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This article is taken from PN Review 142, Volume 28 Number 2, November - December 2001.

Hyperliterature - The Web as Text Edward Picot

There is a great deal of writing now available on the World Wide Web. Books can be ordered on-line, of course, but there has also been an explosion of on-line magazines, often known as webzines or e-zines. Various e-publishers have appeared, some of them selling electronic literature which has never appeared in book form; increasing numbers of writers are setting up their own websites; and there is also the phenomenon known as hyperliterature, which is literature that could never be reproduced on paper, because it takes advantage in one way or another of the special properties of the Web.

In spite of all this, the Web may not strike many readers as a natural home for writing. Literature belongs on the page, not on the screen. Reading from a book is in many ways a more pleasurable and convenient experience than reading from a monitor. Writers and publishers who have sought to establish themselves on the Web may seem to be jumping on a bandwagon, and an inappropriate bandwagon at that.

Yet the affinity between literature and the Web goes deeper than may at first be apparent. Many people imagine that the World Wide Web came into existence as a commercial application - a new way of shopping. This is understandable, since for the public at large 'buying on-line' is both the most common type of web-usage and their most likely reason to start using the Web in the first place. As a matter of ...


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