E-Literature and Archives: When to archive, when to not?

By: Mackenzie Gans

There is always a debate when society changes to something new and there are always people who liked the outdated piece of technology. When it relates to electronic literature the question becomes “Should e-lit be archived along with the machines and software necessary for playback?” In my opinion, the answer is only the popular sought-after pieces should be preserved.

While this may seem mean and cruel, it is only being realistic. With the advent of Flash and other programs, people can make their own electronic literature quickly and easily. There is not the same amount of scrutiny when making e-lit compared to publishing a book. We need only to look to history for a guide. There have been hundreds of thousands of books published, but go into your local library and only a small amount of those will be available.

It is not rational, or reasonable, to ask a library or archive to store every piece of e-lit. There are many books today which are ‘out-of-print’, and there will be many e-lit pieces which cannot be stored as well. Also, with the constantly changing world of technology, is it fair to ask archives to frequently change their entire e-lit collection to the newest format? With books the form is mostly constant, with a cover, a back, a spine and pages. The form of a book is very static. But the form of e-lit is very dynamic. The popular forms may change several times in a decade, forcing the archive or library to convert all of their e-lit pieces, a very time-consuming process.

To conclude, libraries and archives should only keep the e-lit pieces that are poplar and have demand. By no means should they be required to keep every e-lit piece. Their quantity is too large, and their electronic format is too vulnerable to change.

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