December 29, 2017

Bad News for Literary Magazines: No More Ubiquity

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We received an email from Joseph Massey, the owner of Ubiquity, the Brooklyn-based distributor of literary magazines to independent bookstores for almost forty years. The bad news: Ubiquity Distributors is going to be closing.

In the few phone calls we’ve had with him, Massey was always a siren for what is wrong in the literary magazine world. The most glaring example: university book stores refusing to sell the literary magazines sponsored by the very same universities they’re book stores for.

Diminished sales. Leading to refusal to stock. Leading to…well, now it’s led to the end of Ubiquity. Not a good spiral.

Independent book stores, even the best, have been a tough sell for Ubiquity. As Massey told us, he has had had a harder and harder time getting literary magazines into the independent book stores in recent years.

Economics 101: no demand, no supply.

Even the Paris Review doesn’t sell like it used to, Massey told us.

The loss of a wonderful distributor like Ubiquity means one thing: no more ubiquity for literary magazines. There will be fewer of them in the independent bookstores. Period.

For those of you who want to fix this problem, there’s a way: buy literary magazines you want to support. Easy to say, sure. But necessary, if one wants the world of literary magazines to thrive. We can’t have, as it’s been said, so many more writer-submitters than reader-subscribers. That kind of imbalance has led to the end of Ubiquity.

There’s no way to bring back Joseph Massey and Ubiquity. But we always have the future somewhat in our control.

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