October 31, 2013

Amazon launches that surest of moneymakers: a lit mag


Literary journals: absurdly lucrative

I hope Amazon builds a few more warehouses this year—to hold the mountain of profits heading their way.

This Wednesday Amazon unveiled the latest in their continuing effort to make me feel uneasy about all that is true and good in the world; a new weekly literary magazine called Day One. As if they weren’t already making enough money.

The journal is being edited by Knopf alum Carmen Johnson. It was first announced back in March as an imprint focusing on short fiction. That was worrying enough, but if only we’d known the company planned to launch such a hugely profitable venture as a literary magazine, we would have sounded all the alarms much sooner.

The new journal will be released weekly, directly to Kindles, with each issue containing a story, a poem, and additional material such as conversations between contributors. While I can’t predict exactly how much money this will make them, it will clearly be a lot. I’m guessing somewhere between ‘scads’ and ‘fountains.’

Distraction over the vast dunes of lucre blowing their way might be part of the reason why the descriptive copy for the magazine is so poorly written, though of course that’s no basis for judgment of the magazine’s fiction or poetry, which may well prove to be good. And so very profitable.

Amazon sycophants and critics alike will recognize the magazine’s title from the often used (and, in the way of all such things, powerfully meaningless) phrase that it is ‘still day one’ at the company. Or the name may be familiar if you are a user of the Day One journal app, a seemingly lovely bit of software whose developers are a bit miffed at Amazon about now. Of course, with all of the profits they’ll be pulling in from the new literary journal—undoubtedly their most lucrative undertaking to date—Amazon can afford to fight over the name. Remember, too, this is the company that stole their name from a friendly neighborhood bookstore by hounding the store’s owners about their lesbianism in a courtroom.

As to why the company might have decided to start a literary journal, the only thought that comes to me is that it’s either a vanity project for someone, a charm offensive (emphasis on offensive) akin to the company’s grants to various magazines and literary organizations, or, again, they may have been motivated by the towering cliffs of cash this thing will bring them. Really. So much money.


Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.