The electronic book is one metaphor for the various exciting products of an emerging fourth generation of media - hypermedia. This fourth generation is characterized by information stored and transmitted by extrasomatic devices. The hyperbook, embodying the unfamiliar principles of hypermedia within a familiar form, is one tool to help invite the general public into this fourth generation. It could be considered as a transitional tool, until the emergence of the B.O.O.K. - the electronic version of the hyperbook.
In our understandable excitement about the electronic book (Barker, 1990; 1991), we should not lose sight of the fact that this excitement is not universal. Indeed, only a small percentage of the population have even heard of the concept, and of those who have, as many perceive it as a threat as an opportunity.
We tend to dismiss those who ignore hypermedia as 'technophobes' and those who deplore it as 'latter-day Luddites'. However, they have very good reasons for resistance. They have often heard of wonderful new technologies which will revolutionize their lives and have been disappointed. Once bitten, twice shy; often bitten, very shy. There are perfectly good evolutionary reasons for resisting new things. As long as things remain the same there is no threat to survival. At a more mundane level, they simply cannot afford it - few people have a spare thousand or two dollars to buy the equipment to read a HyperCard stack on a floppy disc, far less for a CD-ROM player and a videodisc player to augment the stack with sophisticated sounds and images (Ambron and Hooper, 1990).
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