Center for Digital Narrative

New book on Pre-Web Digital Publishing and the Lore of Electronic Literature

CDN Principal Investigator, Dr. Astrid Ensslin, ventures a deep-dive into the early history of digital creative writing and publishing

book cover
Cambridge University Press

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Dr. Astrid Ensslin, Associate Professor of Digital Culture and PI of CDN's "Computer Games and Interactive Digital Narrative" node, has published a new monograph, titled Pre-Web Digital Publishing and the Lore of Electronic Literature, in Cambridge University Press' Elements in Publishing and Book Culture series. The book examines a watershed moment in the recent history of digital publishing through a case study of the pre-web, serious hypertext periodical, the Eastgate Quarterly Review of Hypertext (1994-1995). Early hypertext writing relied on standalone, mainframe computers and specialized authoring software. With the Web launching as a mass distribution platform, EQRH faced a fast-evolving technological landscape, paired with an emergent gift and open access economy. Its non-linear writing experiments afford key insights into historical, medium-specific authoring practices. Access constraints have left EQRH under-researched and threatened by obsolescence. To address this challenge, the book offers platform-specific analyses of all the EQRH's cross-media materials, including works that have hitherto escaped scholarly attention. It uses a form of conceptually oral ethno-historiography: the lore of electronic literature. The book deepens our understanding of the digital publishing industry's early history and contributes to the overdue preservation of early digital writing. The book is open access until 25th March 2022.