The Bolter Test

The comparison of the artifactual properties of the book and the hypertext -- of these things as objects we possess and use rather than as a means of communication -- is sometimes known as the Bolter Test. Can a hypertext, Bolter asks, be read in bed?

The apparent implausibility of reading a hypertext in bed, or in the bathtub, is often adduced as conclusive evidence that hypertexts cannot be significant literary achievements.

This argument cannot be supported.

Writers prize readers, and a writer is usually delighted to find any audience at all. But the ideal reader, the reader of our dreams, is neither soaking away his or her aches nor nodding off to sleep. Reading in bed is nice, but to dismiss one's muse in order to serve as a soporific is probably an error.

If reading in bed, in the bath, or en route matters to us, we can easily create computers to serve the purpose. A waterproof, floating computer is entirely practical with current technology. The form factor of current PDA's is ergonomically superior to that of paperback books. We need better screens, and screens will continue to improve as long as we are willing to pay for better resolution.

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