INF 2331H: The Future of the Book

Time: Wednesdays, 9:30 am - 11:30 am
Location: Bissell 507
Instructor: Alan Galey, Faculty of Information
Email: alan.galey, U of T domain name
Response time: usually by end of next business day, Monday-Friday
Galey office: Bissell 646
Galey office hours: Wed. 11:30 am - 12:30 pm (after class) & Tues. 1:00 - 2:00 pm (BL 646)
Course blog:


This course considers the history and possible futures of books in a digital world. In this course "the book" is interpreted broadly, meaning not just an object with covers and pages, but also an evolving metaphor for conceptual frameworks for knowledge, and a metonym that brings together many different technologies, institutions, and cultural practices. The course introduces students to interdisciplinary approaches such as book history, textual studies, history of reading, and digital humanities, with an emphasis on balancing theoretical speculation with practical implementation. Readings will survey topics such as the ontology of born-digital artifacts, critical assessment of digitization projects, collaborative knowledge work, reading devices (old and new), e-book interface design, text/image/multimedia relationships, theories and practices of markup, the gendering of technologies, the politics of digital archiving, the materiality of texts, and the epistemology of digital tools. Students will also receive a practical introduction to XML markup and visualization tools.

Note: although this course involves an introduction to eXtensible Markup Language (XML), the lectures and grading criteria do not assume any prior knowledge of XML on the part of students.

Students who have successfully completed the course will be able to:
  • use different disciplinary and theoretical frameworks to understand the changing form of the book from a range of perspectives;
  • understand how specific technologies, such as XML and the EPUB format, affect the design possibilities, implementation choices, and preservation challenges inherent in various forms of digital text;
  • situate changes in authorship, publishing, and reading within historical, social, and cultural contexts;
  • apply theoretical and practical knowledge gained in the course to current debates regarding the digitization of print books, the dissemination of e-books, and experimentation with new forms of the book.
Relationship between Course Learning Outcomes and Program Learning Outcomes ( The future of the book is a topic that requires students to be able to apply a range of concepts, theories, and practices derived from a range of information-related disciplines (Program Outcome 1). The book’s historical centrality to the preservation and dissemination of human knowledge means that the evolving forms of digital books are a core concern for information professionals, especially those who work to ensure access to knowledge (Program Outcome 2). Understanding the changing forms of the book, from manuscript to print to digital text, requires a synthesis of theoretical and practical knowledge, linking theories of interpretation to specific encoding and digitization technologies (Program Outcomes 4 & 5).

Course materials

There is no textbook required for purchase for this course. All course readings will be made available via Blackboard.
The following resources are useful general introductions to different aspects of the course topic:
The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain. 6 vols. Cambridge University Press, 2002-2011. [online:; this link will take you to vol 1., but on the Cambridge Books Online page there should be a link on the right-hand side to the series as a whole]

The Cambridge Companion to Textual Scholarship, edited by Neil Fraistat and Julia Flanders. Cambridge University Press, 2013. []

A Companion to Digital Humanities
, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. []

A Companion to the History of the Book
, edited by Simon Eliot and Jonathan Rose. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. [online:]

Debates in the Digital Humanities
, edited by Matthew K. Gold. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012. []

Electronic Text: Investigations in Method and Theory
, edited by Kathryn Sutherland. Oxford: Clarendon, 1997. []

Electronic Textual Editing
, edited by Lou Burnard, Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe, and John Unsworth. New York: Modern Language Association, 2006. [online preview version:]

The Future of the Page
, edited by Peter Stoicheff and Andrew Taylor. University of Toronto Press, 2004. []

Rethinking Media Change: the Aesthetics of Transition
, edited by David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003. []

The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) P5 Guidelines:

TEI By Example:


15% Blog contributions (first evaluation)
20% Blog contributions (second evaluation)
25% Encoding challenge
40% Final paper

Assignments must be submitted via Blackboard by 5:00 pm on the due date. (The reason this deadline is set at 5:00 pm, not midnight, is so that the instructor has time to help students with any technical problems with the submission system.) Extensions will only be granted in the event of illness or emergency, and then only with appropriate documentation. Late assignments (defined here as an assignment submitted after the deadline) will be penalized by one full letter grade per week (e.g. from A to A-), for a maximum of two weeks. After that point, late assignments will no longer be accepted. Furthermore, late papers will not receive detailed feedback or comments. Written assignments that do not meet a minimum standard (in terms of legibility, formatting and proofreading) will be returned for re-submission, with late penalties in full effect.

All assignments are evaluated in accordance with (1) the University of Toronto Governing Council's Graduate Grading and Evaluation Practices Policy and (2) the Faculty of Information/s Guidelines to Grade Interpretation. The Governing Council policy is available at The Faculty of Information's Guidelines to Grade Interpretation supplement that policy and are available at

General assignment guidelines

The encoding challenge and final paper must be submitted electronically as PDF files via Blackboard. Except for portions of code, they must be submitted in double-spaced 12 pt serif font. Assignments at the graduate level should be free of writing errors. Be sure to proofread your work carefully before submitting, and refer to the Chicago guide on questions of grammar, punctuation, and usage. If you find writing to be a challenge, consult the resources listed under Writing Support below.

Referencing. The American Psychological Association (APA) citation style is the most commonly used one in academic writing in the social sciences, while Chicago and MLA (Modern Language Association) are the most common in the humanities (at least in North America). For this course, you will be expected to use Chicago's notes + bibliography format, as it is the referencing system most suited to the course topic. The Chicago Manual of Style Online is nonetheless an excellent writing reference for our course on matters of grammar, usage, and other writing conventions apart from citation. You can find it here:

Images. Students can include copyrighted images in their assignments as long as they follow the Canadian Copyright Act’s current exceptions for fair dealing, in that the images must only be used for the purposes of criticism or review, and each image must be accompanied by:
(a) the source; and
(b) the name of the author(s) (if given in the source)

Acceptable secondary sources. As graduate students, you will be expected to use a majority of academic (i.e. peer reviewed) sources when writing your term paper. Students are very much allowed, but not at all limited, to use course readings and other sources referenced in lectures in their own papers. Additional sources and relevant journals that are recommended by the instructor are also acceptable. However, students are strongly encouraged to track down those resources that are best suited to their specific area of interest or inquiry, rather than rely too heavily on those provided in class. Media texts (books, comics, television episodes, films, videogames, websites, etc.) can be used and referenced as needed, but should always be treated as artifacts of study and analyzed accordingly. Here's a good position to adopt:
"The materials of popular culture may become raw materials for our creative expression, vehicles for exploring aspects of our own personalities, and shared points of reference to facilitate social interaction. Anthropologists and historians look at artifacts as materials that encapsulate the values and practices of another culture. We can look at the contents of mass media as artifacts that help us to better understand our own culture. In both cases, though, deciphering an artifact’s meanings is a complex process, because the same artifact may serve multiple purposes, operate in multiple contexts, and become invested with multiple meanings." Reproduced from Henry Jenkins' (2000) Children’s Culture Study Guide
For cutting edge information, news, announcements, etc., popular press articles are acceptable. But these should be used to supplement or update rather than replace peer reviewed sources, and should never be used to explain a theoretical concept. They should also come from credible, verifiable sources, who have the credentials (whatever these may be) to back up their claims. Online sources are fine, as long as you can determine who wrote the content and for what purpose, and are prepared to defend the author's credibility and expertise if questioned. For example, if you define critical discourse analysis, your definition should not come from Wikipedia -- even if the Wikipedia entry happens to be a good one. That said, my definition of expertise is flexible. For example, if you're looking for parents' reactions to the Harry Potter phenomenon, an online forum where fathers, mothers and other caregivers discuss the Harry Potter books and films is an excellent source of expertise.

Academic integrity

The life of the mind depends upon respect for the ideas of others, and especially for the labour that went into the creation of those ideas. Accordingly, the University of Toronto has a strict zero-tolerance policy on plagiarism, as defined in section B.I.1. (d) of the University's Code of Behavior on Academic Matters. Please make sure that you:
Remember: plagiarism through negligence, as distinct from deliberate intent, is still plagiarism in the eyes of the University. Take notes carefully, use quotation marks religiously when copying and pasting from digital sources (so that no one, including you, mistakes someone else's words for your own), and document your research process. And always, when in doubt, ask.

Writing support

The SGS Office of English Language and Writing Support provides writing support for graduate students. The services are designed to target the needs of both native and non- native speakers of English and include non-credit courses, single-session workshops, individual writing consultations, and website resources. These programs are free. Please avail yourself of these services, if necessary.

Special needs

Students with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. In particular, if you have a disability or health consideration that may require accommodations, please feel free to approach the instructor and/or the Accessibility Services Office at as soon as possible. The Accessibility Services staff are available by appointment to assess specific needs, provide referrals, and arrange appropriate accommodations.

Credit: Some of the language in this syllabus has been adapted from Prof. Sara Grimes's INF 1240H (Research Methods) syllabus.

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