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electronic book review

Research Report by Jessica Pressman
(created 3/19/06; version 1.0)

Related Categories: Online Journals (experimental paradigms)

Original Object for Study description

electronic book review (ebr) is “an online scholarly journal promoting print/screen translations and new modes of critical writing on the Internet.” Edited by Joseph Tabbi and published by Mark Amerika, the site operates through a sophisticated design, by Anne Burdick, that implements and enacts the theme of weaving “thREADs.” The journal can been accessed at www.electronicbookreview.com.

ebr weaves together critical discussions on various topics, or “threads,” relating to digital art, culture, and discourse. Old and new topic threads are maintained on the site in such a way that they continue to intersect and inform each other.

Currently (as of March 2006), ebr contains the following threads and credits for them:

-“Critical Ecologies”: thread editor Andrew McMurray, launched by Cary Wolfe and Joseph Tabbi in the winter of 1996/97. -“Electropoetics”: thread editor Joe Tabbi, launched in the spring of 1997 with a special issue edited by Joel Felix. -“End Construction”: thread editor Joe Tabbi. -“First Person”: thread editors Pat Harrigan and Noah Wardrip-Fruin, co-produced with MIT Press in 2003. -“Image+narrative”: thread editor Joseph Tabbi, launched in the summer of 1998 by Steve Tomasula and Anne Burdick. -“Internet Nation”: thread editor Joseph Tabbi, launched in the winter of 1998/99 by Vladislava Gordic. -“musicsoundnoise”: thread editor Trace Reddell, launched in the winter of 2000/01 by Cary Wolfe and Mark Amerika. -“Technocapitalism”: thread editors Marc Bousquet and Katherine Wills, Technocapitalism began as a set of essays collected in 2002 to be the first in a series of Alt-X Critical E-books. -“Webarts”: thread editor Joseph Tabbi. -“Writing Postfeminism”: thread editor Elizabeth Joyce, guest edited by Elizabeth Joyce and Gay Lynn Crossley in the fall of 1996. -“Writing under Constraint”: thread editor Joseph Tabbi, launched in the winter of 1999/2000 by Jan Baetens.

These threads are represented on the homepage in the following table and navigation system:

The user can search for topics, titles, and authors in the Search field or browse (“play” in the language of the site) through the threads. Performing a search for “electronic literature” in the Search field prompts the following display (this is actually only a partial display):


Each horizontal row is an individual article; colors identify subject topics and the columns connect the various topics. The visual chart is also programmed to be an active navigation system, allowing the reader to access any article by clicking that part of the grid.

Research Context:
As a journal, ebr is of interest to a wide variety of people and fields interested in the impact and intersection of digital media and writing. The focus is on the humanities and, in particular, literary, aesthetic, and cultural modes of investigating the transformation of writing in the digital age. Each entry is dated, which means that conversations can be charted over time; they evolve along with the technologies they discuss and that enable the appearance of the text onscreen. ebr’s research context is the Internet, and this is also the subject of its researched content.

Technical Analysis:
Textual Methodology: The editorial methodology of the journal is to present each article as an individual entry and “page.” Within its text, each article contains hyperlinks to other texts and authors it mentions, allowing the reader to move hypertextually between articles and across the site. At the bottom of each book review are links to responses from other critics (if applicable) and a bibliography (again, if applicable).


Technical Methodology: ebr’s database and Application Designer is Ewan Branda and the Front-End Programmer is Steve Hartzog. The site was completely renovated in 2005. Editor Joe Tabbi retains central control over postings on the site. Each article contains two dates: an “original post” date and a “latest activity” date. In this way, updates to the site and its entries are made visible to the reader.

Evaluation of Opportunities/Limitations for the Transliteracies Topic:
ebr is an important site for discussing and analyzing reading practices and their evolution with digital technologies because that is precisely its subject matter and its constitution. ebr has evolved with the Internet. It began, as its title implies, as a journal for the discussion of book reviews; its earliest site contained reviews of print books and “repostes” responding to these reviews. This dialogic structure is still in place, but ebr has since evolved into an extensive database that has been “rebuilt from the cellular level up” to enable readers to “+ gather text/+ gloss & cross-ref/+ spool thread/+ fly high and see the weave.” Charting the evolution of ebr, the decisions and discussions of the editorial and technical staff, and the types of critical contributions it fosters could certainly tell us a lot about our changing reading practices and in particular about the relationship between scholarly discourse and online technologies.

Although the articles and reviews in ebr are of interest to a wide variety of fields and readers, across disciplines and methodologies, they are also intriguing texts for analysis in the Transcriptions study due to the fact that they show critics interacting not only with each other’s ideas (in the form of book reviews) but also with each other (in ripostes) in a fashion that is far more like real-time communication than any print journal. This result is a web-based sense of scholarly simultaneity and community and, perhaps more important for this study, a place for examining and evaluating this engagement. In this sense, ebr provides an opportunity for viewing the effects of real-time communication technologies on critical discourse, both its content and practice.

Resources for Further Study:

  tl, 03.19.06

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