I was reading a review of John B. Thompson’s Books in the Digital Age: The Transformation of Academic and Higher Education Publishing in Britain and the United States at breakfast this morning. The review (by Eelco Ferwerda in the Dutch Academische Boekengids) discusses the fate of academic books in view of current developments such as Open Access and Google Print, and notes that Thompson does not devote attention to ‘social software’ such as weblogs, which will change the world of academic publishing — Ferwerda predicts that it will not be long before the first academic book is published that was initially conceived and written on a weblog.
While reading the review, I suddenly realized that I cannot really remember my first encounter with the internet. I remember an old 286 computer, and I remember the first time I wrote a tiny programme in DOS, but that was a long time ago. The internet was ‘invented’ in 1991, so I probably used it for the first time during my studies — I went to university in 1994 — but I cannot remember my ‘first time’. I do remember my first online course in the English department, in 1998. I remember the excitement about using the internet, discussion groups, and online material in that class; wouldn’t the first time I used the net have been just as exciting? Perhaps the process was so gradual that there was no ‘first-time’ feeling to it. Still, considering the changes the internet has brought, it is strange that I cannot remember. Can you?