So the literary journal Tin House has announced that under their new submission policy, "Unsolicited submissions must be accompanied by a receipt for a hardcover or paperback from a real-life bookstore." What's that, you say? There's no bookstore in your area or you prefer digital books. Well don't worry--the editors will also accept grovelling from authors explaining "why he or she cannot go to his or her neighborhood bookstore, why he or she prefers digital reads, what device, and why" if it is done in a literarily acceptable manner.
As Tin House editor Rob Spillman explained, "We believe that there are more people who want to be published in literary magazines and small presses than there are people buying these magazines and books. This program is not meant as the solution. There is no one solution."
Actually, there is a solution. It's called finding a better way to connect your books with the people who want to buy them. Instead of equating the purchase of digital books with people not purchasing books at all, find a way to reach the growing audience for e-books. And while I love in-person bookstores, the simple truth is there's not a brick and mortar bookstore in everyone's community. That's one reason why online bookstores have done so well of late.
I totally understand the dynamic behind Tin House's submission push. And if writers aren't also readers, then they damn well won't make it as a writer. But to pretend that digital books and online bookstores are on the same level as people not buying books, well, all that screams is that your literary journal has found itself on the road to being irrelevant in our digital age--and doesn't know how to chart a new course.