Thursday, November 15, 2007

Electronic literature organization and LOC collaborate to celebrate the future of the book

I just joined a new listserv this week, the Association of Internet Researchers, AIR-L, and right away began receiving lots of mail that was sort of interesting, but it's like when you first walk into a party and conversations are already going on and you just hear snippets -- nothing really piqued my curiosity at first. Well, of course, it was overall interesting to read what all is going on in this field and to realize that Internet research is something I'm proposing to do and it's really pretty fantastic!

But this morning I noticed a message about a Library of Congress (LOC) (that sounds familiar) initiative in concert with the Electronic Literature Organization (ELO) (hmmm. not so familiar) to archive 300 e-literature sites. When I read the definition of e-literature (works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer) I realized that the LOC/ELO project will quietly collect links to the very sites that I am pretty sure are a key to the future of the library. For, as the book goes, so goes the library. We are the handmaidens of the publishing industry (though they've come to see us as their enemy -- how on earth did that happen -- but that's another story). Is the book going, you might reasonably ask. Maybe, maybe not.

The LOC/ELO's main page is a wiki (of course): Main Page - ELO Archive-It Mediawiki. It links to the suggested sites so far, those up for consideration for the 300 site group.

Poking around a bit, I came across Beard of Bees, a journal of poetry that describes itself like this:

Beard of Bees is committed to publishing quality chapbooks by liberated poets from Anywhere. We do not discriminate against non-human or post-human artists. Since the alleged ownership of language and thought is a revolting legal fiction, all Beard of Bees publications are freely downloadable and freely redistributable.

Et voila. I am back directly within the premise of Mass Digitization ~ changing copyright law and policy, that the massive availability of massive amounts of free reading, listening and watching will inevitably pressure the currently massive paid, contract and DRM restricted corpus of old media content to evolve. Its owners will have to abandon that business model in order to compete effectively for our time and attention. Did you notice that the Wall Street Journal followed the New York Times into free yesterday? Where does quality really rank as a consideration when quantity alone, and the sampling, sifting through, looking for, and finally, evaluating that quantity asks of us, can take precious amounts of our time? And that's why Google rules, isn't it?

So, I spent (wasted?) 20 perfectly good minutes that I could have used to rummage around in the library (on it's password protected databases, that is) reading poetry. Here's one of Barbara Maloutas' poems from the collection called, Coffee Hazilly, published just this month:

In every American town. There is a town. In every American.
American town. There is a town. An American constantly in town.
In every American. In a star. Starbucks. Starbucks, the only constant.
In town. In starbucks. Every American. With constant parking. In
parking. In starbucks. Every American with parking. For parking.
American Starbucks. The only constant. Parking.

Me to artists, poets, filmmakers, musicians, singers and authors of books: "You want my attention, *come* and get it." Books will have to compete. "Make it easy or don't make it at all. Not because I'm lazy really, it's just that there's so much to see, to hear, to experience, and your barriers are so tiresome and not worth it."

The producer's are (or better be) listening.

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