Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hypermedia and Books

I just finished cleaning up from a belated birthday party for my mother. My stepfather who is 80 years young, keeps up with things, and is on his second e-reader. I can’t remember what his complaint was with the first one (my Mom has it now), but he was mentioning that you can purchase books  for it now with different endings to the same book.
So if a printed book is from start to finish, a full story with the usual structure of a novel, you know, progressing in a linear fashion, then you take that same book and publish for an e-reader, then nothing really changes, right?  The pages even look the same… at least they do on my e-reader. 
Unlike the hypertextual book/narrative where each click on a hyperlink takes you on another loop – a lexia of story and content – that builds over time in a unique way.
So this bit of information from my stepfather leads me to believe that the e-reader is capable of something in between the two. Not random – like the hypertext “book”, but not fully fixed either like the printed novel.

As far as storytelling goes, however, the chronological, the orderly progression of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement, whether delivered electronically or on a printed page, is the most suitable device, in full or in part because it mimics the logical/linear progression of time and life.  Whereas the looped book via hypertext can deliver snippets of information, the lexia, that combine and build in a unique order that can change the ultimate cumulative effect.

I was interested to note that Inanimate Alice, though a new media narrative, continued to use the same plot structure as above, simply because there is no other way to tell a story. On the other hand, the Book after the Book is not such a story.  I would call it abstract art.

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