Thanks to an onslaught of comment spam, which until now I’ve been dealing with manually, I’ve decided to turn on Blogger’s “word verification” to put a stop to it. It’s annoying because it adds an extra step to commenting here, but it’s the best solution right now. If a better way of dealing with the spam problem comes along, I’ll switch it off. For now though, it’s been added to the Commenting at The Millions primer (if anyone needs a refresher.)
The Millions notched its fourth anniversary this weekend, and I’m very pleased that the site is still going strong and more popular than ever. As much as I’d like to take full credit for this, much of it should go to my contributors who really stepped it up last year and who since the redesign at the beginning of this year have, in a few short months, really taken the site to another level.I should also thank the readers of The Millions whose participation in the comments and whose emails to me help make working on the site a tremendously fulfilling endeavor. In fact, just peeking at the site’s stats and seeing how many regular readers we have makes me feel very grateful to know that so many readers appreciate what we’re doing here.And what is it that we’re doing here? As ever, The Millions and its fellow book blogs continue to evolve. One of the most interesting developments over the last year is how several bloggers have become regular fixtures in newspaper book sections across the country. Some of these folks were critics before they were bloggers, but some, like Ed, began down that path with their blogs. Even as blogs have been increasingly accepted as legitimate voices contributing to the greater literary discourse, there are still those who question their value and accuse them of cliquishness and worse. Hopefully, though, book blogs will continue to matter enough to enough people that they will continue to be targeted by such attacks. I’d rather The Millions be criticized than irrelevant.The Millions, of course, has never been particularly controversial. Fomenting arguments has never been a big part of the site’s mission, as much fun as it to sometimes get involved in those battles. The mission of this blog is to act much like your favorite independent bookstore might. As I’ve written before, “one should be able to walk into [a good] bookstore and be able to grasp, based upon which books are on display and based upon conversations with staff and fellow customers, what matters at that moment both in the wider world and in the neighborhood.” I hope that when people “walk into” The Millions they get that same feeling from those of us who write the posts and from their fellow readers who leave comments.Deeper than that, at the very core of The Millions, is that we should seek out good books to read and pass them along to like-minded friends. As I wrote nearly four years ago when I decided that the site needed a manifesto to give the then bumbling proto-Millions some shape, “this isn’t about compulsory reading; this is about making sure that whatever you read will serve a purpose for you and that, as often as possible, this purpose is to bring you the curious sort of joy that only a book can.” There’s more there too.All of which is to say, I hope The Millions still feels relevant and worthwhile amid the millions of blogs that crowd the Internet. To me, our mission is still worth pursuing. Thanks again to all of you for another great year. Let’s have another.Previously: An Historic Day; The Millions Turns Two; Thanks for Three Years from The Millions.
I’d like to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to invite our New York-based readers to come out this Friday, November 2, to celebrate the launch of my first book of fiction, A Field Guide to the North American Family. The release party will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. at the lovely and capacious Housing Works Bookstore & Cafe on Crosby Street in SoHo.I’ll be reading from the book for about half an hour and showing slides of the illustrations. During the remaining hour and a half, I’ll be signing books and Max and I will be hanging out and drinking free booze with you. We always enjoy meeting our readers, and I’d love to see any and all of you there. (I need all the support I can get!)
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.
We’re welcoming another regular to The Millions. You’ll recognize Jacob Lambert from his ongoing series “The Road (A Comedic Translation),” and he’ll be doing more humor pieces for us as well as whatever else he comes up with. Jacob has written for MAD Magazine for several years. He also has a regular column in Philly Weekly and freelances for various other publications. Welcome Jacob!