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R.I.P. A.I.M.

The running man is dead. The running man, remember that yellow stick-figure in motion who used to greet you every time you logged onto AOL Instant Messenger?

The other day, something surprisingly-insignificant happened, AIM is no more. After more than twenty years it, is finally offline. Should anyone even care? Does anyone care?

I care, but I do not really even know why.

Maybe it is because growing up in the 90’s, AIM was an important part of who we were. We didn’t have smart phone – we didn’t have cell phones – but we were the first generation to grow up with the Internet. We learned to use the internet in school, something out parents never did. Our jaws dropped at the dizzying speed at which America got online, and dial-up providers worked their hardest to meet the demands of a fast, democratized internet. Each month AOL seemed to release a new version… 3.0… 4.0… 5.0… 6.0….

The internet was here to stay. They promised it would change our lives – and in more ways, that we could have ever imagined – it has.

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Could an app be the future of publishing? A conversation with Connu Co-Founder

A new short-story publishing app is changing the way an entire industry does business

As of last count, I have 36 of apps on my Smartphone. Outside of Twitter, Yelp, and Uber, Connu is one of the most valuable. It’s been a particular life-saver during recent cross-country trips, and the audio version serves as a nice companion when I’m out for a walk.

Connu, an iOS and Android app, publishes (Monday through Friday) short stories written by up-and-coming writers who are recommended to the editors by already established writers.

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Oh. And it pays them.

In a publishing landscape dominated by websites routinely asking writers–historically not well-known as being a financially stable lot—for free content, it is rare to have an outlet that doesn’t buy into the myth that “exposure” is an even trade for one’s work. (Probably the most recent, brazen example of this is Entertainment Weekly.)

But this is certainly not a 21st century problem. Years ago, Ernest Hemingway counseled friends who were about to launch a new literary journal thusly:

One of the most important things I believe is to get the very best work that people are doing so you do not make the mistake the Double Dealer and such magazine made of printing 2nd rate stuff by 1st rate writers. I see by your prospectus that you are paying for [manuscripts] on acceptance and think that is the absolute secret of getting the first rate stuff. It is not a question of competing with the big money advertizing magazines but of giving the artist a definite return for his work. 

First off, the Double Dealer sounds horrible. Good riddance. But secondly, it seems unfortunate that Hemingway’s advice, given almost a hundred years ago when publishing magnates still roamed the earth, is still relevant. Enter Connu—a new, digitally relevant source full of procured, purchased material. If that sounds more like a publishing company than an app, well…that’s because it is.

I recently spoke with Susannah Luthi, co-founder of Connu, who was kind enough to indulge me in a conversation about her experience as a classics major, journalist, and MFA-graduate-cum-techie who decided to schlep herself and her copies of The Aeneid to the San Francisco Bay Area in order to develop Connu. To date, Connu has received recommendations from writers such as Sam Lipsyte, Joyce Carol Oates, Aimee Bender, David Sedaris, Janet Fitch, Wells Tower, and Lauren Groff.

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