Nick Montfort, Associate Professor of Digital Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Literature has long manifested itself as poems, stories, and plays, on broadsides and in letters and chapbooks -- but for centuries the main, defining unit of literature has clearly been the book. The book has been the basis for institutions, including bookstores and libraries, and is central to the modern idea of authorship. In recent decades, the project of literature has intersected with the digital in the form of hypertexts, multimedia CD-ROMs, expanded books, interactive fictions, sites, pages, blogs, tweets, apps, programs, installations, and performances. The Electronic Literature Organization has worked for more than a decade to facilitate and promote literature in digital media in these and other forms. Surveying some of this electronic literature provides a rich context for the standard, contemporary concept of the e-book -- which, I argue, is unlikely to become the analogue of the "book" for literary art in digital media. Instead, I suggest considering standardized e-books as part of a spectrum of book-like literary productions.