For the past 6 years it has been a faithful torch bearer for Caribbean literature, and provided a much-needed medium for conversations about the works of the region’s writers and poets. During that time, the Caribbean Review of Books grew in popularity and became, arguably, the region’s premier literary magazine.
In 2009 it was forced to take a time out that lasted almost a year. As CRB editor Nicholas Laughlin explained, “… the economics of publishing in the Caribbean were against us from the start.” As a result, he and his editorial team opted to take a “a long pause for aestivation, a chance to reflect and rethink.”
Now the Caribbean Review of Books has emerged from a hiatus in which it shed its original print format to be reborn as an online publication. And as Laughlin points out, he and his team are eager to “explore the freedoms and flexibilities of a magazine unbound by print budgets and schedules.”
The CRB team’s decision to go digital is not only a practical and insightful move, it comes at a watershed in the history of global publishing. As publishing legend Jason Epstein noted, “The transition within the book publishing industry from physical inventory stored in a warehouse and trucked to retailers to digital files stored in cyberspace and delivered almost anywhere on earth as quickly and cheaply as e-mail is now underway and irreversible,” and will radically transform “the cultures it affects and on which it depends.” Nearly all forms of print publishing face more or less the same fate.
Based in Port of Spain Trinidad, the CRB has started afresh with lively coverage of new and recent books of Caribbean fiction, poems, biography, arts, culture, and current affairs. It also publishes interviews and essays on literature and visual arts. New reviews, essays, and other material will appear online weekly, usually on Mondays, before being collected into six bimonthly issues each year, dated January, March, May, July, September, and November. Without a doubt, the new website is more attractive than the print version and it’s easier to browse
The CRB is also on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2376579805 and boasts a following of over 800 fans. The benefits are obvious. They can interact with each other and with their favourite writers and, together, speak with a loud voice capable of travelling to the farthest reaches and corners of the globe. For the CRB, that’s an achievement that would hardly have been possible outside of cyberspace.
It is interesting that the launch of the CRB online edition coincides with the recent creation of the new online Caribbean literary community, Caribbean Literary Salon. It also occurs at a time when there are increasingly lively discussions and debates about Caribbean books and writing in the blogosphere.
As Nicholas Laughlin observed in his “Note to Readers” in the new issue, “… the CRB plays a necessary role in instigating a wider conversation about literature and art and their relations with Caribbean society — which is also a debate about how to understand the Caribbean’s past, define its present, and imagine its future.”
As it continues to work in tandem with other promoters of Caribbean literature, this will make it increasingly difficult for the world to overlook or remain blissfully ignorant of Caribbean books and authors.
The first pieces from the CRB May 2010 issue are already online. There you can read reviews of recent poetry collections and short stories, along with a study of “the Caribbean postmodern novel as museum,” by Guyanese reviewer and editor, Brendan de Caires, plus the first installment of an essay about travelling to India by Trinidadian writer Vahni Capildeo.
Check out the contents page for the new issue: