Electronic Scholarly Editions

Kenneth Price’s “Electronic Scholarly Editions” -A Review

When reading Prices text, which can be found at ” http://www.digitalhumanities.org/companionDLS/index.html ” one must consider how qualified he is to write on scholarly editions, how can the reader be certain that all the facts and information he is imparting are true, as the article is brimming with very specific details. A quick search of Kenneth price shows us that he is very well suited to the task of reporting on the electronic scholarly edition. Price has served as co-director of the Walt Whitman Archive, and he also received a Digital Innovation Award from American Council of Learned Societies to advance work on editing Whitman’s Civil War writings. Thus proving himself as a reputable and trustworthy author.

Price gives a very detailed and well-informed account of the rapidly changing world of the scholarly edition. It does take more than one reading to fully understand and grasp what Price is trying to say. He seems to almost bury the reader in information in his eagerness to impart his knowledge. The subject matter is very interesting, however, it is almost lost in the rush of facts and data that Price gives. However, on the second, or third, reading what he is trying to say becomes much clearer, but you do need to have a basic understanding of TEI’s and XML’s as it can be a little inaccessible.

I found it fascinating that “digital world has achieved primacy only for [scholarly] editions”, leaving articles, monographs and collections of essays behind. Price seems to be vaguely surprised, but happy, about this fact, even though they are “often large in scope, requiring significant investments in time and money…[and] no one is expressing great confidence in our ability to preserve them.” What was also interesting was the idea of accessibility, Price obviously believes that in the sense of achieving a larger audience, the Digital world has the advantage over printed materials. While only approximately 1,000 copies of a book of literary criticisms would be printed, at least 7,639 unique individuals visited the The Willa Cather Archive in a month. This fact threw me for a moment as one must view it from both sides; online journals receive a greater audience, but, without a subscription fee this could lead to a net loss.

Price does discuss the massive advantage of putting multiple versions of writings in some electronic scholarly editions, like the Walt Whitman Archive. This allows the viewer to see the process of creativity that writers such as Whitman have gone through to create their writings. It is especially helpful for students and researchers who want to carefully examine the creative process of a particular writer, and not simply rely on what the publisher has deemed fit to print. Also, you the viewer are no longer restricted by what you can physically access, this is especially the case with medieval manuscripts and texts which have been scanned and are now online.


Price seems to fully believe in the limitless possibilities of the electronic edition, with the ability to put images, videos and audio into the electronic edition, something that the printed versions would not be able to have. He does seem very biased towards the electronic edition, as he tries to find ways in which these editions could come to greater prominence, with Government funding or a subscription fee. However, the reader can read the text and come away with a better understanding of the electronic scholarly edition, with the only major criticism being that it takes a few readings to be able to properly absorb the information given.



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