Recommended Books About Hypertext

by Jakob Nielsen on January 1, 2007

Basic Textbook

Multimedia and Hypertext: The Internet and Beyond , by Jakob Nielsen (AP Professional).
This is a fundamental textbook about all aspects of hypertext, including the history of the field. It covers the Web as well as many non-Web hypertext systems, in order to provide a deeper understanding of the possibilities inherent in the hypertext concept (many of which have not been seen on the Web yet). See the full table of contents for further info.

Hypertext as Writing

I am amazed at how little is known about how to write for online readers, but there are a few books that are useful, even if they don't teach everything one needs.

Hypertext 3.0: Critical Theory and New Media in an Era of Globalization , by George P. Landow (Johns Hopkins Univ Press).
Third edition of a widely respected textbook about the cultural implications of hypertext.
Hyper/Text/Theory , by George P. Landow (Johns Hopkins Univ Press).
Highly theoretical book about hypertext. Mainly seen from a literary perspective (Landow is a Professor of English Literature) but with some important conceptual insights into this new writing medium.
The Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print (2nd edition), by Jay David Bolter (Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc).
Another book about the literary criticism of hypertext writing.

Hypertext as an Interactive System

Designing Usable Electronic Text: Ergonomic Aspects of Human Information Usage second edition, by Andrew Dillon (Taylor & Francis).
Overview of the human factors issues in online text.
Remediation: Understanding New Media , by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin (MIT Press).
How new media reinvents (or "remediates") concepts from previous generations of media. Highly insightful book: try for yourself to think of how you could remediate ideas from traditional media (including traditions from thousands of years ago) as new technologies become available. For example, what's really going to be the electronic campfire?

History of Hypertext

Literary Machines , by Ted Nelson (self-published).
Ted Nelson is the guy who coined the term "hypertext". This book contains much of his original writing and thinking about online media (the so-called "literary machine"). Nelson also envisioned a universal hypertext system linking all writing in the world. The Web is the first practial realization of his ideas, though the full "Xanadu" system was much more ambitious. Still worth reading today.
Understanding Hypermedia 2.000: Multimedia Origins, Internet Futures , by Richard Oliver and Bob Cotton (Phaidon/Chronicle Book).
Second edition of this highly visual book: chock-full of screenshots of pre-Web hypermedia designs from the early 1990s (many done in HyperCard) as well as newer designs. Great source of inspiration, though most of the early designs would not currently work on the Web due to bandwidth limitations.
From Memex to Hypertext : Vannevar Bush and the Mind's Machine , by James M. Nyce and Paul Kahn (Academic Press).
In 1945 Vannevar Bush described a system, called Memex, that was remarkably like modern hypertext systems. This book includes Bush's original Memex article as well as a few of his other articles as well as modern reflections on these basic ideas. Of particular interest is Norman Meyrowitz' chapter speculating on the computer resources it would take to fully realize Bush's vision (conclusion: still not possible 50 years later - Memex was a truly visionary design).
The New Media Reader , by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort (MIT Press).
Reprints of many of the early papers on hypertext and interactive media from World War II until the start of the Web. The most important part of this book may be the enclosed CD with Windows-compatible versions of early multimedia designs (many ported from pre-PC machines and running in emulator mode, but you can still try them out) as well as video clips of famous early demos (e.g., Doug Engelbart's public presentation of mouse-operated hypertext).

Writing for the Web

See list of recommended books and websites about writing for the Web


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