In the first step of a two-phase launch, the long-awaited Los Angeles Review of Books has debuted its preview site at with essays and reviews by Ben Ehrenreich, Geoff Nicholson, Jane Smiley, Jefferson Hunter, and Richard Prince.

The literary and cultural arts online magazine, under the direction of author and editor Tom Lutz, was first announced a year ago and was sidelined by fiscal challenges and the daunting effort of creating the first international book review on the Internet. Matthew Specktor, a senior editor at LARB, explained that the complexity of building a “relational” site that merges authors, subjects, and genres has largely been the reason for the delay, and why the official site will not be up until the end of 2011. “The indexing and organization involved in something of this scope is much more complex than we realized, but it will definitely be worth the wait,” he said. LARB already has hundreds of articles in its archives, a few of which will be added to the preview site every day.

“The excitement of this soft launch really revolves around content,” Specktor said. “We also see it as an opportunity to develop our readership before we even exist.” Specktor added that 50,000 hits on the preview site in its first week is “possible, and hoped for.” LARB is continuing its discussions with potential online advertisers. “The ads will be part of the design of official site, and they’re coming along splendidly,” Specktor said.