To what degree and in what way will electronic texts replace or subsume or complement printed texts?
How will literature and the study of literature be transformed? What will be gained, and what will be lost?
In our academies, our intellectual integrity, reputations, and reward systems are tied very much to print. We contribute to our field's knowledge by publishing. We become known by being cited and quoted. We borrow print-based economics to help negotiate how ideas are shared--plagiarism as an aspect of intellectual property, copyright as a way to protect the sellability of our particular enunciation of an idea. At the same time we disdain the economics--we distrust that which sells too well or that which is written to attract a larger audience than our relatively small circle of peers. Thus textbooks are seen as 'less valuable' than a book of 'pure' scholarship. How will digital technologies change this long-standing tradition? What will it cost?
Text is more malleable, as are graphics, music, and video. It's easier to reproduce and to share these pixellated artifacts, but only if one has access to the technology which can manipulate them. To what degree is access an issue? After all, The Electronic Word exists as both a book and in a hypertext edition for Macintosh. As a work in part about the future of print, it appears in print. Is that simply a matter of our culture being in what Charlie Moran has called an amphibious stage? What is the future of access and how will it matter for a Democracy?
We are sure you have better and wiser questions to explore than these few suggestions, and we welcome them in electronic text, hypertext, or hypermedia.
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Kairos 1.1 (Spring 1996): News