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Coover, 1992, “The End of Books”

In the New Media Reader.

Posted in Readings (02-02).

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20 Responses

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  1. akt4q says

    “Coover declared that the Golden Age of literary hypertext has ended, and that this heavily textual ear of innovation in the form has given way to the world of the Web”. In what ways do we see this happening? Is getting assignments like blogging and tweeting in this class an example compared to keeping a journal or writing essays?

  2. aas6h says

    Coover states that readers of hypertext, as opposed to readers of regular print, focus “on structure as much as on prose”. Does this division of focus create too great a distraction to overcome? Does this distraction lead to miscommunications of intended textual meanings?

  3. kmw9p says

    Coover writes that “documents may be read in hyperspace, but hypertext does not translate into print”. Is this simply because hypertext is constantly being edited/changed/updated, or because some claim that it lacks the legitimacy and scholarly value of published print material?

  4. rdl5u says

    New media allows the reader to “organize the texts made available to her.” It strikes me as perfectly conceivable that one reader’s interpretation/organization of the information presented her might be less “meaningful” than another’s. Are less-sophisticated readers at a disadvantage when it comes to interpreting new media? Or are all interpretations of new media meaningful? Are there ways to organize and present new media to facilitate meaningful interpretations?

  5. mjp4y says

    How can these new “interactive novels” be described as novels when they have little similar traits to what we have traditionally understood to be the “fiction” genre? Certainly, both are NOT real stories, but apart from this comparison, why try to force a direct comparison? What Coover describes as interactive novels seems closer in form and function to interactive games and avatar-driven social networks, such as Second Life, that rely on human input to move forward. How is this “interactive” literature seen today? This was written almost 18 years ago, but where would we engage in this new wave of fiction-writing?

  6. smp2as says

    I can’t see narrative structured in hypertext. Character development and plot seem to be integral to the structure of a narrative- and without those characteristics it doesn’t seem to be a narrative. Authors can play with structure in narratives, just like Joyce and others have done- but a narrative is linear. I would not classify this new hypertext “narrative” as a narrative. It should be a new genre unto itself- genre’s the wrong word. A new species perhaps. What’s more is I can’t see this new species doing very well- as far as I can tell it hasn’t gained any traction since this article was written. Ultimately, a controlled point of view is more satisfying to a reader.

    Coover says that hypertext novels can’t be represented as print novels, though print novels can be represented as hypertext. Has anyone ever tried to represent a classic novel as hypertext?

  7. ecp3f says

    I think it’s something to be said if this article was written over 18 years ago, and yet we still have major bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble, Books a Million, Borders, etc still in place. What does that say about the form of printed material? Are we more inclined to stay with books because it’s what we’re familiar with? Or is it a literacy thing… most people aren’t literate in hypertext, and most don’t want to be. Is hypertext really going to take over the book world, or is it simply a supplemental resource for our knowledge?

  8. wwk3j says

    Coover said that the realms of print technologies is changing as we speak. Thus if hypertext reading is all the rage, then how is the invention of technology used to better read books like Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s ipad justified? Coover did say that Brown University had to phase out some of the technologies of their hypertext writing class as a result of Apple’s stream of production of new operating systems. Would a book reading/storing device be considered a form of hypertext technology or just proof that some of Coover’s arguments on hypertext’s increasing mainstream significance exaggerated?

  9. chs8w says

    Coover seems to put an implicit emphasis on digital media literacy in the creation of new fiction. How might a shift from (reading) literacy to digital literacy affect how much interpretation the fiction allows for? Or, is digital media challenging the word’s ability to accurately represent the world? What kind of reflection of ourselves do we want from media?

  10. pm9k says

    Coover’s essay makes me wonder again, what is hypertext? His 1992 questions near the end of his essay are still unanswerable 18 years latter, but I suspect will remain important and at the center of the New Media. As he says “‘Text’ has lost its canonical certainty. How does one judge, analyze, write about a work that never reads the same way twice?”

  11. jta9nk says

    Although narrative is linear, video games have shown this to be a breakable rule. [Nerd Time] Role playing games, such as Morrowind, Prototype, even the Grand Theft Auto series, allow the user to define the story. Although reviews of games are based on the game itself, how would one, to borrow from pm9k, “judge, analyze, write about a work that never reads [or plays] the same way twice?”

  12. zmr5r says

    Hypertext itself aside for the moment, one set of issues this article can be seen to be raising are matters of how authorship and readership are changing overall as new media come into existence. Given how this could and perhaps should be a conversation unto itself, a general question is how are new media changing what it means to be an author? What does it mean to be a consumer of written text? What would Coover make of things like blogging and micro-blogging?

  13. cdf8e says

    Besides eye strain, can anyone, with a straight face and no tinge of “I’m saying this to save my career,” name one advantage of physical books? Theoretical considerations aside, it seems abundantly clear, to the extent that I’m tempted to call it self-evident, that digital editions of text, even if left in their pre-determined-narrative-structure form, are just more practical. Given a sophisticated enough mobile viewer (sorry, ipad, I’m with hitler — you make me sad) ink, paper, binding, most of the money going to publishing companies, all of these are anachronistic and silly artifacts of guttenburg’s age. Shame on bibliocentrism.

    • rca2t says

      Some advantages to books: A book …
      — does not break easily
      — does not consume energy
      — is made from renewable resource
      — can be read in the bath tub
      — can’t be changed by the author
      — can pass through customs
      — provides closure to narratives
      — is an artifact with presence and duration

  14. Kevin Eady says

    Coover mentions Brown University’s Intermedia system as an example of software used to support hypertext media. He indicates that Intermedia has been phased out because it’s “too expensive to maintain.” What are some expenses required to host a digital media server? I can only think of electricity for the server and perhaps one hour or so of daily maintenance. How is this more expensive than traditional libraries, where one would have to not only pay for electricity for lights but also have to hire librarians to perform book checkouts/checkins and book reshelving, just to name a few.

  15. pmc4ua says

    We are quick to judge paintings that cannot be viewed to their full capacity because they are on a computer screen. Especially when looking at the Rosetti Archive, people have raised questions as to whether the same experience of entering a museum is preserved. Why aren’t the same questions being raised for books? Is viewing a painting in person and virtually is different, isn’t viewing a page in a book and a page on a screen?

  16. laa2v says

    Will the linear narrative ever be overthrown? The linear novel is based on our system of time an space. Is it not until the linear model of time and space can be bent will the narrative be dethroned?

  17. lpr8cc says

    Will classical readers (ones who are devout book readers) ever move into hypertext? Or will hypertext have its own following?

  18. csl4s says

    After reading this article, I really wonder if hypertextuality can really be considered all that much better than what Coover considers the obsolete linear narrative. Don’t people like things to be as simple as possible? Hypertextuality wherein there is no beginning, middle, or end to something and wherein there can be endless links to any one thing seems very overwhelming to me. Sure it seems like a grand idea that more information can easily be put online and seen by anybody, but doesn’t it seem more likely that a lot more information will disappear into obscurity because of this?

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Week 3 – Q and Comments Rossetti readings – MDST 3703: Introduction to the Digital Liberal Arts linked to this post on February 4, 2010

    […] readings This is the order I read or looked at the assignments, with my comments / questions.1.Coover, 1992, “The End of Books” In the New Media Reader, p. 705-709.** Coover’s essay makes me wonder again, what is hypertext? […]

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