Cherchez le texte: Proceedings of the ELO 2013 Conference


Agnieszka Przybyszewska

When words change their skin

In Aphorisms for a Rainy Day, Dick Higgins proclaims that “the word is not dead, it is merely changing its skin” (Higgins 1979, 66). The author of the term intermedia could not, however, be oblivious of the fact that there is a semantically important relation between a word and its skin, between the signifié and the significant. He must therefore have been aware that this envisaged change would deeply influence the art of words.

In the case of print literature, this metaphoric “skin” of a word could also be seen as the way it is typographically written and laid out on a page or – if we consider multiple words – within the space of a volume. Thus, the physical form of a book could be seen as the highest-level “skin” of a word. Therefore, the traditional (by which I mean “worked out through centuries of tradition”) word skin is neutral, speechless; the form of the so-called “classic” book should not disturb the act of reading, it should be as invisible as possible, and, at the same time, it should feel comfortable. The situation is completely different in the case of electronic literature, when the skin of the words (understood as the way they appear on a screen or, as a projection, in the physical space) frequently seems to be as attention-riveting as it only can. Of course, in thousands of years of the history of literature there were many exceptions to this dominant rule, but they always were exactly that – merely exceptions. The theories to describe them have, similarly, remained “the exception rather than the rule” (Hayles 2002, 19).

As Johanna Drucker has shown, print had from its beginnings a potential for giving the text a semantically important skin. However, what was chosen for literature was what Drucker calls unmarked text, stripping the words from their skin. As she explains, “the aspirations of typographers serving the literary muse are to make the text as uniform, as neutral, as accessible and seamless as possible” (Drucker 1994, 95). Paradoxically, contemporary non-artistic texts (e.g. advertisements) used all of print’s possibilities, producing what Drucker calls marked texts, not unlike those that are now slowly becoming if not the main part of literary output, then at least an important one. In this case, the typographical arrangement of text is non-neutral and authors use “the capacity of typographic representation to manipulate the semantic value of the text through visual means” (Drucker 1994, 95). All the visual aspects described by Drucker could also be extended to material aspects in the sense that was given to the term by Katherine Hayles (Hayles 2002) 1.

Nowadays, however, the conventions are changing. Mainstream literary texts often abandon the tradition of the invisible word skin, invalidating the opposition described above, revolutionizing the means and methods of book publishing and questioning readers’ habits. The literary word skin has evidently changed and is now sparkling with colors: it is no longer invisible; quite the contrary – it is designed to be noticed as an important part of the work of art. And us, the readers, surrounded by literary texts which we can (or have to) touch as part of the act of reading 2, which we can play as a game or, even, on which we have to blow to see the text (as in Bouchardon’s Toucher), we simply cannot ignore this fact.

Neither has it been ignored by theorists and many theories have been (and are still being) constructed to describe this new situation and this new kind of a reading experience. Using Hayles’ term, these can be described as being involved in the discourse of the materiality of literature (Hayles 2002), although it is important to underline that they come from two different fields. Part of them – as, for instance, the cybertext theory formulated by Espen Aarseth (Aarseth 1997) or Hayles’ theory of the technotext – were born from a reflection on electronic literature when it turned out that the same effects could be achieved in print (which proves that the analogue medium does not limit literature). Other theories – such as Jessica Pressman’s concept of the aesthetic of bookishness (Pressman 2009) or the Polish notion of liberature formulated by Zenon Fajfer in 1999 (Fajfer 2010) – had their roots in analogue (not electronic) literature and often came to the conclusion that print does not have to be as neutral and boring a medium as it used to be seen as and that many of the innovations brought by new media could be successfully realized without them – in print. Expanding the bookishness of the book is seen as a response to e-literature. Thus, looking from one perspective leads to the other and vice versa. The relation between the recent verbi-voco-visual-kinetic texts (as the term, originally proposed by concrete poets, can be expanded) and the literary tradition (or its side branches) proves to be particularly deep when we realize that there have always been literary texts with non-invisible skins.

Because of this, both veins of thought cite the same artists, works or phenomena as examples, precursors or inspirations. To name some: 20th century avant-garde artists, concrete poetry or visual literature of thousand years’ tradition, Stéphane Mallarmé, Laurence Sterne… Therefore, we can assume that the main aim of the theoreticians is not only to describe the present reconfiguration of the materiality of a book under the impact of e-literature, but also to reinterpret the literary tradition. The current need for the former could be explained by the increasing number of printed books questioning all past print conventions. The crucial change is that they now form a part of the mainstream, something which could not be said about the previous examples of texts with non-neutral skins. Well-selling and critically acclaimed mainstream stories of this kind abound, including among others: The Raw Shark Texts (2007) by Steven Hall – a novel routinely quoted for its form, for which the readers were not prepared 10 years ago (as the debut author said in an interview), The Invention of Hugo Cabre (2007) and Wonderstruck (2011) by Brian Selznick, novels in which the story is told not only through words, but also through images (with a specific literary reason to use this convention each time it is used), the series Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock (started in 1991) – an unorthodox books of correspondence, incorporating material letters in the volume – or Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003), employing images in substitution for their descriptions (what we can call a liberary quotation). As these and many other examples show – the reconfiguration of the material form of print literature (along with the expansion of e-literature) provokes the readers to become receptive and sensitive to literary interfaces, to the material form of print literature in addition to the text: to the book.

References to the avant-gardes of the 20th century are not surprising; print has for a long time been prepared for all the innovations one can think of, even today, but – until the works of the Russian or Italian futurists or other avant-garde writers – they had not been employed often, or at all (Drucker 1994). To put it in a different way: works of avant-garde poets who utilized forgotten or unrevealed print possibilities could serve as a very good lesson of constructing multimedia (or better: multimodal) literary communications 3.

Additionally, literary theories of the first decades of the 20th century, which owe a lot to linguistics, could be inspiring. The questions asked by theoreticians of that time share many similarities with those formulated today in the face of new forms of literature. They were looking for characteristics of literariness (just as we nowadays ask whether e-literature without words could still be called literature or whether a novel constructed through both words and images is still a literary book) and the distinguishing features of literary material and signs (since what is actually taking place is a redefinition of a book and the literary code, a phenomenon clearly visible in all redefinitions of the category of text category, as proposed by Aarseth, among others). Since I posit that the Russian futurist books, Italian futurist typography or Apollinaire’s calligrammes were not more revolutionary than current publications, I would like to suggest looking back at some of the issues brought up by Russian formalists and their successors.

The category of the text’s interface (metaphorically called the word’s skin), so important in these deliberations, will be here closely tied to another one: the category of literary text or, rather, its redefinitions (which gave rise to such terms as cybertext or technotext). We can observe that most (if not all) of them lead us to understand the fact which becomes obvious in the context of e-literature: that the book is only one of many modes of presenting a literary text. Furthermore (a fact often missed) the history of books had seen many formats in use before the volume we are nowadays familiar with and accustomed to gained its dominant position. Similarly, there had been many ways of reading, as the act of reading had not always been silent, alienating and stationary (not involving movement in the physical space) (see e.g.: Rothenberg and Clay 2000, Drucker 1994, Manguel 1996). If Hayles underlines that print is “a medium and not a transparent interface” (Hayles 2002, 43), we can add that there are many kinds of nontransparent literary interfaces and that the (“un-common”) material book is just one of them. Therefore, I consider Higgins’ metaphorical term “word skin” and the category of interface equal, emphasizing that while, in the case of a neutral “skin”, we are not accustomed to talking about a book as a literary interface (because it is so neutral and its convention is so much interiorized by us that we even do not notice its presence), it could be useful to adopt the term “interface” for discussing literary communication, as we do it automatically for e-literature. All text redefinitions mentioned here make clear that every text needs an interface and has one and that this interface is not (or does not have to be) neutral to the text’s semantics – in Aarseth’s words: “(1) a text cannot operate independently of some material medium, and this influences its behavior, and (2) a text is not equal to the information it transmits” (Aarseth 1997, 62).

One kind of books which make it most evident that the material form of the book could be (or serve as) an interface for a literary text are augmented reality books. The main part of this paper will examine the AR poetry book “Between Page and Screen” by Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse as an inspiring example of this kind of artistic practice. I find this work interesting in two main aspects. First, it is an intriguing example of literature exploring its medium and created as literary communication that uses the potential of its materiality (the real and the virtual one at the same time). Secondly, the book has a metatextual dimension as well, being an important voice in the discussion about bookishness in the 21st century (seen in the context of the whole tradition of bookishness). The interpretation of this work also permits to see more clearly the connection not only between artistic works of the 20th century avant-garde and current publications, but also between the theoretical problems formulated by literary theorists of that times and the ones we make today.

The augmented reality of the book(ishness)

AR books, on the one hand, use material books as their interfaces by definition; on the other, their form (at least that of most AR books on the market today) seems to continue primarily the tradition of illustrated and pop-up books in the realm of new media. This can be seen through the synonymic names they are given: “virtual 3D pop-up books” (Carlton’s publications) or “virtual interactive pop-up books” (Popar’s publications). Here, I would like to underline what is really enhanced by adopting the means and methods of AR: the crucial question will be whether, in the case of AR books, using the book form as an interface for literary communication always employs the semantically non-neutral interface. In other words, I would like to examine whether, in the analysis and interpretation of AR books, taking the interface into consideration is really crucial to understanding the sense of the work.

A fascinating idea…

The idea of an AR book was not, despite what it may seem like, born from the observation that readers are bored with book materiality (which, moreover, does not have to be conventional, as we can see nowadays). Raphaël Grasset, Andreas Dünser and Mark Billinghurst explain this from a 2008 perspective:

[…] users still love the physicality of a real book which offer a broad range of advantages: transportability, flexibility, robustness, etc. These factors support research into another future for books: digitally augmenting and enhancing real books. This combines the advantages of physical books with new interaction possibilities offered by digital media (Grasset, Dünser, Billinghurst 2008).

The possibilities that new media technologies offer for the literary art (such as the technology of virtual reality which promises real immersion into the literary world) seem truly inspiring. It is therefore unsurprising that projects combining traditional books with VR (such as AR books) were proposed. Commenting on one of them (the MagicBook by Mark Billinghurts, first presented at the Siggraph conference, Singapore, 2000), Billinghurst himself, along with Hirokazu Kato and Ivan Poupyrev (who went on to collaborate with him on subsequent AR book projects), argue that:

Young children often fantasize about flying into the pages of a fairy tale and becoming part of the story. The MagicBook projects makes this fantasy a reality using a normal book as the main interface object (Billinghurst, Kato, Poupyrev 2001a, 6).

In another article, commenting on selected literary projects using the MagicBook technology (mainly used, as it happens, in the fields of education and entertainment and in scientific and architectural visualizations), they add that:

These MagicBook applications explore new literary ground where the reader can actually become part of the story and where the author must consider issues of interactivity and immersion (Billinghurst, Kato, Poupyrev 2001b).

If the technology has been ready for many years now, it is high time to ask: can we really read these books? Although instances occasionally appear at art festivals or scientific conferences and are often awarded (the case of Caitlin Fisher’s works, e.g. Andromeda, included in the second volume of Electronic Literature Collection, or Camille Scherrer’s work Le monde des montagnes, awarded the Best European Diploma), in the mainstream of literary production (by which I mean: offering wide distribution), AR books have so far entered mainly the field of children’s literature. At the time of the publication of Between Page and Screen (I mean the publication by Siglio, because the Between Page and Screen project had been previously shown at festivals) there were at least two publishing houses offering AR books for children: the British Carlton Books (advertised under the slogan: “books come alive”) and the American PoparToys, whose books are marketed by the catchphrase: “Read it. See it. Be it”. This main promise of AR technology, to make the literary word alive and make it enter into our reality, remains its most attractive aspect and is still used in advertisements. A new series of AR books put on the market in April 2013 (booksARalive by Baibuk) is described as a series “where the magic happens”.

2. … and the (not so fascinating?) practice

But, although the books contain illustrations which become alive in the reader’s eyes (the first popular and widely-distributed AR books used big black-and-white markers, newer ones – such as those produced by Baibuk – use only colorful images which change to 3D projections), they do not constitute parts of the work important from the literary point of view. Despite using new media technologies, they are often merely illustrations understood in the old text-image dialectic (re-calling Bolter’s Writing Space): they only duplicate the information just given in the analogue mode (text or image) and are subordinate to the printed work.

It could be amazing to see what an animal we are reading about looks like, how it reacts, what sounds it emits. The readers are promised all of these by Dinosaurs Alive! (Carlton), the book that “really bites back” (as proclaimed on the front cover) 4. The AR projections of this publication, however, only demonstrate the problem with current implementations of the technology described earlier. For instance, we can see how the blood vessels in Stegosaurus’s plates are filled with blood, which provokes a change of the animal’s color (to red), but the whole metamorphosis is also described in details on the previous page. Does the information have to be given to the readers twice? Why could not some action or piece of information be trans-written between new-media images and sounds and the analogue text and illustrations? This could be called the lack of liberariness, defined as an ability to use all possibilities of the medium to build the semantics of the work without duplicating the information, but in the way of constructing it through different modes (in this case: illustration, sound and text).

Another book from the series – Fairyland Magic – highlights a different problem. Here, we do not have duplicated information, but sometimes there is nothing in common between the text and the AR projection or, worse, they are contradictory. As an example, when the text speaks about woodland fairies collecting petals to make perfume, the fragment ends with the sentence: “When the winter is over and the blue bells appear the woodland fairies celebrate the arrival of spring”. The next page contains the “Fairy Magic Zone” with the AR marker and a note urging the reader to be quiet because the fairy is asleep. The projection, however, shows the fairy fully awake; the reader can put her fast asleep (as the instructions inform), and only then wake her up. Furthermore, once awaken, the fairy cannot be put to sleep again – but it can be woken up (from being awake…) again and again. The last interaction on that page lets the reader make the fairy play her flute (by pressing the down arrow key 5). Should it be understood as a part of the spring’s arrival celebration (mentioned earlier in the text) or is it just an illustration of what woodland fairies do after waking up? Hard to say…

The “Be it” mode and mobile devices give us other interaction possibilities (as demonstrated clearly by PoparToys’ publications): they let us grab a part of the fictional world and make it a part of our surroundings. We can take a tarantula from the Bugs 3D book, put it on our friend’s arm and take a photo. Using AR cards included in the book (and also sold separately), we can play with all the characters in the story. We can see ourselves with the face of an ant or any other protagonist of the book (using a “Be It” card). Is this, though, somehow related to the act of reading? Is this diversion anything more than just an amusement? Are the virtual puppets really different from the material puppets we can buy as merchandise any time a Harry Potter story appears in bookshops and cinemas? I do not think so. They only seem to be yet another examples of products of the convergence culture (it should be added here that some of the AR publications I have examined – such as Ice Age – form a part of transmedial story comprising, among others, cinematic production).

Nonetheless, it is hard to underestimate AR publications. They are something new. And they do gather very enthusiastic reviews from some corners of the industry. Scott Jochim, Popar Toys CEO, explains why children love them:

because not only can they read a book, they can see the book come alive. They can become the book. At a half or a third of the price of a video game. The parents like to buy it because, again, it’s a book (Haley 2012).

It is true – AR publications are magical, fascinating and make the bookish world alive. And in consequence they provoke the “wow-effect”. They offer readers a truly new kind of experience. But this is because of the technology, a new one, not because of the success of its implementation in deepening the literary dimension. In many cases this technology does not serve to deepen the literary aspect and it is used to make illustrations more attractive, to present the information given in the book in a more attention-riveting mode (so – to duplicate it). It is a good moment to recall the other description of AR books quoted before: they are “interactive pop-up books”.

When we start playing with augmented reality, we often stop reading. Cannibalism, understood as proposed by Funkhouser in 2007 (and widely discussed since then), is in this case not creative and the technology devours the literary wor(l)d (Funkhouser 2007). Or – as aptly pointed out by John McKenzie and Doreen Darnell – the technology serves rather to enhance the illustrative aspect of the work, not the literary one (McKenzie, Darnell 2003). It certainly makes pop-up books more new-media and attractive to actual readers. But at the same time it limits the works’ literary aspect. By stressing this point I do not want to deny the potential that AR technology has for literature. I only want to emphasize that we witness the early days of books that are starting to use this technology and that there are still many things to be found out and discovered.

Augmented and/or killed literariness

In 2003, John McKenzie and Doreen Darnell were looking for the same thing as I was in my brief research on AR books summarized above: they were trying to find out how to tell a story with this technology. We agree in our conclusions: enhancing storytelling with AR technology is still the challenge (McKenzie, Darnell 2003, 6). The majority of books I came across do not use the narrative potential either of the literary book or of the AR technology because, rather, they are informative books, AR-illustrated encyclopedias: Bugs 3D, cataloguing information about various species of bugs, Dinosaurs alive! – about dinosaurs. The ones that do present a fictional world (as Fairytales Magic) use the same means for the same effect. It is thus logical that there is no narration. And that we do not enter into the story world – because there is no story.

Furthermore – even in the, still rare, AR publications that try to abandon the encyclopedia modus and enter (at least partially) the storytelling world (e.g., the latest Carlton or PoparToys publications, such as Disney Princess or Princess and her Pale) the AR technology does not serve to tell the story. When we are invited to interact and – for example – help Rapunzel braid her hair, it does not matter in the princess’ world, it has no impact on the development of the story (Disney Princess). While allowing the reader to interact with the characters, in none of the AR publications I have analyzed does the reader have the possibility to influence the story, the literary world or even to see a hero changed by them as a part of the literary world.

McKenzie and Darnell also examine the project of an AR book created by a group working with Billinghurst (and in collaboration with the writer Gavin Bishop) in Human Interface Technology Laboratory, New Zealand. This project, titled Giant Jimmy Jones, is an example of a literary application of MagicBook 6, which seemed so fascinating and promising as a theoretical project.

But despite the fact that this books is a classical narrative story, it turns out that it suffers from the same problems as the books previously described – the AR projections only duplicate information given in the text. And this is not all: we get the same information a third time, since the text is also read aloud. Therefore, the most problematic aspect of Giant Jimmy Jones’s literariness is the fact that when we see (as in the cinema) a movie-like story which is simultaneously being read aloud, reading as such seems absurd. The AR technology is, in this case, very dangerous to the words: it virtually devours them – they (and, consequently, reading at all) become completely unnecessary, as McKenzie and Darnell also point out (McKenzie, Darnell 2003, 27). Giant Jimmy Jones seems more like a movie presented on an unusual kind of screen. When we use the special goggles (part of the MagicBook interface) – the paper book changes into a screen and we can see a movie, complete with credits, based on the story which could be read in the book when goggles are not used. I am far from claiming that in the world of a post-medial aesthetic there are clear borders between (for example) literature and film, and I dedicate my research to what could be called transmedial literature. But if there is any border to be crossed, Giant Jimmy Jones has crossed it. In the form of AR-book it has lost its literariness.

AR books and AR literature

So, to sum it up, it should be said that AR books are gaining a foothold on the market and each generation brings improvements over the previous one. Many of the technological problems (only hinted at in this paper for the sake of brevity) making AR books irritating 7 are now resolved. Reading them becomes more natural, intuitive: the instructions – characteristic for the first AR publications – are now often omitted and the interaction is not as complicated as it used to be 8. In many cases publishers choose to add interaction cards to the book (instead of printed markers on pages) in order to eliminate the need for moving the book during the interaction (which was not always comfortable) 9. All these technological improvements are necessary, especially if the aim is to create a popular, widely distributed AR book series, and the people working on AR technology know it.

The development of augmented book prototypes still requires extensive time investments of very specialized experts – claimed Billinghurst in 2008. –Therefore these books are generally one-offs and the development times and costs hinder their wider distribution. Added to that, the modification of the standard publishing methods would be needed because of the integration different content types (e.g. auditory content, 3D graphics, etc.). Analyzing further, the development process of visually augmented books will contribute favourably to their production and to provide real accessibility to the end-user (Grasset, Dünser, Billinghurst 2008).

We are now witnessing AR books entering the market. We can see the technology being improved and perfected. And we are not only technologically ready for this new book technology. Thanks to all the technotexts, liberary texts which have been recently appearing in literature, we are also prepared as readers for the new literary experiences. But we still have to wait for AR literature: stories, narratives, other artistic texts (dramas and poetry besides prose) which use the AR technology to tell a story, not only to visualize it 10. What do the current AR books lack that we cannot call them AR literature?

First of all, these publications have to learn how to use their interfaces. How to use it not (only) to make the book more attractive and the act of reading more amazing, but also to complete, co-create the semantic dimension of a literary work. And (as McKenzie and Darnell point out) a good lesson in creating this kind of literary communication could be taken from the analogue literary tradition: from books which are more or less liberary, whose interfaces are not transparent and neutral, from the technotexts, from books expanding their bookishness. What is more – in this kind of literature the interface is not only non-neutral, but it participates in creating the sense of the work: the form in which the text is given does not duplicate information, but presents a part of it and that part could not be presented in any other way. Theoreticians of liberature explain this by underlining that we cannot change any part of the book’s format, omit any image (or even an empty space on the page) because it would change the sense of the text. As we could see – there is nothing similar to this relation in the AR books discussed in this paper till now: they use the AR technology to enhance the illustrations, the visual aspect of the book, to make reading more fun. Therefore, in their cases omitting the AR elements would not change anything in our understanding of the literary communication.

The current state of AR literature is therefore that there are now multiple projects in progress on the application of the AR technology to literature or – more widely: to storytelling (e.g. Caitlin Fisher’s projects) and various publishing houses which work with just AR books (possibly better described as AR pop-up books) give us promises of forthcoming AR classical tales (e.g. booksARalive by Baibuk). We are thus in the beautiful moment of waiting for great literary AR storytelling, which is probably not only possible, but is to come. The described situation (AR technology enhancing the visual aspect of books, but not their literary potential) provides an important context to the publication of “Between Page and Screen”. It is therefore also worth mentioning that this book (whose analysis will be the main topic of the next part of this paper) was published by Siglio, a publishing house specialized not in AR pop-up books, but in “uncommon books” – by which I mean that it offers mainly books exploring their materiality. All this seems important as the book by Borsuk and Bouse is strikingly different from other AR books published at the same time: it gives us a diametrically different example of AR technology applied to literature and the differences can be seen at first glance.

Dialogues between the book, the page and the screen

The best form for each specific story

While the main objection towards the AR books for children discussed above was that they duplicate the analogue text and image information through the AR projections, when we take the material book of Between Page and Screen in our hands – we cannot read it. The pages of this little square book only contain black and white markers – images which do not give to the human reader any information and can only be “read” only by a computer. So, first, we cannot accuse this work of duplicating analogue information (as there is no analogue information understandable for us). Secondly – when we invite a machine (a computer) to a co-reading with us and can finally see the AR projections and discover the literary text, it becomes clear that this time the AR projections are not merely illustrative in character since they are images built with words or, at times, they constitute a “normal” text. In both cases we read the AR elements rather than only watching them or playing with them (although the authors of the work consider its ludic aspect an important one as well).

Despite that heady background, the book is supposed to be fun – explains Borsuk in an interview – We did spend a lot of time thinking about the form and content, but we don’t want to beat the reader over the head with it. If we did our job right, the theoretical underpinnings buoy up the text and provide a second level of enjoyment beyond the reading experience (Shook 2011).

In the same interview Bouse underlines that, for him, “making the book delightful for the reader was the most important part of development” (Shook 2011). But – importantly in the context of the previously mentioned AR books – in this case the entertainment aspect was designed in such a way as not to obscure the work’s legibility. Its interface was projected to be as intuitive as possible: “I wanted the casual user to pick up the book, hold it to the camera, and immediately understand how it worked” – explains Bouse (Shook 2011). At the same time, though, this design puts many restrictions on the literary texts appearing in the projections: in order to keep them legible and understandable (no matter at which point the reader starts), many of Borsuk’s ideas had to be discarded (Shook 2011).

It is clearly visible that Between Page and Screen is unique, different from the previously analyzed works in many respects and that it is especially interesting to read in the context of technotexts, liberary works etc. I consider two aspects of the work particularly important in this discussion. Firstly, Between Page and Screen was designed from the start as a work in which the technological aspect was not simply added to an already existing text, but worked out simultaneously with the textual part in order to create a communication in which both dimensions create the meaning together. The authors emphasize in interviews that this aspect of their co-operation (many discussions about the possibilities of the medium and continuously verifying the result in order to modify the solution in case it did not function as well as predicted) had been very important in their work. Bouse recollects: “We discarded a number of animations because they weren’t legible or workable” (Shook 2011).

Borsuk explains that the idea for the text did not come first, with the technology chosen later. Neither has the technology been chosen only because “it looked really cool” (Shook 2011). There had to be an important reason to choose one option and another. So, even though Borsuk and Bouse had been thinking about co-creating a project earlier, they decided to cooperate in the case of Between Page and Screen because this time the digital aspect was deeply related to the poems, not only added to them.

The content and the construction arose together out of our conversations about augmented reality (AR) and the way it puts text between the page and screen – emphasizes Borsuk. – In thinking about the relationship this sets up between print and digital objects, we got the idea for an artist’s book that explores that between space. […] We wanted there to be a reason to use new media, and AR provided us the perfect marriage of print and digital that wouldn’t privilege one over the other, and that would highlight the importance of the reader in activating any book’s text (Poole 2012).

In my further discussion of Between Page and Screen, I consider the reason for implementing AR technology, for choosing this particular form of the book, to be one of the most important aspects. As Zenon Fajfer and Katarzyna Bazarnik explain in the case of liberary works – every story needs a special form: the only one which is suitable to this unique story 11. A similar emphasis on the role that the form of a book can play in literary communication can be found is expressed by Borsuk, who claims that “the book has some reason for the form it takes” (Poole 2012) and does not deny that Drucker and Hayles were her guiding spirits in thinking of the form (Shook 2011). Aware of the fact that there are thousands of “normal” books whose only reason for their form is convention, Borsuk declares that, when needed, she is “ready to turn to whichever apparatus best helps […] to tell the story I want to tell or explore the themes I want to explore” (Poole 2012)12). And this is she has done in the case of Between Page and Screen.

In this book, the relation between print and the digital objects (mentioned by Borsuk) is presented in the form of communication which takes place exactly between the page/es (of the book) and the screen (of used computer). At the same time, the emotional relation between the protagonists (Page and Screen as lovers), which forms the narrative of the book, can be read (and therefore exists) only between page and screen.Furthermore, the lovers’ relation has an additional dimension – a meta-textual one, since the work is also an analysis of the current condition of the book, bookishness and literariness (as also discussed in my further analysis of Borsuk and Bouse’s work.

Lovers’ skirmish is not a war

Using the dialogues between the protagonists, Between Page and Screen points out that the remediation of print does not have to be combined with the logic of liberating from old media, as underlined by Bolter and Grusin (Bolter, Grusin 2000). It shows that new media not only have much in common with the older ones, but that they also influence each other. Furthermore, this message is communicated through several dimensions of the work: by the verbal text, by its aural and visual aspects and by the book’s form. Referring to McLuhan and others, we can say that in this case the whole book (the literary text’s interface) is the medium and – consequently – is the message. Or – alluding to McLuhan’s publication of 1967 which, due to its form and the collaboration between McLuhan and Fiore, could be called a technotext – we can even say that the book’s form is in this case the massage, the “extension of the eye” (McLuhan, Fiore 1967, 36-37) which can activate all human senses. The correspondence between Page and Screen is cryptic, almost incomprehensible, because it is a truly mysterious maze of puns, homophones and word plays in which deciphering the knowledge of the shared Indo-European heritage of English is immensely useful. Each of the protagonists uses in their letters words based on the same root as their names, which is used to portray their personalities.

At the beginning it is Page who seems to be the more complaisant and calm one. Its letters to Screen, full of words with the same Indo-European root as the word “page” (pag- or pak- which means: to fasten or to join together), depict a character who does not want to fight and whose goal is to find shared features with Screen 13. It declares directly: “I always wanted to fit a need” (projection 1), “my origin’s to join” (projection 5); likewise, all of the key, sometimes repeated, words in its letters (often used as a base for various aural and visual word plays) have the same Indo-European root, highlighting the aforementioned aspects of hero’s personality. To further this interpretation, one should also have in mind the root form *păk-, derived from the Latin pāx (which gives us words like: PEACE, APPEASE, PACIFIC, all used in Page’s letters) or the Latin pacīscī, meaning “to agree” (whose descendants are such words as PACT or PATIO, also used by Page) (Watkins 2000, 61). So, all this etymology-based word plays emphasize Page’s peaceful personality.

Screen seems to be the opposite of Page and describes itself with the words: “My best subject was always division; I like partition” or “I own both sword and plowshare” (projection 7). It also declares: “I am that Scaramouch”, evoking the traditional character of commedia dell’arte, who certainly cannot be said to have been peaceful and quiet 14. Generally, the protagonist characterizes itself by words related to fighting and all opposite to joining. All of them share the root –(s)ker (or its variations), meaning: to cut (Watkins 2000, 77-78), which simply underlines the non-pacific character of the lover. Quoting a whole passage from “The American Heritage of Indo-European Roots” by Calvet Watkins (Watkins 2000, 78), Screen reminds that the Old French (eskermir – to fence), Old Italian (the aforementioned scaramuccia) or Old High German (skirmen – to protect) roots of its name also lead us to words related to fighting. It also reminds that the word SCREEN came from the Middle Dutch scherm (Eng. shield). Screen, depicted through all these words denoting protection and defense, is therefore clearly shown as very different from the peaceful, acquiescent Page.

But, as we progress through the puns, it becomes clear that Page’s and Screen’s personalities are more complicated and that they are not just simple opposites. Already in the first projection, Page shows a more aggressive part of its personality. It says: “It’s my character to pin, impinge, a twinge of jealously (that fang tattoo)” (referring also this time to the roots of the common words); in one of the subsequent projections, it declares: “Paper cuts too”. This can also be seen in one of the sentences quoted earlier, when words sharing the root with Page’s name are used as a negation of what it wanted to do (in the phrase: “I didn’t mean to impale you with my pin – my origin’s to join”). So the etymologic word plays serve to deepen the meta-textual level of Borsuk and Bouse’s work by showing that even the etymology emphasizes similarities between the page and the screen and shows that there are some things that join them. Their relation is characterized as more complicated than simply being the opposites. Page describes its double personality saying “that root, PALUS, leads both ways: to palisade and pole, but also travel and travail” (fifth projection), pointing out in this way its less static, peaceful and placid character. It also declares to Screen, who had confessed that as the always-fighting one it had had many scars and scabs (second projection), that “scabs can be peeled back” (fifth projection). By indicating that the root of its name can also lead to words denoting aggressive acts (peeling away), associated rather with Screen, Page proves that the lovers are not so diametrically different.

On the other hand, as Page explains to Screen: “a screen is a shield, but also a veil – it’s sheer and can be shorn”. Therefore, we are shown the other side of Screen’s personality, with the root of its name used to underline that duality. Screen turns out to be at least partly delicate and sensitive, potentially not always attempting to be cruel. Screen’s own words also emphasize this aspect – at the beginning (third projection), it admits: “I didn’t mean to cut, but it’s my stripe, my type, I’d rather shear than share. I wear a scarf to hide my scars”. In an attempt at defining itself, its lover and their relation, Page analyzes their mutual influence. In the first projection we find a confession addressed to Screen: “I fast, I fasten to become compact, but listen, that’s only part your impact”. Therefore, for Page – to define itself – it seems important to distinguish which of its characteristics come from the culture of print and which are consequences of the transformation of print under the influence of electronic literature and screens replacing paper pages. It means that it defines itself in relation to the screen. The characteristic features of the media evoked in Page and Screen’s dialogue (and also defined through the etymological word plays) suggest that they are still in close relation, influencing one another. Moreover, their words prove that they define themselves in mutual relation (while underlining the differences, as clearly seen also in Screen’s words in the twelfth projection).

As lovers, Page and Screen take their feelings into account. Although their romantic games have the character of a skirmish, they do not intent to be cruel, to hurt each other. The irony hides a real affection; the goal is to join, not to divide. That is why Page is concerned about how its words affect the Screen and worries: “You blanch. I didn’t mean to impale you with my pin” (fifth projection). Moreover, it explains that all it does (the actions showing both sides of its personality, different but described by words derived from the same root), is done without the intention to fight or hurt Screen. The promise of peeling away Screen’s scabs is preceded by the request: “Let it [Page unintentionally impaling Screen – AP] lapse” (fifth projection), as Page does not want to leave any mark of negative emotions on their relation.

The text as the fruit of a media intercourse

The fifth projection includes letter providing some deeper reasons for this intention of not hurting the adversary. Ironic love games do not eliminate the need for closeness and affection. Page confesses that it wants “to plait our letters, keeping pace”, and this “plait of letters” could be seen as a symbol of the lovers’ unity, the moment in which two different media combine to create one text and become one (text’s) body. It could be read as the lovers’ intercourse.

In this way, the lovers’ dialogue in the letters finally gives us a description of what it is that exists between them (which Page tried so desperately to define and what for Screen was not so important to name). And this description applies both to the literal and the metaphorical aspect of their relation. Both lovers admit that the text is what unites them. But whereas Page calls it “rows of lines or vines that link us together” (the tenth projection), Screen remarks: “we share text’s fleshly network – your trellis and my tendency to excoriate, your fang and my carnassials” (the twelfth projection). Those declarations have a double meaning.

From one point of view, the new “incarnation” of the text and the play between the written and the virtual text is exactly what is between Page and Screen as the book’s protagonists. They attempt to describe a form of the text born between the covers of the material book and the screen. The co-creation of the text by Page and Screen is described already in the first projection. Page begins it with the words: “Let’s spread out the pentup moment”, drawing our attention to the slightly magical way in which each projection appears. Page then calls it a “pact”, emphasizes the mutual (Page’s and Screen’s) engagement. Their relation is a real co-operation in creating (presenting?) the text of Between Page and Screen. “There’s a neat gap between these covers – remarks Page to Screen, – a gate agape, through which you’ve slipped your tang”, which, as discussed above, I interpret as a metaphorical description of the lovers’ intercourse. In subsequent projections Screen is described as “currier” (twelfth projection), “apport” (fourteenth projection) – the one that somehow transmits the text, permits it to exist. But the Page is also needed.

The text emerging from what is between Page and Screen (between the media, between the lovers and between the paper covers and the electronic screen) is born in a co-operation but could not come to be without the third element: without the reader. Between Page and Screen could not function if there were no paper page, neither would it appear were there no screen to appear on. And nothing would happen were there no reader to initiate the whole process. As described by Timothy David Orme: “Between Page and Screen is a collaborative project between Amaranth Borsuk (poet) and Brad Bouse (developer). It’s also a collaborative project between the book and the reader and a computer” (Orme 2012).

From another point of view, the same excerpt gives us some meta-textual observations. The text also unites the page and the screen as media – both use it. And the page, in the case of a printed text, could be – as Watkins’ dictionary confirms – metaphorically described as the “trellis to which a row of vines is fixed”. Therefore – in the lovers’ dialogue it is emphasized that while the page needs a material form and ties a text to paper, the screen excoriates it, disconnects its flesh from the materiality. But although the electronic text is flesh-less, the etymology of the word screen reveals that many words describing corporeality share their roots with the word “screen”, particularly if we consider the variant form *kar- (e.g.: CARNAGE, CARNAL, CARNASSIAL, CARNATION) (Watkins 2000, 78).

Therefore, the newly created text, the text between the materiality and the virtuality (the augmented reality text), the text of Between Page and Screen is an example of a new materiality (which, as discussed above, is currently the topic of many theoretical debates). Although it is immaterial, every text (irrespective of its medium) has its own, potentially meaningful materiality, which is also underlined by evoking the etymology.

The last expression of the first projection (“our story’s spinto – no more esperanto”) gives us one more context. By evoking spinto, a powerful and dramatic lyrical voice, capable of handling large musical climaxes, it makes us think about the aural aspects of the text. On the other hand, the subsequent projection (which is a comment on the previous one 15) takes the form of a spinning ring from which we can decipher merging words with the same root: spin, spinto, pin into. The animation creates, at the same time, aural and visual word plays. So, the story which is spun in the Between Page and Screen, the lovers’ story, is told from the start in a form in with the aural and visual aspects of the text are not neutral: the text itself is spinning and we cannot read it without paying attention to the aural aspects of the looped phrase. What is more, the reader is from the beginning (with this very simple example) introduced to the strategy of etymological word plays.

But the reason behind Page mentioning Esperanto should also be explained here, especially as it gives us another interesting context of interpretation. In this passage, Esperanto is construed as unpopular, difficult and – as every artificial language – an unintuitive one. So if the lovers declare “no more esperanto”, it can be understood as a confirmation that the text co-created by them will have no artificial, difficult to understand form but rather an intuitive one. This is especially relevant if we remember that intuitive interaction with Between Page and Screen was so important for Bouse.

The form in which the text of Between Page and Screen is presented is, though, not “normal”, as it breaks at the same time with both the format of a classic book and that of an electronic one. Despite the fact that the interface is intuitive, it provokes the reader to find a new way of reading, to give up all conventions. By this I mean that Borsuk and Bouse’s publication does not use the artificial convention of a literary text’s interface (and literary communication in general), which has by routine become intuitive for us, and refreshes the book format, showing that a volume can be as powerful and interactive as electronic screens 16. We could even say that by a defamilarization of the format of a book (as well as by underlining the aural and visual aspects of language), Between Page and Screen reinstates questions formulated by theorists of language and literature of the first part of the 20th: questions about literariness, about the code of literature, about literary signs and structures.

IV. Materiality, literariness and liberariness

1. Material narratives and the defamiliarization of the book

The aural and visual word plays and puns of Between Page and Screen could be read in the context of the linguistic turn, which paid great attention to the duality of the sign. The paradoxical impact (as phrased by Drucker 17) of Ferdinand de Saussure should be mentioned here because it was the continuators of his thought who dismissed the arbitrary (and therefore artificial) relation between the signifiant and signifié by exploring the role of the aural aspects of words. Their successors, mainly Jan Mukařovský, took the next step by drawing our attention to the fact that the aural aspect of the text is clearly related to the material one. In this way Mukařovský emphasized the real (and not only the virtual) materiality, corporeality of the sign (also a literary one).

Going back to the Russian formalist analysis of literary texts, we can recall the term spoken narrative (skaz), by which, for instance, Boris Mikhailovich Eikhenbaum described Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat. The essence of Gogol’s prose is that it could not be told in any other way and that it could not be read without taking into account its aural aspects (and puns), which constitute one of the most important levels of the text. Neither could any literary form mentioned in this paper (technotexts, cybertexts, liberary texts, texts characterized by the aesthetic of bookishness, and Between Page and Screen) be read without paying attention to their material aspects. Therefore, they could be described as material narratives, not only in reference to Hayles’ conception, but also in reference to the previous, formalist theory. In all these cases the interplay between the (aural, material or both at the same time) signifiant and signifié is key to understanding the literary work. The essence and the meaning of what I have called material narratives is elusive if we do not look at the material form of the signs used.

The analysis, though, does not stop here; often even the material form of higher level signs, the dynamic structures (as Jan Mukařovský called them) should be taken into consideration. It is worth to point out here that the book form, the literary interface, could be – in my opinion – regarded as such sign. Moreover as underlined by Mukařovský, we should remember that all elements of all levels of a sign, defined in this way, are significant and interconnected. In other words – there is no words skin (no book form, no interface) without a connection to the words, their meaning and to the meaning of the whole message created with them. All these arguments – not always expressed directly – are echoed by the theoreticians cited in this paper or can be derived from the quoted works 18.

In the context of these interpretations, one should also take note of other statements of formalists and their successors. Eikhenbaum postulates that it is the possibility of feeling the form of a literary work (and a similar phrase is used by Roman Osipovich Jakobson) that constitutes the poetic function. In the words of Viktor Borisovich Shklovsky (just acknowledged here to introduce the formalistic context): the main device (technique) of literature is defamiliarization. In The Resurrection of the Word, he speaks a lot about “dead words”, lamenting: “now words are dead, and language is like a graveyard”. The main reason for this state of affairs is the fact that people (when using words) treat them only as rather simple symbols and do not actually notice them, do not pay attention to their form and, consequently, are guessing their meaning and not deriving it from what they have read or heard. A reflection on the word and its form does not seems necessary because the symbols are thought to be arbitrary. And, consequently, it is forgone even when it would have been really essential.

When words are being used by our thought-processes in place of general concepts, and serve, so to speak, as algebraic symbols, and must needs be devoid of imagery, when they are used in everyday speech and are not completely enunciated or completely heard, then they have become familiar, and their internal (image) and external (sound) forms have ceased to be sensed – writes Shklovsky. We do not sense the familiar, we do not see it, but recognise it. We do not see the walls of our rooms, it is so hard for us to spot a misprint in a proof — particularly if it is written in a language well known to us, because we cannot make ourselves see and read through, and not ‘recognise’ the familiar word (Shklovsky 1975) 19.

The so-called defamiliarization (estrangement) disrupts this automatic, mechanical process of reading and understanding (guessing the meaning) which kills the words and the literature. It can be achieved by confronting the reader with something which cannot be processed automatically (or which, if processed in this way, makes no sense and provokes the reader to stop for a moment and think).

At this point we should recall that this paper began with Higgins’ statement about words which “are not dead”. Is the process of “changing words’ skins” a kind of an implementation of the device of defamiliarization? Could we say that texts with non-neutral interfaces cited in this paper are just breaking the automatization of the interface? And is Between Page and Screen an example of estrangement? In my opinion, the answer to all these questions is “yes”.

I would say that in Between Page and Screen, defamiliarization could be seen at every level of the work. What is more, this concept effectively describes other aspects of the publication as well, those which are consequences of interpreting the book form (the literary text’s interface) as an (upper level) sign. All this leads to important conclusions about the p- and e-literariness.

So, firstly – the literary images present in Borsuk and Bouse’s work employ the device of estrangement. The vision of two diametrically different media being lovers and not opponents is unusual. The fact that they co-operate and that the junior one does not want to replace the elder one also seems odd. And Screen, who invokes the tradition of printed visual literature to implement it in its self-description, is a yet another defamiliarized element.

Secondly, the aural form of the texts comprising Between Page and Screen (let us recall here all the word plays with etymology discussed above) is a clear example of what estrangement can be. It seems important that this level of the text is really “Gogol-like”. Because the words do not sound as “normal” and the puns and other word-tricks interrupt the mechanistic act of processing, the text cannot be read automatically. We cannot “guess” or “recognize” the meaning – we have to deduce it from the whole form of the literary communication. For example, as discussed in this paper, we can appreciate the whole complexity of the protagonists’ characteristics only by suppressing the “automatic” reading.

Thirdly, it is indisputable that defamiliarization was applied to create the visual and the material form of the book. Neither the animated poems nor the material book (which cannot be read “normally”) can be processed “automatically”. One has to stop, think about the whole act of reading and find a way to correlate the letters – moving, metamorphosing or just spread in space – or even to discover the words 20. And this leads us to the last but not least thing – to the defamiliarization of the act of reading.

In the case of Between Page and Screen, even that, the simple act of reading, is unconventional. As previously discussed, it is a kind of a human-machine co-reading, with three necessary elements: the paper pages of the material book (which, as a book, cannot be read by human eyes), the screen of a computer (whichwill not display any text without the markers printed in the book) and the reader (who connects the elements and initiates the projections). The reflection about the media-text relation, which is one of the topics of Page and Screen, enters into the reader’s world. And they have to stop automating the “natural” act of reading.

2. From literature to liberature and from literariness to liberariness

Let us remember here that first published manifesto of a theory of liberature starts with the proclamation that “literature has exhausted itself” (Fajfer 2010, 23), which clearly echoes the famous words of Roland Barthes. For Fajfer, liberature could be seen as a remedy for – let us use here the other phrase mentioned in this paper – the “death” of literature, which is in his opinion caused by the “split between the structure of the text and the physical structure of the book, and identifying literature only with the text” (Fajfer 2010, 23). The so-called “total literature” could become the “resurrection” of the words. As Fajfer explains :

I believe that the crisis of contemporary literature has its roots in its focus on the text (in negligence of physical shape and structure of the book), and within the text, the focus on its meaning and euphony. It is indeed extremely difficult to come up with something original when one pays attention only to the above-mentioned aspects of a literary work. Even then, however, it is not impossible. There are still areas that have been hardly explored and others where no littérateur has ever set foot – true literary El Dorados (Fajfer 2010, 23).

The similarity to Shklovsky’s essay and other theories discussed above can be clearly seen. Furthermore, we can observe that no matter in which medium a literary text is presented, the same metaphors for what Hayles calls a non-neutral interface recur, with Coleridge’s words echoing in them. Loss Pequeño Glazier, who describes electronic literature as a continuation of some of the experimental practices of printed literature (Glazier 2002) and – as Hayles points out – “makes a strong case for electronic literature as an experimental practice grounded in the materiality of the medium” (Hayles 2008, 18), discusses the problem in the following manner:

Does the poem (or the prose) treat language as a transparent bearer of meaning? [...]It is realized through an investigation of the material elements of writing in the given medium. In other words, from the viewpoint of innovative practice, “literature” is not a heavenly liquid drunk from a crystal goblet. It is a struggle with the goblet that presents the problem – its smoothness, its temperature, the way the concept of the liquid is changed by being in the goblet (Glazier 2002, 171).

Similarly, Fajfer talks about “the book understood not as an indifferent word-holder external to the literary work, but as an organic component of the work” (Fajfer 2010, 94). Bazarnik further elaborates:

The book is not, as Milton called it, „a transparent violl”, or, as Ingarden insisted, a negligible material foundation, but an integral part of the literary work, a visible and palpable text occupying a certain physically delimited space (Bazarnik 2007, 192).

Therefore, there is something which relates electronic and analogue texts, and even Between Page and Screen, the AR book transcending medial divisions. It is exactly what I called (after Higgins) the non-invisible and non-imperceptible word skin. And the fact that there are (and always were) texts whose words had visible, tangible and palpable or buzzing “skins” is truly over-medial. This aspect is prominent in multiple theories of literariness and e-literariness and all those perspectives description very similarly to the definitions of literariness or the poetic function formulated by formalism and structuralism. Literary works characterized by this over-medial aspect are ones in which the signifiant is used to create an important part of the meaning and in which the signifiant of the top-level sign (as the whole text can be seen 21) is deeply involved in the text’s semiotic.

These kind of texts, of course, could be described by some of the terms quoted in this paper, such as technotexts, but I propose to call them liberary texts or, better (capturing the essence of the problem): texts with a liberary aspect. I suggest this because the liberary theory, formulated on the Polish ground in parallel or almost in parallel to the other theories cited in this paper, started with a – unnamed directly by Fajfer and Bazarnik – revolution in understanding the whole process of literary communication. The strong need for a redefinition of such categories as, for instance, the true material or CODE of lit/berature or the true medium or CHANNEL of lit/berary communication, identified by Fajfer in 1999, clearly shows that, in the face of some texts, we cannot see literary communication as we used to. As discussed, this is impossible because even though we are used to neutral, speechless forms of printed texts, which have for centuries been dominant in the history of print, there are cases which escape those boundaries, which are not, in fact, speechless. Neither are many of the electronic interfaces. If we ignore this new formula of artistic communication, our reading will be as cruel as skinning the words alive. Furthermore, without analyzing the meaning of those meaningful skins, we will not understand the message, because – as was noticed many years ago – the medium/the interface/the skin is the message.

The theory of liberature pertains to material books. Since many similarities were noticed between what was called liberature and e-literature, the term “e-liberature” was suggested. Despite having been one of those who opted for the use of this new term, I am now convinced that this was not a good idea – mainly because in this way we make the boundaries of the term “liberature” less visible, less clear. In my opinion, it will be much more useful if, instead, we derive the terms: “liberariness” or “liberary aspect” from the theory proposed by Fajfer and use them to describe both analogue texts and, if needed, also the electronic ones.

First, we will not have to decide then whether or not something is liberature – and making this distinction has always been difficult, because there have always been texts which were more or less liberary. Moreover, the gradable and adjectival form of the term permits to compare different texts, even across different media – which leads to the second, more significant benefit from this perspective.

Because the proposed category is transmedia, it permits to capture the essence of what was discussed in this paper: the non-neutral interfaces of literary texts written in any medium, “the visible skins of words”. And as underlined by many researchers – nowadays a literary piece in any medium can assume this character since the various media are influencing each other. What is more, this perspective does not only unite e-literature and p-literature (especially the part of the latter that was characterized by Pressman through the “bookishness” category). The works which – as AR books do – integrate the material, printed book with the electronic text, also need a term to describe their specific literariness and materiality. I have not found nothing better than the category of “liberariness” to deal with this need. Finally, the term, playing with its own etymology 22, seems also perfect to describe Between Page and Screen.

I am convinced that AR books should enter the mainstream discussion of literary materiality. Borrowing Higgins’ metaphor, we can see that those books are really “changing their skins” in front of the reader and because of the reader. Of course, they do it when they use the AR technology to deepen the literary (not only the illustrative) aspect of the work (as Borsuk’s and Bouse’s publication certainly does). These kind of books also need terms describing their unique literary and material characteristics. I am not sure if Between Page and Screen is the best possible example of liberature. But I am sure that it is a great example of an AR-(literary) book and of the over/trans-medial literature with a liberary aspect.

Finally, we can also add something to the discussion of the “cannibalistic tendency” of e-literature proposed by Funhouser and cited in this paper. If we apply Funkhousers’s category to AR-books or maybe even regular printed books, we can speak of a “bookish cannibalism”. This “bookish cannibalism” does not have to be limited to e-literature; Print, for its part, can be seen as a technology which can creatively devour a part of literariness, becoming itself an important part of literary communication, one which cannot be omitted, passed over 23 And works with liberary aspects – among them AR books such as Between Page and Screen – are the best illustration of this claim.


  1. 1. As also discussed in Drucker’s later publications.back

  2. 2. I refer here not only to interactive literary installations (instrumental texts) such as Text Rain, but also to the much more popular mobile literary applications which allow the reader to interact with illustrations (like Pinocchio by Elastico) and printed books which speak to the reader by their texture (like Świątynia kamienia by the Polish author Andrzej Bednarczyk, which contains a real stone inside). All such texts involve what Bouchardon calls “figures of manipulation” (Bouchardon 2014).back

  3. 3. As I am comparing new media literary practices to print ones, it might be better in this context to use, instead of the category multimedial, the term (proposed by Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen in Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication, 2001) multimodal, as understood by Grzegorz Maziarczyk in his The Novel as Book. Textual Materiality in Contemporary Fiction in English (2013). Multimodality seems more useful than transmedial descriptions because it permits describing usage of different levels of text materiality (ex. words, images, photos, page typographic arrangement or book construction) in one medium (as print) whereas they could also been used (even in the same configuration) in the other medium. back

  4. 4. And, as the back cover advertisement explains, you always can close the paper covers if you are too horrified by the dinosaurs. back

  5. 5. Actually the most popular form of interaction with AR-projections – used also in newest Carlton Books publications – are AR-cards, keyboard use, which is a little inconvenient, is not necessary. [6] The full documentation of the project (sufficient to observe some puzzling aspects) is available on Youtube ( back

  6. 6. back

  7. 7. Exemplified by, but not limited to, incoherent illustrations (in “Dinosaurs Alive”, for instance, there is a dinosaur which does not open its jaws when roaring). back

  8. 8. It is sometimes made easier on mobile devices. back

  9. 9. This fact seems important as Billinghurst (having been working with AR technology for almost 20 years) underlines that good AR technology implementation offer the user an experience which is intuitive and in which there is no training necessary back

  10. 10. It is worth to underline that in the quoted excerpt Billinghurst uses the phrase “visually augmented book”. back

  11. 11. So, in the case of “Oka-leczenie” (regarded as a key liberary work), they choose an invisible text form to tell about that which cannot be seen. They also choose to compose the book of three volumes combined in a way that the one which describes what is between death (the topic of the first volume) and birth (the topic of the third volume) is situated exactly between the other ones. But, as this part of our life (the time between death and birth) is considered a “normal” one and we is often unnoticed, the second volume cannot be seen at first glance due to the fact that it is supposed to be opened from the opposite side. For more on this book, see Przybyszewska 2014. back

  12. 12. Also quoted by Borsuk as an example of an inspiring work (Poole 2012). back

  13. 13. Page also wants to define the relation between the characters in this way. back

  14. 14. It could be added here that the Italian Scaramuccia (Eng. Scaramouch) means “skirmish”, and this is exactly the word used to describe Page’s and Screen’s correspondence in the book. The name, of course, has the same PIE root as the hero’s name. back

  15. 15. This is a rule in the whole book: the animations develop the letters presented in a classic way. back

  16. 16. Pressman talks here about bookishness. back

  17. 17. Drucker points out: “The peculiar construction of the materially insignificant but materially based nature of signifier is essential to the paradoxical structure of Saussure’s sign” (p. 22). And she adds: “De Saussure created a difficult-to-resolve paradox between a sign independent of all materiality and also dependent upon it” (p. 27). back

  18. 18. From the Polish theory of liberature one could quote here Radosław Nowakowski, who posits that we have to remember about the corporeality of letters, which are not speechless (Nowakowski 2002). Similarly, it is worth to underline that the liberary sign was described by Katarzyna Bazarnik as one which joins and uses, in the process of communication, all levels of the signifiant and signifié (Fajfer 2010: 162-163). back

  19. 19. Shklovsky’s essay Art as Device speaks about the automatization of our lives in greater detail. back

  20. 20. The intuitive reception about which Bouse was dreaming is certainly something difrent that automatic reception. back

  21. 21. E.g. the book form in the case of print literature. back

  22. 22. “Liberature” (and “liberariness” or “liberary”) openly plays with “literature” (and “literariness” or “literary”), underlining that every liberary work is designed to be read because it is an instance of a literary work. The Latin roots of word “Liberature”, however, should be noted as well: 1. lĭběr, lĭbri: a book (being the central element of liberary theory) 2. līběr, līběră, līběrŭm: free (because the liberary author should be free from all conventions, including the convention of a book form), and 3. lībră, lībrae: balance (because every element of a liberary text, even of its book form, is scrupulously balanced). back

  23. 23. It could be illustrated by Fajfer’s words from 2002: “The physical object ceases to be a mere carrier of text;/the book does not contain a literary work, but/ it is itself the literary work” (Fajfer 2010: 44). back