On the unbound book: academic publishing in the age of the infinite archive

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    Abstract

    Thanks to open access and the likes of Blurb, Issuu, Scribd, Kindle Direct Publishing, iBooks Author and AAAAARG.org, publishing a book is something nearly everyone can do today in a matter of minutes. Yet what is most interesting about electronic publishing is not so much that bringing out a book is becoming more like blogging or vanity publication, with authority and certification provided as much by an author’s reputation or readership, or the number of times a text is visited, downloaded, cited, referenced, linked to, blogged about, tagged, bookmarked, ranked, rated or ‘liked’, as it is by conventional peer-review or the prestige of the press. All of those criteria still rest upon and retain fairly conventional notions of the book, the author, publication and so on. Far more interesting is the way certain developments in electronic publishing contain at least the potential for us to perceive the book as something that is not completely fixed, stable and unified, with definite limits and clear material edges, but as liquid and living, open to being continually and collaboratively written, edited, annotated, critiqued, updated, shared, supplemented, revised, re-ordered, reiterated and reimagined. So much so that, as some have indeed suggested, perhaps soon we will no longer call such things books at all, e- or otherwise. On the other hand, perhaps ‘book’ is as good a name as any since – as examples as apparently different as the Bible and Shakespeare’s First Folio show – books, historically, have always been liquid and living: electronic publishing has simply helped make us more aware of the fact.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)490-507
    JournalJournal of Visual Culture
    Volume12
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

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    Keywords

    • open
    • copyright
    • author
    • liquid
    • living
    • book
    • gift

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