Categorisation is Difficult

Categorisation of digital literature is difficult. Are categories that were developed ten years ago still applicable? Digital literature has been available for twenty years but the way in which we access it and experience it has changed with developments in technology.

Unsworth (2006) suggests three categories:

  • Electronically augmented literary text that involves a print book with augmented online resources made available to enhance or extend the reading experience.
  • Re-contextualised literary text where a book is re-published online or on CD-ROM. These works are out of copyright and are free to access and are available through Project Gutenberg or other online libraries. They can also be stories provided and sold by publishers in formats such as audio books, CD-ROM.
  • Digitally originated literary text is available in digital format only on the web or CD-ROM and consist of e-stories for early readers, e-narratives and interactive story contexts with elements such as maps and factual information, hypertext narratives with text and hyperlinks, hypermedia narratives with tex, hyperlinks and images used in combination.

e-readers and tablet devices have since provided more opportunities for the delivery and development of digital literature. With mobile devices and social media in mind, Lamb (2011) suggests five categories:

  • e-books are versions of linear texts for e-readers that feature tools such as dictionaries, search, adjustable font and note taking tools. Enhanced e-books of linear texts for the iPad, iPhone and other mobile devices that feature images, weblinks, and embedded media.
  • Interactive storybooks started at CD-ROMs in the 1990s and are now available as apps with a linear story read aloud by a narrator often with highlighted text, ability to define words on the screen and explore visual elements. The option for the child to read the story or be read to using narration is usually available.
  • Reference databases are now available as apps and are non linear with organised access through search tools. Maps, photo galleries, audio and video feature along with bookmarking and note taking tools.
  • Hypertexts and interactive fiction are non linear and the story is accessed through hotspots or links. The reader is given options to move through the story.
  • Transmedia storytelling is a multimodal, multimedia story that is non linear and features participatory elements. Elements may include print, documents, maps, web clues, apps, mobile phone messages, social media connections, activities , games and media. These elements may not be in the one location.

I am finding it difficult to fit some of my reading into these categories. While many texts easily slot into Unsworth’s more general categories or Lamb’s more recent categories, others are a blend and could possibly fit into more that one category. Perhaps the broader categories proposed by Troy Hicks (2014) are more suitable to the present digital literature environment.

eBook-Comparison 2



Hicks, T. (2014). Read like a (digital) writer.  Retrieved from

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading Redefined for a Transmedia Universe. Learning & Leading with Technology, 39(3), 12-17.  Retrieved from

Unsworth, L. (2005). E-literature for Children : Enhancing Digital Literacy Learning.   Retrieved from  

2 Comments on Categorisation is Difficult

  1. Lyn Oxley
    August 23, 2015 at 3:18 am (6 years ago)

    I also had problems trying to categorise e-books and settled on “E-books and the Schools Cataloguing Information Service (SCIS)” as per my blog post

    My first e-book, Goosey, Goosey, Gander, doesn’t have a search function or ability to change the font colour, and doesn’t fit into even the first category in the e-book classification above. I’ve classified it under a General Material Designation (GMD) of ‘website’ as it’s viewed in a browser.
    Good luck with your 3 reviews.

      August 23, 2015 at 12:57 pm (6 years ago)

      Good to know it wasn’t just me Lyn 🙂