Electric Literature is the quarterly journal and upstart publishing company The Washington Post called “a refreshingly bold act of optimism.” Its mission is to use new media and innovative distribution to keep storytelling a vital force in popular culture. Since its founding in June, 2009, the company has published “some of the country’s best writers” (The New York Times): Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Cunningham; MacArthur “Genius” Grant winners Colson Whitehead and Lydia Davis; literary favorites T Cooper, Kevin Brockmeier, Lynne Tillman, J. Robert Lennon, and Lydia Millet; and heavyweights Rick Moody, Jim Shepard, Aimee Bender, Javier Marías, and Joy Williams, among others. Electric Literature has over 150,000 followers on Twitter and is successfully expanding its audience through YouTube videos, iPhone and iPad apps, and other ways of using new technology and media to redefine what it means to “publish” in the digital age. In October 2010, Electric Literature created its own app-building software because they couldn’t find an existing one that met their needs or their budget. It was a success; thirty-five percent of the journal’s readership uses their app to read the anthology on the iPhone or iPad. To share that success, Electric Publisher now develops book apps for other organizations on a sliding scale, to make sure that they’re affordable.
Why is reading vital?
Electric Literature’s mission is to amplify the power of storytelling with digital innovation. Reading transports us in to other lives, places, and experiences, salves our loneliness, stimulates our minds, and grows our empathy. Digital innovation increases the impact of reading by delivering it instantaneously, at low cost, to anyone with an internet connection.
Tell us about some accomplishments or successes you’ve had since winning the prize:
Electric Literature has grown significantly since winning the Innovations in Reading Prize in 2011. In the spring of 2012, we launched Recommended Reading, a free, online magazine dedicated to providing an intimate reading experience to a broad audience. In that time we’ve published 142 issues, featuring fiction by emerging talent alongside visionaries such as Lydia Millet, Steven Millhauser, Karen Russell, Jim Shepard, and A.M. Homes. We have also published cherished stories by literary heroes such as David Foster Wallace, Katherine Anne Porter, Janet Frame, Donald Barthelme, and Grace Paley. With over 70,000 subscribers, Recommended Reading is evidences of the public’s appetite for smart, accessible fiction.
In Summer 2014, we received our non-profit status and relaunched our website electricliterature.com, reaching 2.9 million unique visits in 6 months. In January 2015 we launch Okey-Panky, an online magazine of short things, modeled after Recommended Reading and edited by the novelist J. Robert Lennon.