The following hypertext essay was written in partial completion of the Master of Arts in Communications and Technology degree at the University of Alberta, Canada.
© 2013 Nicole Basaraba
The navigation menu for this essay can be found at the bottom of each section. In hypertext fashion, it can be followed in any order desired, however, there is a suggested order included as labelled by numbers.
Where is all the Hypertext Fiction in this Digital Age?
A Hypertext Essay by Nicole Basaraba
Considering the potential of current multimedia technologies and the increased market for electronic books (e-books), why is hypertext fiction not dominating at the top of bestseller lists?
According to a new report from Bowker, “Online book retail, including ebooks, accounted for 44% of all spending by consumers on books in the U.S. in 2012” (Greenfield, 2013). With such high sales in e-books, the reason for a lack of hyertext fiction on the market calls for some investigation. The hypertext book is of interest because it makes use of the digital medium more so than electronic copies of printed books. As a writer and web editor interested in the publishing industry, the discoverable potential is worth investigating.
The term ‘Hypertext’ was coined by philosopher, sociologist, and information technologist, Theodor Holm (Ted) Nelson, in 1963. Nelson writes: “‘Hypertext’ means forms of writing which branch or perform on request; they are best presented on computer display screens…Discrete, or chunk style, hypertexts consist of separate pieces of text connected by links” (as cited in Wardrip-Fruin, 2004, p. 127). However, this term has been defined and used in multiple ways. Espen Aarseth (1994) writes, “Hypertext, for all its packaging and theories, is an amazingly simple concept. It is merely a direct connection from one position in a text to another,” (p. 59). Thus, this connection (or linking) has been a major focus of writers and publishers of hyper fiction.
There are several reasons why hypertext fiction has not taken off in the literary community including technical design issues, copyright laws, digital rights management, and issues with ‘stocking’ e-books. But, before these issues can be addressed, there are more foundational issues surrounding the new digital medium and its affects on the reader that provide background. The scope of the following hypertext essay will take a closer look at the issues of:
- reader experience, the phenomenology and custom of traditional linear reading;
- remediation, going beyond the book metaphor and working with the digital medium; and
- the shift in narrative form required for the future hypertext fiction.