We hope you’ve noticed that things are looking a little different around here: after months of development, the Sydney Review of Books has a new website. Regular readers will detect some immediate improvements: not only does the site look quite elegant, it is much easier to navigate. The search function works better across the site and we’ve refined the categorisation of our essays. We are going to let the website settle in — and I’m going to see out my maternity leave — before we take advantage of the new site features, which will make our growing archive more accessible to readers. When the Sydney Review of Books was launched in 2013, one of our objectives was to publish essays of enduring interest, what the web wonks call ‘evergreen content’. Our traffic statistics tell us that essays published in our first year are still finding new readers via search engines and social media. Better categorisation — for example, grouping together essays on Australian poetry, or literature in translation, or essays on Helen Garner — will guide local and international readers as they tour our archive. All our essays are available free of charge — and we want to see them read as widely as possible.
As the final stage of the website development was underway, we received some very good news: the Australia Council named the Sydney Review of Books a key arts organisation, and awarded us operational funding for four years. Like so many other arts organisations, it has been challenging for us to keep the journal online in the constrained and unpredictable funding environment of the last year. The Australia Council funding, in combination with the ongoing support of Western Sydney University, provides the Sydney Review of Books with a stable foundation for our activities through to 2020. We’ve been fortunate to call the Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University home since our establishment in 2013. It’s a dynamic, collaborative environment, and a great base for working with the best critics in the country.
Both founding SRB editor James Ley and I have written about the dire implications of funding cuts to the literary sector, and so too has the SRB Board Chair Ivor Indyk. When times are good, literary circles tend to be disputatious, gossipy, and competitive. That there’s unanimity about the folly of slashing funding to so many literary organisations is a sign of how terrible the current situation is. A healthy literary ecology is built on interdependencies; all of us in the sector are poorer when so many journals, organisations for writers, literary magazines, and publishers are imperiled, as is now the case.
The deadline for applications for the SRB-CA Emerging Critics Fellowship fell this week and a blizzard of energetic and original proposals for essays has swept through our submissions portal. Were we to accept every proposal with promise, our publication schedule would be full for the rest of the year and well into 2017. The fellowships were conceived to encourage new voices — and the call for applications has been met by an astoundingly diverse group of emerging critics.
The website overhaul was masterminded by Adrian Wiggins at Pure and Applied, to whom I’d like to express my sincere thanks. Adrian’s long association with the Sydney cultural scene, particularly literary magazines, means that we have a website that is perfectly suited to publishing critical essays. Thanks too are due to the team Adrian brought with him: Sara Jinga from Jinga Design and developer Grant Ambrose. SRB digital coordinator Ben Denham has handled the technical and design aspects of the development process; his skills and judgment have vitally shaped the finished product. Finally, I’m very grateful to the School of Humanities and Communication Arts at Western Sydney University for funding the upgrade. New websites can be temperamental; if you encounter any difficulties with the new interface, please email us on editor [at] sydneyreviewofbooks [dot] com.