Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Print Is Dead

By Devin D. O'Leary

JULY 28, 1997:  So, I was sitting in front of the Web computer at work the other day when our esteemed publisher Christopher Johnson sauntered by, observed my electrified thousand-yard stare and loudly proclaimed, "Print is dead!" Hopefully for Chris' sake (and my paycheck's), he's wrong. But he does bring up an interesting point. Is this wonderful new media supplanting the written word or merely enhancing it?

My mission this week was to locate Web sites that cater to the more literate of surfers. Thankfully, there are hundreds. Here are some of the most useful.

Yahoo Net Events (events.yahoo.com/est5edt/Arts_and_Entertainment/Books_and_Literature) Yahoo is not only a great database, it's also a primo place to hook up to all the great interactive events going on across the Internet. A quick glance at this site tells us about all the literature-related goings-on. We've got live discussions with authors, poetry workshops, genre debates and book chat clubs (from kids' stuff to J.D. Salinger). It's easy to forget that there's more than just ogling to do on the Web. If you're interested in actually communicating with other human beings on topics of literary import, then this is a good place to start. You can even search the coming week for daily and ongoing events. Being the Web, of course, your choices are a tad limited. It's all pretty genre-specific (romance and horror seem to be the most prevalent).

Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org) If you're really into checking out the potential of the Web, then this is the site for you. If there's a single site that supports the idea of the Web "enhancing" literature, it's this one. Project Gutenberg was started way back in 1971, when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. The idea was that storing books on computers allowed for unlimited copies to be distributed, thereby fighting illiteracy and general stupidity by disseminating classic literature around the world. Needless to say, the Internet has been a huge boon to this concept. Project Gutenberg has gathered together hundreds of public domain books and reproduced them on the Web for anyone to access. Of course, there's not much modern stuff, but if you're looking to download soupçon Shakespeare or a modicum Mary Shelly, here's your chance. This wordy site is weighed down by a ton of self-congratulatory exposition, but I suppose that can be forgiven.

Amazon Books (amazon.com) You may have heard about this site in the news recently. These online bookpeddlers have gotten into a war with America's largest chain stores like Bookstar by dropping the prices on their newest releases. Although such competition pisses off the corporate world, it can only benefit consumers like us. Amazon boasts a 2.5 million book catalog. You can order right off their Web site with a credit card. They say they'll get you your order in four to six weeks. Some people I've talked to have gotten rapid service, others have not. You can search by author or title. One of the more interesting features is the option of writing your own review. Authors are even allowed to send in comments on their books at the touch of a button.

Advanced Book Exchange (www.abebooks.com/) If you're trying to hunt down an older book, odds are Amazon isn't going to have what you're looking for. This site, though, links independent antiquarian and used bookstores all across America. It's a super handy site for finding that impossible-to-locate text. You can search by author, title, publisher, bookstore and even binding type. The site is extra easy to use and even allows you to search by partial title and "keywords." The big, fat database makes it easy to "window-shop." Several bookstores may have the title you're looking for. One may be cheaper. Another may be in better shape. ABE is also great for digging up info on out-of-print titles. Many of the bookstores give detailed descriptions of the books including other titles by the same author and other pen names of the author. It also works as a handy price guide for grading the worth of your own used book collection.


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