something different (and thankfully our loyal long-term readers came along for the ride, in no small measure because our designer Sean Tice understood what The Millions was all about when he embarked on the design.) In future years, we may point to that date as when The Millions really came into being, everything up until then being a long period of gestation for the site you see today.
I wouldn’t have expected this, but two things happened right away after the redesign. First, the more magazine-like look unconsciously pushed us farther in the direction of focusing on standalone, long-form content. With the Curiosities section offering the perfect repository for interesting links and one-off observations, our writers set themselves to the task of putting out essays and reviews that (in my biased opinion) are with few peers in the world of cultural coverage. The Millions has never been shy about posting longer (if not always weightier) pieces, but this year the site seemed to find its calling as a regularly updated font of such things.
Second, pitches from writers all over the world began flowing into my inbox. It was as though the redesign was also a huge “writers wanted” sign. The Millions has long had a tradition of publishing terrific guest contributions, but since the redesign especially we have posted many dozens of thoughtful pieces by both talented “beginners” and established pros. A look at our “About” page reveals The Millions as a place where precocious college students (and younger) can be published alongside National Book Award winners. I don’t know what this means, necessarily, but it makes me happy.
With the redesign, the securing of our domain name just prior to that, and our ongoing commitment to paying our regular writers, this year also represented the first year of significant investment back into The Millions. Without caveat, this was made possible by the generous patronage of our readers and we sincerely hope that you’ll continue to lend your support going forward. Click here to find out how.
Finally, because anniversaries are a nice moment to look back, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite things from The Millions over the last year. Garth updated his “Walking Tour of New York’s Independent Bookstores” and we joined readers in taking the tour. Fun was had by all. We hope to do something like this again one day. Garth and I put together a three-parter on the future of book coverage online (starting here). We named our favorite reference books. We learned about finding Indie opportunity on the Kindle, the overseas frenzy over Haruki Murakami’s forthcoming opus, and what goes into getting your book cover designed. We tallied up the prizewinners and wrote an open letter to Kanye West. We asked, what’s your “just one book?”
We tried to determine the best book of the millennium (so far) and our readers helped. Edan ogled author photos, Emily M. worked the double shift, and Emily W. prized apert Twilight. We had our Year in Reading. I interviewed a book pirate and Anne interviewed John Banville. Kevin reflected on his parents’ bookshelves, Andrew his grandfather’s papers, and Edan her own. Lydia reviewed Pamuk and won a prize. And Patrick, once and for all, devised a unified theory of reality TV.
Look for more in year 8. Thanks for reading The Millions.
We’d like to introduce you all to our new intern, Ujala Sehgal, who beat out 50+ other applicants for the position. Ujala lives in Manhattan and recently left a nascent career in corporate law to travel and focus on her writing. Her first full-length piece, about negotiating one’s limitations as a reader and writer, has been published today. Welcome Ujala!
Stockbrokers and art gallery owners take off for half the summer. Maybe bloggers should too. Due to my impending wedding (T minus 4 days), and a busy schedule of traveling and moving (for the second time in three months), I will have to cut back on my blogging for the next month and a half or so, at least until we get settled in Chicago. In the meantime, expect approximately one post per week, and also a more relaxed attitude as befits the time of year. You should try it, too, and maybe we’ll run into each other among the gallery owners and stockbrokers in the Hamptons, on the Vineyard, or in the South of France.
This position is now closed. Thank you to all who applied.
The Millions back office is looking for some help again. The site continues to grow, and that means we have an opportunity to add another book-loving person to our team.
We are looking for someone who can help us with a few specific things. The new Millions intern will contribute to our “Curiosities” link blog and will help man (or wo-man) our Twitter feed, Facebook page, and Tumblr. Through those avenues, the intern we seek will have an audience of hundreds of thousands and will be introducing The Millions to new readers every day.
In return for a very modest time commitment, our intern will also join a great group of creative thinkers and have the opportunity to get their work edited by the working writers among us and potentially see their pieces published at The Millions. As is the case with our crew of regulars, our intern will be compensated for the pieces he or she publishes on the site.
Here’s what we’re looking for:
A voracious reader – Our ideal candidate will be well-read and have a solid knowledge of contemporary fiction.
A social media superstar– Again, Twitter, Facebook, (Tumblr, blogging, etc.)
Experience with WordPress is a huge bonus.
More details: This isn’t going to be anything close to a full-time gig. We’re thinking 5-10 hours a week realistically, plus as much time as you want to spend writing for us. We think the internship would be a great fit for a college or grad student, but are certainly open to hearing from non-students whose schedules will allow them to do this. We’re looking for a one-year commitment, though we can be flexible on the duration. The Millions has no dedicated office, so this is a remote position and can be done from anywhere in the world.
The position is unpaid, but any long-form pieces that you write for the site and are approved for publication will be compensated using the same system we use to compensate our regular writers. And there will most probably be some free books here and there.
Why should you do this? The Millions is read by hundreds of thousands of people every month. Our readership is a laundry list of influential, brilliant folks in the publishing and media industries as well as in academia, not to mention the most engaged, avid readers of literary work that you’ll find anywhere. Aside from learning about how a site like The Millions operates, you’ll have an opportunity to write for all these people, and you’ll get experience running a Twitter account with 120,000 followers.
How to Apply:
Please send the following to [email protected]
Three sample Curiosities, using the format we use on the site
If applicable and you are willing to share, we would like to see the following: Twitter account(s) you use; any Facebook pages you’ve had the opportunity to run for schools, publications, companies, etc.; your Tumblr(s) (Essentially, show us that you have experience using these, even if it’s just your own sparsely followed, but very entertaining Twitter account.)
In addition, show us the other cool stuff you are responsible for online, your blog, etc.
The deadline is one week from today: 9/12.
We look forward to hearing from you!