Pages Unbound Is Closing

Closed DoorAlexandra Erin recently announced the closing of her filter site Pages Unbound. It must have been a very difficult decision for her to make, and I respect her move to do so – she’s got 4 other serials to maintain, after all, and that is no small feat.

Personal feelings aside I would like now to point out a few important implications this move would have on the blooking community at large. The first and most obvious is the sudden vacuum created by its loss. At the moment many blooks derive their traffic from PU, and we have to remember that there is an ecosystem of readers and writers clustered around it. People come in from other blooks, check out what PU has to offer, and then jump off to another one. Rinse, lather and repeat. PU’s loss means this ecosystem will have to shift to another site, and it will take time to do so.

The good news is that we do have another site – and a good one at that. Chris Poirier and Sarah Suleski have together created a brilliant filter at Web Fiction Guide, a site that will certainly serve as another platform to promote good fiction in PU’s wake. The bad news is that WFG works on a different model from PU, and that presents several challenges to the community as a whole.

WFG is editor-powered. I have talked about editorial based filters vs wisdom-of-the-crowd filters before, and we know that both have different but complimentary sets of strengths and weaknesses. I have also pointed out some of PU’s teething problems in the past, problems that any crowd-powered filter would face.

So here’s the thing: PU’s loss means that we’ll lose a major crowd-based filter, and we’ll have to rely solely on an editorial based one. This is not good for a few reasons: a major limitation of the editorial model is the amount of digital fiction it can process. There will come a time when there would be too much good fiction and too little editors to review and rank them. Volume is the one major advantage that sites like PU have – it is democratic and it’s been proven to work in a vast majority of Internet scenarios (think Google search and Digg). We’ll need one sooner or later, regardless of how successful WFG is. Both types of site complements each other; it’s not WFG or PU, it’s WFG and PU.

So why not keep PU going? I suggest we take over the management of the site, if Lexy agrees. I know she’s pointed out that she doesn’t think that it’s worth it, but I don’t think so. Even though PU runs on off-the-shelf components, I believe it’ll be a lot easier to capitalize on both the site’s credibility, community and brand at a later stage, if we want to do a revamp (and we probably will want to recode major parts of it). At any rate, it would make no sense to restart a PU clone later on from scratch – why reinvent the wheel when the wheel’s already running? And there is of course the teething problems that we’ve learnt from in PU’s implementation – something that all new wisdom-of-the-crowd sites would face sooner or later.

I propose keeping PU. I’m having exams at the moment, so I won’t be much help in the sense that I can’t do anything remotely server related. I am however willing to underwrite the costs of moving PU. I’ve already got a bunch of people on NovLounge and elsewhere in favour of this idea, and they’re willing to contribute their time and energy to the continued effort of running PU. I’d like now to ask the majority of blookers, readers and writers out there: what do you think of this? Please tell me your comments.

Update: I’m mistaken in thinking WFG to be completely editor powered. There is a significant crowd aspect to it which has not been utilized because it is a relatively new site. That being said, here’s a-for and-against analysis for keeping Pages Unbound.


There are a lot of reviews and a pretty strong community around Pages Unbound. It also has a relatively high profile within our community, meaning new people discover it and benefit from the information there despite slow progress from the owner. Deleting PU off the bat would mean losing a whole bunch of reader recommendations, reviews, forum discussions and also the appearance of dead links on the various blogs and blooks linking to it. Not particularly appealing.


Much of PU’s success has been because of Alexandra Erin’s status in the blooking community. Keeping PU without her personality on board would be a loss to the filter. On top of that Erin is right in pointing out that modifications to the site will be difficult – Joomla is not known as one of the simplest CMSes around. If code modifications are hard then it will be difficult to correct the problems that PU faces – gaming of the system, spite rankings, etc. It would be far better to destroy everything anyway and custom code a solution.

Open Mike

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Should we take over PU from Alexandra, or should we close down and redirect to WFG? I am in favour of keeping PU in stasis for a period of time while we determine the feasibility of a) continuing b) moving over to Web Fiction Guide. That way the reviews will at least be preserved for a longer period, and there would some form of community transfer through this pause. Either way the community would benefit more than an instant shutdown of the site. Which side do you stand on?

Disclaimer: I am an editor on WFG’s board. Also, I have emailed Lexy and I’m currently waiting for a reply. As founder her opinion is paramount in this undertaking – if she refuses we must respect her decision.

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Category: News · Writing Web Fiction