March 24, was The Millions’ second birthday. In the year since my last “happy birthday” post, blogs have become firmly mainstream. It’s become difficult to find a person who asks the once common question, “What’s a blog?” The book blog world has become amazingly robust in the last year, meriting frequent mentions in the mainstream media and providing a real alternative to newspaper book coverage that manages, at best, to reach some of the readers some of the time. Based on the many emails I get, book blogs have become a venue of conversation (and a potential outlet for promotion) for authors and publishers. For those who bemoan the stagnation of the literary world – and all of the book bloggers seem to do it from time to time – we are in the midst of a shift, if not yet a revolution, in national (and international) literary discussion, which has migrated from book club meetings and bookstore aisles out into the open. I am regularly delighted when a Millions reader, and book lover, leaves a comment or sends me an email, thus entering the conversation. I also love the loose give and take among the several dozen book blogs and the way themes will propagate across the blog landscape one after another until there is a dense web of conversation floating among us in the ether. The best thing about this is it appears to be just the beginning. I have ten times as many regular visitors as I did at this time a year ago, and new book blogs appear almost weekly it seems, adding further depth to the discourse. When I started, I just figured it might be fun to write about books as a way to make use of all the time I spent surrounded by them at the bookstore. Everything that’s happened beyond that has been gravy. Thanks for two great years, Millions readers (and contributors)!
Millions Readers: Max here. When I last wrote in these pages, I was introducing our talented new editor, Lydia Kiesling. Since then, we have added a number of new staff writers (Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Zoë Ruiz, Il’ja Rákoš, Ismail Muhammad, Chigozie Obioma) and a new social media editor (Kirstin Butler). We also have exciting projects in the works that we hope will usher in a new era at The Millions. As is likely not news to anyone reading this, it is very challenging to maintain an independent, culture-focused online magazine. Today, we are asking our readers to support the site, not because we are in dire straits but because now, more than ever, we believe it is time for you and us to take our destiny into our own hands as much as is possible. Please visit our new Membership page and sign up now. It’s a very quick and simple process and we have a number of tiers that should be manageable for any budget. The three main tiers are annual recurring donations. There is also a monthly option. The Millions is a unique place. Over the last nearly 14 years, we have helped launch many great writers, and we have improved the reading lives of many thousands. We have helped countless books, small and large, find their audiences. The Millions is home to curious, thoughtful, sometimes long and untimely pieces that might not find a home elsewhere but that are important to our readers. It is likely an accident or an anomaly that The Millions grew to occupy its current role and has survived as other independent sites have failed. One truism that has emerged over the last decade on line is that sites and services that are not supported by readers and users are destined to fail. The Millions has managed to avoid this fate thus far. We have never had a source of outside funding -- no quiet benefactor or behind-the-scenes corporate sponsor -- nor, before today, have we asked the readers to support the site monetarily in any meaningful way. Instead, the site has survived on various forms of online advertising, options that seem to grow more constrained by the month, and we have increasingly relied upon Amazon's affiliate program. And while Amazon's program has been a good fit for The Millions, many an online business has failed when an online giant changed the rules. It is not inconceivable that Amazon could alter or even eliminate its program without warning. Such an event would effectively shut down The Millions overnight. The bottom line is that The Millions, under its current model, could one day need to shut down unexpectedly. A reader-supported Millions won’t ever have to worry about that. Rather than ask for your support at some future moment, when The Millions is under duress, it has become clear to us that it makes much more sense to ask for your support now, when we are doing well, producing great work, and hopeful about our big plans for the future. What will we do with your money? First and foremost we'll ensure that we can stick around for many years to come. But we'll also use it to get better. One way to do that is to keep paying our staff writers and make The Millions an attractive place for them to write. Financial stability would also enable The Millions to take more risks and expand what we do. Some final notes: We have been thinking of taking this step for quite a while, but, frankly, have been nervous about how best to present the idea and execute it. Jason Kottke's recent decision to go this route helped us shake off some of these concerns and take this step (please read Jason and support him as well!). Also - to be clear - we are not putting the site behind a paywall, nor will we ever. For those who subscribe, we'll look at offering site-related updates and perhaps a more robust newsletter at some point down the line, though the plans on that are not firmed up at this time. Finally, a small number of you have supported us in an ongoing fashion via Paypal. We are going to cancel those "subscriptions" and will email you with instructions for subscribing via this new system, should you be interested.
I find it hard to believe, but today is the one year anniversary of The Millions, making this little Blog About Books a veritable ancient in the "blog world." Authoring this blog has been a great experience for me. It turned me from an unmotivated, but ostensibly "aspiring" writer, into someone who writes for an audience every day and can now seriously contemplate life as a writer without much dread. If there's any folks out there who are contemplating a similar sort of writing life, putting together a blog is a great way to get the kinks out, not to mention all the web skills you pick up along the way.When I first started The Millions it wasn't even a blog about books, it was just a... blog. My buddy Derek had had a blog for a while and was really into it. It looked like fun and I was getting tired of trying to muster up the energy to write in my journal each day, so I decided to give it a try. My first post appears to have been about politics, and I think it was my last post about politics. I kind of meandered along like that for a while, writing intermittently about art lectures and rock and roll shows and things like that until one day in the shower, where I have most of my epiphanies, I had an epiphany. A Blog About Books. "I've decided to reinvent The Millions...", I wrote. A manifesto soon followed. And it was followed again and again by more and more manifestos. And of course I went bookfinding and bookspotting. And occasionally people read the blog and they seemed to enjoy it and some of them even left comments or emailed me or asked me a book question. It's been fun. I hope to keep doing it, too. I don't have a lot of readers, 30 to 60 a day, and most of those are family members, but I'm pretty addicted to it. This year brings lots of busyness and lots of changes. I'm getting married, moving, and going back to school, but maybe I'll find the time to make it to The Millions anniversary #2 on March 24th, 2005; you'll have to keep reading to find out.The anniversary might be a good time to post another manifesto, and since I think I may have written a (small) one today in responding to an email from a reader, I might as well put it up here:I lean perhaps too much on the side of being uncritical about books. In fact, I prefer to allow the books I read to be a jumping off point for conversation or to talk about the experience of reading a particular book. I feel like that there is so much qualitative judgment being passed on books (...and music...and movies) that it tends to drown out the other stuff... so I haven't wanted The Millions to add to the din of the review culture. Having said that, I think it IS important to pass qualitative judgment on books, but it is far more important to single out (and try to get people to read) the good ones instead of knocking down the bad ones. I also fear that my usual positivity makes me seem like a corporate shill for Amazon, but I'm hoping that most of my readers aren't so cynical. I just happened to have all of this on my mind since it turns out that today is the one year anniversary of The Millions.Thanks to all you trusted fellow readers!
You may have noticed that I spent the long weekend (which for me is one day longer thanks to the national day of mourning for President Ford) updating the look of the site. I hope it's easy on the eyes. However, if you can't find something you're looking for, or if I've inadvertently broken something, please let me know.In addition to the superficial changes, I've also adjusted the site to allow for our contributors - there will soon be six of them - to post directly to the blog, which, I'm hoping, will up the level of discourse even further. So, all in all, 2007 should be a good year for The Millions. Thanks for reading and Happy New Year.
The Millions is six years old today. We're another year deeper, and as in past years it seems an appropriate moment for reflection.Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the shape and format of what we do here. The Millions is ostensibly a blog, a publishing format that seems to have had a brief heyday around 2005. Prior to that, blogging was maligned as some sort of barely human form of discourse, the rantings of madmen and -women or the laughably amateur efforts of the idle or obsessive.Gradually, the form matured, and was adopted and institutionalized in many corners. For The Millions, maturing meant bringing on regular contributors and working with publishers and publicists to wrangle interviews with and essays by notable writers. It also meant thinking of ourselves as a legitimate (even "mainstream") publication.But now, suddenly, blogging is feeling a little old-fashioned. First Facebook, then Twitter and Tumblr, have fetishized brevity and broadcasting, leaving blogs looking ponderous and even insular by comparison.There is, no doubt, huge value in these tools. Facebook and Twitter offer connectivity, though with built-in limitations to communication. And add Tumblr to the mix and you have three incredible tools for filtering, or, as it is sometimes better better termed, curation.In the vast wildness of the internet, we rely on curators. Some people are very good at it. There are also algorithmic curation tools and community-driven curation tools, though their output tends to be robotic in the case of the former and reflective of a form of self-reinforcing mass peer pressure in the latter. Meanwhile, through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and more prosaic means like email and chat, our friends and "friends" curate for us, shooting links our way to make us laugh or think.We do some curation here too. Over the last year we've regimented our "Curiosities" posts, with all of our regulars providing links, making for a curious weekly mix of goodies from around the web.But much more of our energy is devoted to something else: generating original reviews and essays, some quite short and others very long. Increasingly, it seems, this sets The Millions apart. It dictates that, though there are nine of us, we rarely publish more than one or two items a day. It also means that we tend to have a lot invested in each item we post. We invest time in each piece you see here, but each also bears the promise of The Millions' survival and future growth - the more that people care about what we write, the more The Millions grows. And, of course, the opposite holds true as well.This isn't meant to be rant of any kind. I wanted to bring it up because I value the work that the contributors here do and because I appreciate that all of you out there read it and all the professional and amateur curators who link to it. That is a big part of what makes running The Millions worthwhile.In thinking about all this, I spent some time skimming through The Millions archives of the last year, and while these aren't the longest or most popular or even necessarily the "best" things we've run all year, they are, I think, a worthy sample of what The Millions is all about:This year, Garth cracked wise about novel titles. Garth and Kevin reviewed one of the most talked about books of the year, and later, the book's author made an appearance. We had visits from other illustrious guests, as well. Andrew reviewed a quirky book and wrote about music. And Emily asked, "Why So Serious Batman?" Edan did many a great interview. Garth tried to make sense of tragedy. We did group posts and covered notable literary events and generally offered our own twist on things.Thanks for another great year, Millions readers. We continue to value your intelligence, curiosity, and feedback.
Over the years, Millions contributors and guests have penned many book reviews for the site. However, this wealth of content has long been buried in the archives.And so, in the spirit of starting off the new year on the right foot, we've created The Millions Book Review Index, which lists every review, squib, appreciation, and consideration we've ever run here alphabetically by author. As we add new reviews to the site, they will appear in the index as well, so we encourage you to bookmark the page for easy access. We hope you find the index useful. Stay tuned for another great year at The Millions.