Book on the Net

The World Wide Web is actively refiguring our relationship to word and books. This is part of an evolutionary process that has included pictographs, hieroglyphics, text (illuminated, printed, broadcasted), and now hypertext. None of these permutations are "better" than those previous. Evolution is simply change. The Net is what ecologists might call an "r-species." Where k-species are stable and enduring, r-species are opportunistic and weedy, thriving on a changing environment. The hard copy "book" is a k-species: compulsive, anal-retentive, phonetic, institutional, static, settled and rigid. The Net has "butterfly mind," it is hyperactive, holistic, entrepreneurial, protean, nomadic and flexible. If a good book by a warm fire is endorphic, the Net is adrenalinic. All that said, there is a great respect for "books" on the Net. Writers' Net (www.writers.net) is a growing directory of writers and literary agents. It is searchable by writing category, author's name or title of the work. It includes discussion groups on various writing topics. Authors Speak (www.authorsspeak.com) is an online version of Henry Tischler's radio program Cover-to-Cover. It includes text and Real Audio material on new books and important authors such as Ginsberg, Uris and Deepak Chopra, including photos and biographies. Electronic Children's Books (gopher://lib.~bmsu.edu/11/.subjects/Education/.childlit/.childbooks) provides no-nonsense access to children's literature scattered throughout netspace. Much flashier, Candlelight Stories (www.CandlelightStories.com/candle2.htm) has kid stories in large text, with bright illustrations. For older folks, the Electronic Library (www.books.com/scripts/lib.exe) is dedicated to the free dissemination of thousands of "e-books," providing both browsing and directed searches. The poetry section is particularly impressive, containing full texts by Blake, Eliot, Tennyson, Jeffries and even the complete works of J.W. Riley. The rich writings of ancient Greece are documented on The Perseus Project (www.perseus.tufts.edu). Here you will find an extensive historical overview, primary texts (from Aeschies to Xenophon), art and architecture. I entered "logos" into the online Greek lexica and received instant links to over 200 texts. The Book History Time Table (www.s4all.nl/~cremers/timetabl.html) provides a long scrolling chronology or alphabetical listing on the history of the book. It begins over 3500 years ago with Sumerian clay tablets, providing key events and references. The year ranges are very tight and many of the references are obscure. There is a link to manuscript images of the Book of Kells, the Book of the Dead, Leonardo's codices, the Lindesfarne Gospels and the Magna Carta. The Printing Press and a Changing World (communication.ucsd.edu/bjones/Books/booktext.html) breaks book history into four categories: Religious, Secular, Print, and the 16th to 17th century. Topics include the rise of academia, the development of printing, Luther, vernacular languages and nation states. The map section is absolutely wonderful, covering the evolution from "T&O" maps to landsat imaging. A number of sites that are ostensibly booksellers' web pages work very well for author/title research. Through The Internet Bookshop (www.bookshop.co.uk) you can search 912,000 titles. It includes an authors area with news, reviews and information. The Online Books Page (www.cs.cmu.edu/books.html) allows you to search 3,000 works by author or title. Short Story Search (www.islandmm.com/islandmm/cgi-bin/sitemsss) has author/title search as well as an "Annotated Short Story" feature (I punched up "tree" and got back a list of stories by Hawthorne, Wharton, Cather and others plus hotlinks to related sites. Probably the best resource for title and author information is "earth's biggest bookstore," www.amazon.com. You can search 2.5 million titles and peruse interviews, an author almanac, the New York Times Book Review, NPR, the Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, etc. A personal notification service will send you automatic e-mail when a new book by any author you choose is published. The American Library Association's Banned Books Page (www.ala.org/bbooks) lists each year's "most challenged books" (such as Sendak's In the Night Kitchen , the Bible and anything by Judy Bloom or the Brothers Grimm.) Pulp Fiction Central (www.vintagelibrary.com/pulp/index.htm) has all you'll ever need to know about this Ô30s-Õ40s book genre. It has a lengthy introduction, descriptions of various pulp genres (Crime Fighter, Weird Menace), a cover art gallery, and the Pulp Fiction Monthly. Texts and Contexts (paul.spu.edu/~hawk/t&c.html) is a resource center dedicated to "expanding knowledge regarding influential texts and authors." It links to expert sites on Aquinas, Augustine, Bacon, Dante, Descartes, Dostoyevsky, Freud, Homer, etc. The Electronic Labyrinth: Rethinking the Book (www.ualberta.ca/~ckeep/hf/0240.html) is a hypertext investigation of the relation of narrative stream to the physical form of a book, looking beyond "the book as a neutral container." Its essays are far-ranging, touching on the Bible ("book as desire for limits and closure"), the book of nature ("book as attempt to unify meaning"), Hugh of St. Victor ("For this whole world is a book written by the fingers of God"), the end of the book, hypertext as empowerment, illumination, the electronic sign, McLuhan, Barth, Nabokov, Foucault, etc.

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