work now hypermedia
McGann's Bryan Hall office doesn't look like it belongs to a revolutionary.
much like any other office along the hall. Comfortable, intimate,
not very big. Lots of books on the shelves. A standard-looking
computer on the desk.
the John Stewart Bryan University Professor in the English
department, has spent the better part of the last decade studying
the collected works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the 19th-century
English poet and painter who lead the pre-Raphaelite movment.
Nothing revolutionary there, either.
the fruit of all that labor isn't a book. It's a web site.
that's a little different.
is the editor of "The Complete Writings and Pictures of Dante
Gabriel Rossetti: A Hypermedia Research Archive," which is
being published by the University of Michigan Press. It is available
to browsers by subscription only. (A sample is available at http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/rossetti/tour/toura.html.)
goal: "To put online every poem, painting, drawing, manuscript
and printed book that Rossetti ever made."
has long been at the forefront of the application of computer
technology in the study of the humanities at U.Va. He was on the
committee that led to the Institute for Advanced Technology in
Humanities, and counts himself as one of the first "three
or four" faculty members to make use of the faculty "toolkit"
for creating web sites.
offer a revolution in scholarly study. "For the past 500
years Š we used books to study books," McGann said. The computer
offers a new tool to study texts, he said.
of my chief interests is in textuality and the theory of texts.
This allows me to edit things that are impossible to edit in book
form. Š One can understand books a lot better through using these
tools, and find new insights into interpretation and editing,"
of last semester, the site contained some 14,000 files that he
and a changing group of graduate students have compiled for more
than six years. It's an evolving work; one of the advantages of
electronic publishing is that it allows for more frequent updates
than offered by traditional book publishing, in which the author
or editor must wait for a new edition to make changes.
a publisher for the web site was problematic, McGann said. "No
presses know how to do it. It completely changes the relationship
of author to publisher. Š A standard contract simply doesn't get
at what our relationship is."
he settled upon is a formula that calls for the Michigan Press
to provide advertisement and order-processing support, and ultimately
a home on its server, plus production personnel to maintain the
archive, accepting and modifying the material he sends in. The
press will attempt to recoup its costs by selling access to the
site on a subscription basis.
Essig, director of the University Press of Virginia, sees the
electronic revolution coming and knows it will change her profession,
but admits she isn't sure how. "There are so many unanswered
questions," she said.
press took a tentative step into that field in 1995, when it published
its first on-line book. "Afro-American Sources in Virginia:
A Guide to Manuscripts," written by Michael Plunkett, director
of the U.Va. Library's Special Collections, was made available
free of charge in collaboration with the Electronic Text Center
and the department of Information Technology and Communication.
have really been at the forefront of pushing this," Essig
said. "They see it as the solution to both space problems
and cost problems."
For publishers, though, there are those unanswered questions.
How can they be sure the texts will be available 20 years from
now? How do you recover the costs of shaping, editing and marketing
those texts? How do you know what's worthwhile and what isn't,
without the traditional publishing process? How do you add electronic
publishing to the 60-plus ink-and-paper books the press puts out
university presses have been more actively involved in seeking
answers to those questions, applying for grants to study the issues.
Private companies like netLibrary are springing up; they buy electronic
rights to published books and then lease them to libraries, sending
the presses royalties and sales reports. (The University Library
and Electronic Text Center recently announced an affiliation with
need more resources, and sort of need a vision for it that we
don't have now," Essig said.
publishing won't go away, McGann said. "Now, it's very obvious
to wide groups of people that these tools are going to affect
everything at the heart of what we do."