I read the spines in light from high windows. Skewed stacks on the oak reading tables. Leaning lines on the shelves where many were on loan.

In the afternoon, after school,
I would sit with the books and get an idea what learning to read and write meant. I would sit on the padless wooden chairs, or
in the quiet spaces between stacks. I would bring out the books
by authors whose works I had encountered yesterday or last week, or the books that
were catalogued under the same topic, or that I walked by on my way to the shelf, or the ones that were left by someone before.

It felt limitless. I could--anyone could--come here every day, read books, take books home. The more I read, the more I could read.
I got the idea that anyone should be able to read and write--that public schools and libraries should make this possible. I penciled words on pulpy newsprint, composed poetry at the playground, and read while I traveled the uneven sidewalks, looking down at the book, then down at the cement, then down at the book.

It is important to me that these experiences
remain possible for future generations, especially as our methods of reading and writing are changing. Preserving this possibility will be a challenge, and I worry that we may give it up without quite realizing what we're doing. With regard to the arts and education communities, in particular, I worry that we will be drawn in by the appeals of "micropayment" and in this manner abandon

a discussion in which we should at least take an active part, if not a leadership role. There ought to be a discussion about what we want for our lives of reading and writing, a discussion about what we mean by freedom of speech, a discussion about the future--and we should choose to work for what we believe in rather than settle for what we get.

A decade after my library afternoons began, I was in college. The bookstore had a copy of Ted Nelson's Computer Lib / Dream Machines. I'd heard of Nelson, so I picked up the book. It had no front--one could begin reading from either one of the illustrated covers, and the two orientations of text met and shifted in the middle. In this, perhaps, lies an analogy for the reading experience. Nelson wrote about reading and writ- ing online. Compared to what I had been thinking of as writing and reading, there were two intimately intertwined differences from--differences in the space taken up by these activities, and differences in the activities themselves.

Nelson's term for the new space of reading and writing is "docuverse." I understand the docuverse as a convergence of models of literature and
open conversation. In this vision, nearly all our cultural productions reside or are documented in the docuverse--encompassing almost all that is now found in books, newspapers, magazines, journals, recorded music, animation, film, etc., combinations of these, new forms not yet possible, our associated comments, notations, and reconfigurations, as well as our new writings and creations, public and private: our chil- dren's essays for school, our letters to the editor and to friends, our family photos, and the multiple versions and incarnations that all of these have passed through. The docuverse is the ultimate archive and the ultimate space of authorship--it is possible for each item to be continually in flux, and, through our daily lives, we are continually contributing material. Parts and variations of this vision are now the common predictions for what a future "Web" or "Internet" will be, but at the time Nelson wrote of these things, and even by the time I read them, many thought the ideas outlandish.

But I found myself thinking more of the activities of writing and reading envisioned by Nelson than of the docuverse itself, the space of writing and reading. It is for the creations of this new literature that he coined the now-famous terms "hypertext" and "hypermedia." In a hypertext/media space, writing means creating texts and images and sounds, interconnecting these
"writings" with writings by oneself and others, "transcluding" these writings within one another, and generally creating structures of such writings (both one's own and the contents of the network docuverse as a whole). Reading hypertext/media is an activity akin both to exploration and assembly: following connections and creating views and annotations that could at any time become writingÑif it is not already indistinguishable from it. Nelson saw all of this as an application of the already extant model of literature--a space always already full of annotation, reference, connection and exploration. However, I was struck by two great distinctions between Nelson's hypertext/media model and that of the literature I grew up with. These distinctions are central to our discussion of the Web today.