In 2010, Himjyoti Talukdar, fresh out of B-school, decided to create Enajori, a webzine that would focus on the social and cultural heritage of Assam, where he comes from, and not just on the politics, which happens to dominate public discourse in much of India’s North-East. From literature, music and popular cinema to wildlife, tourism and folk traditions, this online platform, which is updated every month and written in both Assamese and English, includes a vast compendium of knowledge.

“I wanted it to be comprehensive without losing an essential complexity," says Talukdar, who runs this venture full-time. “Enajori is not just meant to speak to the diaspora but also intended to revive local interest in forgotten or little-known aspects of indigenous culture." His efforts won him the Manthan South Asia award for e-initiative in the field of “E-Culture and Heritage" in 2012.

With a steady shift in reading habits, from the printed page to the electronic screen, the popularity of webzines has also been growing over the last few years. In spite of the laments about the decline of the printed text and the rise of the cold, impersonal electronic screen, the latter does come with some obvious benefits. For one, webzines bridge the gulf between the local and the global. Uddipana Goswami, editor of the recently founded Northeast Review, says the journal receives submissions not just from India but across the world. Poems by Nii Ayikwei Parkes, a Ghanaian writer, appear alongside fiction by Mitra Phukan, from Assam. Distant voices, sharing a certain resonance, end up speaking to one another.

Some of Goswami’s colleagues, as is the case with several other teams that run webzines, are dispersed in far-flung parts of the world, which goes to prove the vast connectedness of the World Wide Web.

While a persistent challenge of running a webzine is to make it financially viable—revenue from advertisements usually brings in a pittance, if at all—there are some obvious economic advantages of operating exclusively online. “We save on printing, distribution and other overheads," says Pragya Tiwari, editor-in-chief of The Big Indian Picture, an online portal devoted to the survey and analysis of Indian cinema. “And yet, we manage to reach across the world."

Editorially, too, there are some palpable benefits. Since most webzines end up being pure labours of love, the selection and curation of material tend to be more adventurous, if quirky. Relatively less known, and even unknown, names get featured. A synergy is also established between various media. “A webzine like ours does more than put out stories," says Tiwari. “It also curates stuff which exists in other places online." As a result, the interaction between text and image, both still and moving, becomes vital and complicates the experience of reading on, and writing for, an online portal.

“While print gives you a certain legitimacy, it does start to feel a bit constricting after some time," says Nilanjana S. Roy, one of India’s pre-eminent literary bloggers, who has also been writing for printed newspapers and magazines for many years. “Writing online, you can spend less time explaining the context and instead use hyperlinks to other materials to set up the premise quickly." As a result, it becomes possible to explore one or two ideas cogently in a few paragraphs.

“Online journals can be more egalitarian and flexible in terms of their choice of contributor and word-count," adds Jai Arjun Singh, writer and blogger on books and cinema since 2004. “But that spirit of relaxedness has to coexist with rigorous standards of editing."

While reading online can open up magic casements on worlds unknown, it can also deluge the senses with the problem of plenty: too many voices, too many worlds, too many distractions. “Yet the beauty of the experience is to be able to learn how to cut out the white noise," says Roy, “how to curate yourself."

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Pick from plenty

A selection of webzines to get you started

u Northeast Review—fiction, non-fiction and poetry from across the world

u Enajori (Enajori.com)—focus on the culture and heritage of Assam

u The Big Indian Picture—survey and analysis of Indian cinema

u Papercuts—the literary magazine of Desi Writers Lounge, an online, 24x7, 365 days a year writers’ workshop and community

u The Kashmir Walla—a magazine on the arts, politics and society

u Pratilipi—a bilingual magazine (in Hindi and English) on culture and society

u Pyrta—a journal of poetry and things

u Muse India—literary writings and translations from India.

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