Publication stands will forever miss the pages of Ricepaper magazine due to the recent closure of its print edition.
The magazine, which focuses on Asian-Canadian literature, was initially a newsletter for the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop (ACWW) in 1994. Having published prominent Asian-Canadian writers such as David Suzuki, Wayson Choy, and Kid Koala, Ricepaper, following its 20th anniversary, discontinued circulation of the print magazine shortly after the release of issue 20.4 in February.
However, Jim Wong-Chu, founder of the ACWW and Ricepaper, says its doors remain open. “We’re not dead,” he says. “We’re just transformed.”
The publication has moved online—ironic, as until now the online aspect of the publication was more of an afterthought, according to Wong-Chu.
“We’ve been around 20 years,” he says. “That’s a long legacy. We’re transitioning online, we have a whole group of editors working on the online thing, and in two to three years, they’ll see if the switch will focus on that medium.”
Ricepaper is still the longest-running publication focused on Asian-Canadian literature. And while Wong-Chu remains optimistic about the transition, the change comes at a time when interest has shifted to other platforms, such as Facebook and Buzzfeed. Given that newsstand sales of magazines fell 16 percent last year, according to an article on Folio.com, many publishers are left in a rut.
Wong-Chu attributes Ricepaper's problem to a lack of funding. “A lot of it was disappearing because you were dealing with the Harper era and they’re cutting, cutting, and cutting.
“$20,000 disappeared this year—a large component of what keeps the magazine running,” he continues. “Print is really changing. Reader’s Digest has gone kaput—magazines that were even revenue positive took out print.”
With the limited monetary incentive to keep going, the amount of work that the nonprofit magazine had to commit to keeping the print publication running was taxing.
“We spend 60 percent of our time trying to fundraise and write grants just to keep it afloat, which is way off-balance, as opposed to serving the community; you can only put in so much content.
“We decided that it was not cost-effective and we didn’t want to get to the point that we were pushed out,” Wong-Chu says. “So we decided to get out before we were pushed out.”
Given the flexibility of the online publication, the new iteration of Ricepaper will be using video interviews, podcasts, and even an archive of issues and works published by the ACWW, as ways to reach its audience.
Allan Cho, a member of the magazine’s board of directors, says the publication is much more than a just an outlet. “It’s a community.”
“You can have your writing published at the Walrus, you can have your work published in other magazines,” Cho says. “The idea of Ricepaper itself is to create a community, to have a sense of belonging, and back then, you didn’t have that.
“The world would be much poorer without Ricepaper.”