Is traditional "print" lit in cyberspace?

The vast majority of what we see in cyberspace is a simulation of print text, and that includes all sorts of literature as well, at least short forms. Book-length print literary classics suffering as they do from the "scroll dread" that made commercial ebooks unsuccessful—until ebooks with touch-screen page-turning simulation such as the Kindle were invented—are only sporadically found online, Project Gutenberg, with its 12,000 ebook literary classics, notwithstanding.

That said, the breadth of print lit text that's available, especially from a critical, research, and creative point of view, is voluminous in the way only cyberspace can offer.

Classic Literature Texts

With the exception of Project Gutenberg, finding most classic literature texts will still mean a trip to the public library, usually. But a universe of critical, scholarly and academic texts are available online (naturally enough, considering the original research aspect of the Internet).

Scholars and other lovers of all things literary were among the first to embrace this "information superhighway" dynamic, sometimes taking on enormous projects via volunteer help, much like Project Gutenberg has done since 1971. Sites such as Poet's Corner and The Electronic Canterbury Tales are often the pet projects of a few true-believers who want to foster student access and understanding of their favorite art forms or literary works, melding the world of print with the world of the internet, sometimes in inventive ways., at one time, for example, would create, for a price, downloadable ebooks containing an analysis of a poem, including author and period, bibliography, glossary and writing tips—in other words, a web-generated hypertextual printed text.

Many print classics in the public domain, especially cyberspace-compatible literary works, are also lightly hypertexted, such as this hypertextual treatment of an Ezra Pound poem.

Some sites act as accessible archives such as Great Books Online, UVA American Studies@UVA Hypertexts, and Electronic Poetry Center.

Some offer, via hypermedia, access to oral documents such as WiredforBooks' "never-before-heard uncut radio interviews of late 20th century literary figures."

Others, such as Kairos, are in themselves a place for academic exploration of cyberspace, exploring "the intersections of rhetoric, technology, and pedagogy." The Kairos editors explain its mission this way: "Since its first issue in January of 1996, the mission of Kairos has been to publish scholarship that examines digital and multimodal composing practices, promoting work that enacts its scholarly argument through rhetorical and innovative uses of new media."

Another example of an online "print-text" research journal covering online literature is the Transliteracies Project: Research in the Technological, Social, and Cultural Practices of Online Reading. For instance, it offers this review of one of the seminal cyberpoetry sites discussed in Road Trip: PoemsThatGo. Such online research journals become all the more important when cyberjournals suspend publication as PoemsThatGo seems to have done.

Sites will come and go, but the concept—easy accessibility to classic literature and its criticism—is no doubt is here to stay.

"Print-text" Literature via Literary E-Journals

An ever-expanding list of e-literary magazines with quality and content to rival print literature is also beginning to showcase cyberspace's potential for both hypertextual and "print-text" literature.

Beyond well-known literary journals now having a web presence, dozens of "little" magazines have found a natural home on the world wide web, their circulation not so "little" any longer. As one e-journal's tagline put it: "never in and never out of print" (Mudlark). And considering that as long as someone pays for server space, even after their demise, their archival life-spans are now a part of cyberspace's "forever" dynamic. As long as there is a server connected to the internet, e-magazines and their contributors' work will be forever instantly accessible, an advantage even the biggest brick and mortar library cannot offer.

In fact, if having a print volume of the best of web writing (available, of course, in ebook form as well) proves that online literary journals have come of age, then it's definitely arrived, although as the guest editor of the Best of the Web 2009, Lee K. Abbott, pointed out (2009), much of literary journal academia still find their web counterpart suspect, since "anyone with a computer, basic cyber-savvy, and the money to purchase a domain name can put up an e-zine or the like" (p. iv). (You, too, can be a publisher.) However, the volume's index alone lists over 300 such journals publishing work worthy of anthologizing each year, including established, familiar e-journals such as storySouth, The Vestal Review, and Brevity, and some not so familiar such as Cezanne's Carrot and Arsenic Lobster.

Most "web writing," i.e. online literary magazines, is still overwhelmingly "print text"-based, works being either devoid of hypertextual aspects or designed marginally hypertextual, perhaps only to "turn the page." Nevertheless, the online access alone adds to their reading, even as the cyber-"space" itself has created a web "shape," in a sense, the best web writing being short form, i.e. flash fiction and poetry.

A Taste of What You'll Find

Online "print-text" literary journals offering both short and long creative nonfiction—creative, critical, even interviews via audio:
I, Traveler
Norman Mailer
Spinning Down

Online literary journals seriously investigating text and hypertext in theory and practice:
Iowa Review Web

Flash fiction and prose poetry:
Double Room

Flash or "concise" creative nonfiction:

Forgotten, overlooked classics:
Octopus' Recovery Project

And many ideas that were fun while they lasted and insanely inventive, but now only have a presence online via their archives, such as this personal favorite— a print/online literary journal that delighted in a fusion of print poetry stuffed into gumball machines and online cyberlit, new media, art, and "anything we can get our hands on":

As for books, online cyberlit "book" publishers continue to define what that means in cyberspace. Here are few of the earliest online publishers still active today:
Coach House Books
UBU Editions

(For more on publishing, see "How to publish cyberlit?")

RoadSite: references/ linkography