Thanks, once again, to all the people who signed up on the first day!
Now that The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, is available by paid subscription only, we all feel more committed than ever to bringing you the best criticism and intelligence we can, wherever we happen to be in the world. Our goals are by no means comprehensive…just what a small, enthusiastic team can accomplish. We are scattered, but in interesting places.
From the beginning I thought of The Berkshire Review as a traditional magazine, distributed electronically. All of us write traditional essays and reviews, with introductions, expositions, arguments, and conclusions. None of us write blog entries, which usually lack that kind of structure, are grounded more in opinion than on knowledge, and are innocent of the extensive research that goes into many of the articles and reviews we publish. The only difference is that, since we don’t have to buy paper and print ads on that paper to pay for it, our articles can be as long as they need to be in order to make their point. We observe no formulaic lengths or formats. By this I do not mean to disparage bloggers in any way. Many of them are experts in their fields, prepare their posts through research, and are effective writers. Blogging is a mode of writing unto itself. The decision not to pursue it was a personal one, which I considered at length, when I first began to write for online publication. I felt it would detract from the various forms of print-based writing I had worked at for many years: scholarly writing, fiction, and essays. I have never discussed this with the other writers of The Review. It is not even a tacit understanding. It just happens that we all write that way. And that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t include a blog among our offerings some day, if it seemed right.
Although The Review is chock full of traditional essays and reviews—to be precise, 841 of them including this one, I still hear our publication described as a “newsletter” or a “blog,” which it is not. Its electronic, or virtual, form was first a necessity, later a convenience, and now a way of life. Some of our readers wish it were a traditional printed magazine, and we may well satisfy that demand with a quarterly or semi-annual selection from our online offerings, but the online format offers too many advantages, in the first place instantaneity, although our writers are rarely instantaneous. We can approach it, however, when there is a good reason for it. Another is instant feedback: within a day or two, I know which article is being read at which location in the world. I have to confess that studying stats is addictive. You can see some of this information yourselves, if you click on the link “Map of Visitors” in the right-hand column on the Home Page. A world map will appear with pinpoint lights where each visitor has visited The Review over the past twenty-four hours.
It is easy to see how a subscriber to our monthly mailings may think of The Review as a newsletter—a form which reached its peak during the Desktop Publishing Revolution and was successfully transferred to electronic distribution via e-mail. Andrew Rose of Pristine Classical still favors that form. I eagerly look forward to his weekly mailings, not only for his latest sonic restorations, but for his entertaining and pithy commentaries on technology, matters of copyright, and the history of performance. I recommend it enthusiastically.
Now having established that The Berkshire Review is a magazine, and not a blog or a newsletter, I’d like to make a few suggestions about how you might get the most from it, even if you haven’t subscribed for full access. Although few things remain constant, we all have habits established by years of reading our favorite publications, and we may miss some features, although they’re lying under our noses. I think about the design and structure of Web sites pretty much every day, but I occasionally misinterpret other sites, because my own solutions have become ingrained. In general I find that readers tend to focus on the main posting and to ignore sidebar content, which may lead one to an interesting related topic, either on The Review or New York Arts. There could be nothing better than a focused reader who concentrates, but I’d also like to encourage you to explore the magazine. That is the beauty of traditional, editorially managed content. I think it is important for readers to discover new topics through an editorially managed medium. If you are determining what you find, just think of all that you’ll miss!
Non-subscribers will find that a surprising number of our articles are still free. We have featured a few of them in the section at the top of our listings by category at the center of the Home Page. It is called “Free Articles (A Selection).” There are many more, if you explore the site, either through the chronological Archives in the right sidebar, or through the search window at the bottom right of the header. I have recently replaced the old Google Search with an outstanding new search technology, designed for individual Web sites. Simply search for whatever interests you most and see what you find. In some cases you will find full articles free of charge, and in others you will find limited access, and our invitation to become a subscriber. Most previews and announcements are free, and all pages about the Review itself are free. The Review’s sister magazine, New York Arts, is still free in its entirety.
But, if you are not a subscriber, you will encounter a good many of the pretty blue bars we have put across most articles, about 20 to 25% down the page. If you want to read the best part of these, you’ll have to click on the blue bar and join us as a subscriber. Here is an example (Don’t worry, it’s not cutting you off from anything!):
Subscribers have access to every contribution on the site, as well as archives going back to our launch in September 2007. You will find some earlier material as well. These are reprints of articles I published elsewhere, which I thought relevant to what we publish now. One of the functions of criticism is to provide an eyewitness historical record, set down at the time of the event, when it is still fresh in the critic’s mind. Our older content is among our most popular. A few favorites have held the top spots for month after month.
The latest postings on the Review appear in reverse chronological order in two places: the last five in the left sidebar, and about a month’s worth on the page “The Latest on The Berkshire Review.” People who like to read everything as it is published may actually want to bookmark this as the Home Page of The Berkshire Review for its clean simplicity, although it lacks many of the options available on the real Home Page. An RSS Feed offers the same sort of view of the site, although it is not as pleasing to the eye. On the other hand, you can subscribe and receive daily updates, and the site is usually updated at least five days a week.
We are currently using a simple conversion plug-in to adapt The Berkshire Review for mobile devices, which are favored by 6 to 7% of our readers. It can be turned on and off by a switch at the bottom of the page, but it’s not entirely dependable.. A more sophisticated solution will appear soon. As it is, our regular theme functions perfectly well on iPad and even on a smartphone, if you zoom in and out a bit.
I’d like to suggest one last trick for those of you who don’t like reading from electronic displays. I have done a considerable amount of research trying to find the best solution for formatting our articles for printing, and I found the French service, Joliprint, to be by far the best. If you click on the Joliprint badge at the top of each article, the Joliprint site will produce an elegant printable version of the page for you to download or e-mail. That way you can think of The Berkshire Review and New York Arts sites as nothing more than elaborate tables of contents for whatever you choose to print out for reading. One of our readers likes to organize her print-outs in looseleaf binders. If there is sufficient interest we might even make special binders available for purchase.
I hope you find this helpful, and that you will enjoy The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts even more than you did before.