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Writers.net: Every Writer's Essential Guide to Online Resources and Opportunities

Author: Gary Gach
Publisher: Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1997
Review Published: August 1997

 REVIEW 1: Will Winton
 AUTHOR RESPONSE: Gary G. Gach

Dear Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies:

I am indeed honored to have my title Writers.net chosen as your book of the month this month. Yet I must confess being no less unclear as to Will Winton's intentions as he seems as to mine. As Mr. Winton didn't mention my book's chapter "Net Writing" -- on collaboration and "the art of hypertext" -- nor the book's ongoing forays into cybercultural matters, I'll proceed to what seems the heart of his review, and then venture forth into more general matters, that they might add to your cybercultural project.

Your reviewer states my book's most "troublesome shortcoming" is that the Web is a rapidly moving target and that his "most cogent and logical criticism" is that the book seems more suited as a Web site than a printed text. Yet he fails to mention, firstly, that the book has online updates. Another lacuna: the +150 resources in the chapter on research are "surfable" as an online sample. (The chapter was written with that use in mind -- and of interest to most Netizens.)

Furthermore, Mr. Winton didn't acknowledge the book's third online component in the form of a mailing list, for reader-writers/writer-readers, and where additional updates are also frequently made. All of this is mentioned in the book and in the book's home page.

But more substantive perhaps to students and scholars of cyberculture is Mr. Winton's lead, comparing Net books to FAQs and my own book to user guides. Question: Did Faqs evolve into newsgroups, as Winton states, or, rather, vice-versa, did newsgroups prove the incubators for the subsequent Faq phenomenon? (There must first be the occasion for the questions being asked frequently enough for them to be elevated into Faqdom.)

Moreover, the rise of the Web did not result in Faqs becoming books, not by a long shot. Logically not, since Faqs are essentially written collectively, evolving over time. And most computer book writers don't necessarily have much of a handle on what their readers' frequently-asked questions might be, unless they teach the subject, or "beta-test."

Historically, it was the computer manuals' incomprehensibility to the average user (aka "the manual from hell") that gave rise to, first, _DOS for Dummies_ -- which unexpectedly outsold Grisham, Schwartzkopf, and King -- and thence the whole outsourcing of documentation, if you will, on the part of publishers. Thus the subscriber to AOL buys a book from a completely separate entity. Indeed, the whole phenomenon would reward deeper attention. (One avenue research might be the online forum for Computer Book writers, lawyers, editors, salespeople.)

A note as to my intention. Mr. Winton presents my book as a user guide: I'd say my previous book, the first mass market pocketbook Net guide, exemplified that "genre" much, much more. The subject title here is shelved, rather, under Writing. Furthermore, Mr. Winton pegs my audience as the "would-be writer," whereas the book's cover states it is for "established writers, beginners, and all lovers of words." Indeed, most of the book is for readers as well as writers, of the Net's text-based, content-driven attractions. (I.E., what might in the future be found on the smart phone, with games and entertainment, on the other hand, available on WebTVs.) Since many Internauts go online for news, the chapter on Net Journalism will be of interest to many, genre fans can find their genres online, etc.

No mention was made of the book's mapping and outlining efforts, differentiating "interactive" and "multimedia" as well as "news(un)papering" vs. "news paperless," etc. My readers will thus easily grasp, say, last month's squabble between Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com: "world's largest bookstore online" vs. "world's largest online bookstore" (respectively). Plus various gradations and permutations between paper and digital.

Lastly, my proclivity for posting epigraphs at chapter heads might indeed have been influenced by the Net and its atmosphere of intertextuality (where every other sig contains a quote) but most assuredly as well from Stendahl's Red and Black. I think an epigraph by Charles de Gaulle from my Pocket Guide to the Internet sums up my duties in 20 words or less: "You have no idea how difficult it is to rule a country that has 242 different kinds of cheese."

Again, I hope this casts a light/casts a shadow, of possible use to your community.

Thanking you for giving me an opportunity to publish my response to your review, I remain

Cordially yours,

Gary G. Gach

Gary G. Gach

<ggg@well.com>

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