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Hypertext Demands Literacy

Hypertext Demands Literacy
Letter to the Editor, New York Times
September 1993

It was a joy to see Robert Coover's front-page essay about hypertext
("Hyperfiction: Novels for the Computer," August 29, 1993), a medium I have
been extolling for at least four years to my friends, my agent, various New
York publishers and anybody else who would listen; and a medium I am working
in myself.

Don't mistake me for a burn-all-our-books-behind-us type: I'm the author or
co-author of seven books.  I spend a shocking amount of my income on good old
codex books, and I head PEN's Readers and Writers Program, which sends
America's most distinguished writers out to meet with newly literate readers,
this with the hope of encouraging their further adventures in literacy.

Hypertext demand literacy; it demands critical intelligence.  Just like old-
fashioned text, it also teaches those essential skills.  Hypertext has
precursors in printed text, but the computer has transformed those adumbrative
impulses into something else entirely.  Hypertext is complex, dynamic,
adaptive, aleatory and customized, a medium right in line with the most
interesting intellectual currents we find ourselves floating upon here at the
end of the 20th century.

Pamela McCorduck
New York

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