The development of the printing press, from print to the computer and EBooks

Prior to the development of printing virtually every book and every document was a manuscript. They were developed through intense time consuming labour, “a centuries old, labour intensive, undercapitalised form of production was able to create only a very few texts for an elite market.” (Sawday,p5) This way of producing a manuscript was extremely expensive and it ultimately separated people more as the rich and the poor were now not only divided through wealth, they were now being divided through education. Only those who could afford to have these manuscripts would be able to see them. Only very popular texts of universal appeal would have been produced. Wood cut printing was in use prior to Gutenberg’s development of the printing press. This was another time consuming labour as a new block had to be carved in reverse for each page. A video of how woodcut printing can be seen here As a result few works justified the intensity of labour required for publication by this method. Prior to the invention of the printing press, buyers were more involved in the development process of their book. “Despite the gradual appearance of the book buyers in the fifteenth century, the circulation of books was undoubtedly far more limited in the absence of print technology.” (Sawday, p5) So with the development of the printing press we can see the first stages of the importance and impact of print, and the importance of the distribution of books and information. Although it is nothing in comparison to how information is spread today, it was for its time a huge development that would one day lead to the computers we have today, and the vast amount of information available freely and easily to us.

The development of print ultimately changed the world and paved the way for the increase in the spread of information. There are inevitably many benefits to the development of print, Education and religion are two areas that benefited greatly. Martin Luther evidently used print for the spread of his own ideas and the criticism of the Catholic Church. He is arguably one of the most famous examples “of the power of this new technology to participate in or even precipitate radical change.” ( Sawday, p5)Martin Luther’s writings on indulgences have been seen as founding texts in the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s ideas were able to pass through countless cities spreading his views on Religion. This aspect of the same ideas being shown to vast amounts of different people in different countries is an amazing achievement as it helped spread information like never before. “Luther’s exploitation of this new medium gives us an insight into the ways in which the energies unleashed by the printing press, like those generated by the computer today, were beyond the power of any one individual to master.” The development of print opened up a new way in which knowledge was able to circulate faster and the print itself wouldn’t be altered through word of mouth. Education is another area that was drastically altered for the better with the development of print. Print ultimately led to more people being educated, as more books became easily available. The printing press inevitably had a positive impact on people’s education, with the development of the printed book students were able to learn better. It is apparent that the development of print transformed learning in a positive way. According to Elizabeth Einstein, “Young minds provided with updated editions, especially of mathematical texts began to surpass not only their own elders but the wisdom of ancients as well.”(Einstein, p689) Intelligent people were able to access educational books and enhance their knowledge of geography physics, maths and above all their own minds. Gutenberg’s invention made it more accessible for poorer people to educate themselves in a time when illiteracy was rampant among the poorer classes of society. The printing press increased literacy by making books more accessible and this drastically altered how people were being educated, and how people were getting a better knowledge of the world they inhabited. “When the press began to be worked, hundreds of copies materialised in less time than it took to speak the text.” (Shillinsburg,p1)

The printing press had a huge impact on how information was processed and distributed to vast numbers of people. The development of print enhanced the world for the better as information became more easily and freely available, similarly to how information is available today. The computer inevitably impacted people in a similar way the development of print impacted people over five hundred years ago. It is evident that the days of spending hours looking through countless books for the information you require is a thing of the past, as information about everything is easily available with a few clicks of the mouse. The development of the computer has enhanced the world and has made it a much smaller place. People can find out all the information they wish to know without ever leaving their house. It is possible for people today to experience different cultures and see different places sitting in front of a computer or laptop. Prior to the development of the computer and the internet people were only able to experience and learn about different places by reading a book. The way in which information is made available has completely changed, making it far more easier to access. It is evident the printing press was a way of making information spread faster however the development of the computer has taken that to a completely different level in how advanced it is. According to Peter L. Shillingsburg, it makes you wonder “in 500 years, would anyone stand to look at a museum display of the first electronic book,” (Shillinsburg,p1) like we do today visiting copies of the first books printed in the Gutenberg museum. If we have developed something so advanced in how information is spread, what will be around in 500 years? It is evident that even today the computer is still evolving as information is becoming increasingly more available at an ever increasing rate. In five hundred years we have gone from vast amounts of books being printed in order to have the spread of information, to this slowly becoming a thing of the past. Books are in the midst of being replaced by EBooks, IPods and laptops. It is now possible to visit a library and read as many books as you wish without ever leaving your house. Information is more accessible with these new developments. EBooks have allowed people to read as many books as they wish and they are inevitably replacing a hard copy. It is cheaper and more convenient to read a book on your EBook as you are not restricted by weight and room like you would be with vast amounts of hard copies. To watch the difference between a book and an EBook click here


By, Sinead Reed


• Einstein, Elizabeth. The printing press as an agent of change. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1980.
• Mcluan, M. The Gutenberg galaxy: the making of typographic man. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1962.
• Sawday, Jonathan. The Renaissance Computer: knowledge technology in the first age of print. London, Routledge, 2000.
• Shillingsburg, L. Peter. From Gutenberg to Google: electronic representations of literary texts. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2006.



Fan fiction

For my personal project I decided to do fanfiction, commonly known as fic among the fanfiction community. Fanfiction is a form of writing that is increasingly becoming more popular among fans. The word fanfiction actually means “a fictional account written by a fan of a show, movie, book, or video game to explore themes and ideas that will not or cannot be explored via the originating medium.” Fanfiction has become increasingly popular and the most popular site for fanfiction is which can be found here. It is a hobby taken up by many aspiring writers but is surrounded by many issues. Some of which I will discuss, such as:

– A new reading experience
– Legality issues
– Opinions of authors

Interactive reading
Fan fiction enables readers to become part of the story; they are able to create alternative story lines, characters and scenarios. Fan fiction enables fans to enhance their overall reading experience. Readers can now control the world of the story they are interested in, and send it in directions it would not ordinarily go. They become actively involved in the plot and characters, it is a new interactive form of reading and watching movies etc., fans are no longer mindlessly absorbing what has happened but changing and interacting with the story. Through one’s own fanfiction and through reading others fans are able to fully engross themselves in a narrative and get as much out of it as possible.
They can create new relationships and place characters from a well-known story in an entirely different world; this is known as alternate universe. Popular types of fan fiction include, placing a character in the world of another popular narrative where characters often meet one another, this is called crossover. Another popular form of fan fiction but one that often receives a lot of criticism is fan fiction that plays out a sexual relationship between two characters that did not have a romantic relationship in the original canon work, romantic fanfiction story lines concerning Harry Potter, for those that are interested, can be found here. A lot of homosexual fan fiction exists that pairs same sex couples, this is known as slash for male pairings and femmeslash for female pairings. A list of abbreviations and fanfiction jargon can be found here.

“fan fiction emerges from a balance between fascination and frustration.” (Henry Jenkins)
A lot of fan fiction seeks to fill in gaps left by the original creator. Henry Jenkins, whose blog can be found here claims that this comes from fascination and frustration. When a high level of fascination is met with an even higher level of frustrating elements in a text, elements that are undeveloped, fans seek to satisfy this frustration. Fans can become so enthralled by a text that they want more and seek to absorb as much as they can, which can lead to frustration when scenes are missing or skipped over or when the information a fan is looking for takes places outside the chronology of the canon story. This leads to fan fiction that seeks to ease this frustration and fill in the blanks, these are often referred to as canon stories, meaning they don’t change any fundamental elements of the canon work. They are stories that provide information left out by the author but in a plausible, chronological manner. These type stories could even be inserted into many books and it would still flow well.

Fan fiction as a separate entity? Yet it could not exist without the original canon. Fan fiction can deviate so far from the original work that it can in itself become its own separate entity. Work that is out of copyright can be reworked and published as its own original work. Most recently Pride Prejudice and Zombies hit shelves with the co-authors listed equally as Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, who has also released works such as Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.

Many fans can not only feel loyal to a text but can begin to feel a certain ownership over it, a level of expectancy and responsibility is placed on the creator to maintain the integrity of the text. if an author decides to do something that is completely out of character within a novel or movie then fans may reject this. Can we imagine a Harry Potter who joined the death eaters. But in most instances fans will remain loyal to the original creator. So are fanfiction writers wasting their time? No matter how good fan fiction is, again henry Jenkins points out that fans will remain loyal to the canonical author, even if unhappy with a story. If a fan writes a better version, regardless of quality it will be considered lesser than the original. In rare cases work done by someone other than the original creator will be accepted as canon. Interestingly it seems when someone is considered to have the right pedigree or cultural knowledge of the works, their work may be accepted. Such as Christopher Tolkien continuing much of J.R.R Tolkien’s unfinished work posthumously. Books such as unfinished tales and the history of middle earth have been compiled by Christopher, and while based on his father’s notes it would be impossible for the finished piece to truly represent exactly what his father would have wanted; but it is accepted as canon. While this isn’t exactly fan fiction, he did not create the original canon world and so like Fic writers he is expanding on his knowledge of the world and where he would like to see it go. While as the authors son it is easy to understand why his credibility is accepted it may still give hope to fanfiction writers.

Legality issues
“Nobody is sure whether fan fiction falls under current fair-use protections. Current copyright law simply doesn’t have a category for dealing with amateur creative expression.” (Henry Jenkins)
Legality and copyright issues surround fan fiction, some claim it’s intellectual theft while others such as Henry Jenkins claim it’s an interpretation and a critique of the original work. Fan fiction that is created not for profit but as a creative outlet is often deemed legal by fair use protections. Questions surround fanfiction such as is it plagiarism, or intellectual theft. How moral is it to use characters and worlds you did not create for your own work, is using someone else’s creative inspirations just hampering your own creativity and is it insulting to change someone else’s finished work. Many different opinions exist and The organisation for transformative works, which can be found here, is an organisation that argues for fanfiction under fair use as it claims it is a transformative work not a derivative work.

What the Authors think
Different authors have very different opinions on fan fiction. They vary from authors who not only condone fanfiction but embrace and get involved with it, to authors who condemn it completely. An author who fully supports fanfiction is the author of the Twilight series Stephenie Meyer. She has openly encouraged fanfiction and seeks to minimise frustrations people may have with undeveloped characters or storylines by providing passages and chapters that were removed from the novels in the editing process on her website which can be found here. She has also published books that fill in events that happen outside the chronology of the novel such as The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. Other authors such as J.K Rowling have also openly condoned fanfiction. Authors like Anne Rice and George R.R Martin, author of the popular series A Song of Fire and Ice, are among those who strongly oppose fanfiction, and believe it to be copyright infringement. George R.R. Martin has been very vocal on his abhorrence to fanfiction and states that “Consent, for me, is the heart of this issue. If a writer wants to allow or even encourage others to use their worlds and characters, that’s fine. Their call. If a writer would prefer not to allow that… well, I think their wishes should be respected.” (George R.R. Martin) He feels authors should protect their copyright or it can be assumed as abandoned, and once you begin to make exceptions you cannot control how far it will go “Once you open that door, you can’t control who might come in” (George R.R. Martin). He speaks of one such writer Marion Zimmer Bradley, author of the darkover series, who’s experience with fan fiction led to her current novel in progress not being published as a fan had had the same idea. George R.R. Martin’s reaction to fanfiction and the Marion Zimmer Bradley story can be read here.

By Stephanie Reed


Jenkins, Henry. Confessions of an Aca-Fan the official web log of Henry Jenkins.

Martin, George R.R. This is not a blog, Someone is Angry on the Internet.

Hypertext Fiction

An analysis of Hypertext Fiction


Hypertext is text displayed on a computer or other electronic device with references (hyperlinks) to other text that the reader can immediately access, usually by a mouse or keypress sequence. Hypertext, apart from running text, may contain tables, images and other representational devices.

Hypertext Fiction is a genre of electronic literature characterized by the use of hypertext links which provides a new context for non-linearity in “literature” and reader interaction. The reader typically chooses links to move from one node of text to the next, and in this fashion arranges a story from a deeper pool of potential stories. Its spirit can also be seen in interactive fiction. The term can also be used to describe traditionally-published books in which a nonlinear narrative and interactive narrative is achieved through internal references. James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), Jorge Luis Borges’ The Garden of Forking Paths (1941), Vladimir Nabokov’s  Pale Fire (1962) are early examples predating the word ” hypertext”, while a common pop-culture example is the Choose Your Own Adventure series in  young adult fiction and other similar gamebooks. The Garden of Forking Paths is both a hypertext story and a description of a fictional hypertext work.


The etymology of the word hypertext reveals an interesting insight into hypertext fiction. The prefix hyper- comes from the Greek, meaning “over” or “above”. It has common origins with the English word “super” which signifies the overcoming of the old linear constraints of the linear text. The use of the word Hypermedia is more accurate.

Key Concepts

Hypertext is the underlying concept defining the structure of the World Wide Web. In hypertext fiction the reader typically chooses links to move from one node of text to the next and in this fashion arranges a story from a deeper pool of potential stories. This spirit can also be seen in interactive fiction. The term can also be used to describe traditionally-published books in which a non-linear narrative and interactive narrative is achieved through internal references. Non-Linear Narratives are often used to mimic the structure and recall of human memory. Beginning a narrative in medias res (Latin; “into the middle of things”) began in ancient times as an oral tradition. This technique involves narrating most of the story in flashback. It was established as a convention of epic poetry with Homer’s Iliad in the 8th century BC. Interactive Fiction, (IF) describes software simulating environments in which players use text commands to control characters and influence the environment. Works in this form can be understood as literary narratives and as video games. In common usage the term refers to text adventures, a type of adventure game where the entire interface can be “text-only”, known as text mode.

Hypertext Fiction History

The first hypertext fictions were published prior to the development of the World Wide Web, using software such as Storyspace and Hypercard. ‘Afternoon, a story’, published in 1987 by Eastgate systems and written by Michael Joyce is generally considered one of the first hypertext fictions. Other examples that shortly followed, mostly from Eastgate systems, were Stuart Moulthrop’s Victory Garden, its name was Penelope by Judy Malloy and Shelley Jackson’s Patchwork girl. The internationally oriented but US based Electronic Literature Organization(ELO) was founded in 1999 to promote the creation and enjoyment of electronic literature. Other organisations for the promotion of electronic literature include, trAce Online Writing Community, a British organization, started in 1995, that has fostered electronic literature in the UK, Dichtung Digital, a journal of criticism of electronic literature in English and German, and ELINOR, a network for electronic literature in the Nordic countries, which provides a directory of Nordic electronic literature. The Electronic Literature Directory lists many works of electronic literature in English and other languages.

Critical Theory

Many critics in literary circles see hypertext fiction and poetry as a “humorless digital postmodern joke” (Lillington 1) that assaults readers with floating neon fonts and crude literary strategies, if any literary skill is present at all. They view hypertext as a threat to the overall integrity of literature because most anyone, without any training or editing, can post hypertext “poetry” or “fiction,” even if their work does not include any traditional conventions. Proponents of hypertext literature argue that online texts are an original art form, which combines cinematic technique with live performance qualities, and is not designed to be viewed in the same light as printed literature (Lillington 1).

Hypertext has been a predictable mate for postmodern theorists, who believe in uncertainty and that texts are open to endless, shifting readings. The nature of hypertext embodies uncertainty by turning its back on traditional uses of point of view, voice and a sense of closure (Lillington 2). The postmodernists have been successful in establishing a connection between the new genre of hypertext and the accepted school of postmodern literary thought. An authoritative mark of their success was the recent inclusion of a J. Yellowlees Douglas’s hypertext work in the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Fiction, a standard text in American literary courses (Lillington 2).


Megan Kerr clearly articulates the role hypertext fiction plays in postmodernism. She says, hypertext fiction is an obvious PR for postmodern theory. While academic circles are growing tired of the word “postmodern”, hypertext is its ultimate ”Show and Tell”. The active role of the user in navigating a hypertext and making sense of the disparate pages received, along with the choice of links that generate multiple paths and non-linear structures, counters all that nasty patriarchal, hierarchical, empirical linearity that postmodernism seeks to rupture. The variability of contexts (which page do I read before and after that page) emphasizes the role of context in generating meaning, a brief bow to post-structural theories of language. It has Derrida’s mutability and mobility, it is Roland Barthes’ “galaxy of signifiers”, it speaks in a deliciously post-structural, feminist way of multiple entrances, openings, mazes, and interiors.








Hypertext fiction was heralded as the future of the book. However, the Wikipedia entry for hypertext fiction lists no published works after 2001. The forms seeming demise is puzzling because the last 10 years has seen the rise of the Kindle, the e-book, the e-reader and a crisis in traditional book publishing. Hypertext fiction is in a tough place now. Born into a world that wasn’t quite ready for it, and encumbered with lousy technology and user-hostile interface design, it got a bad reputation, at least outside of specialized reading circles. At the same time, it’s impossibly hard to create, one of the only modes of fiction we know of which is more demanding than the novel.





Kopowski, Gene. “Cyberscribes Turn Storytelling into ‘Hypertext’ Storysharing.” Insight on the News 13 (1997): 36

Lillington, Karlin. “Breaking the Bounds of the Page.” World Press Review 45 (1998): 46-47.