The processed book

Joseph Esposito


The "processed book" is about content, not technology, and contrasts with the "primal book"; the latter is the book we all know and revere: written by a single author and viewed as the embodiment of the thought of a single individual. The processed book, on the other hand, is what happens to the book when it is put into a computerized, networked environment. To process a book is more than simply building links to it; it also includes a modification of the act of creation, which tends to encourage the absorption of the book into a network of applications, including but not restricted to commentary. Such a book typically has at least five aspects: as self-referencing text; as portal; as platform; as machine component; and, as network node. An interesting aspect of such processing is that the author's relationship to his or her work may be undermined or compromised; indeed, it is possible that author attribution in the networked world may go the way of copyright. The processed book, in other words, is the response to romantic notions of authorship and books. It is not a matter of choice (as one can still write an imitation, for example, of a Victorian novel today) but an inevitable outcome of inherent characteristics of digital media.

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