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What Is Online Literature?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Online literature typically refers to some form of literature, which can include both poetry and prose, published in a digital format on the Internet. This can include original works written and posted onto a website prior to any type of physical publication in book form. Online literature can also consist of written works that have been provided in a digital format by the author or publisher, as well as older works that are part of the public domain and provided online for readers.

There are a number of different ways in which online literature can be created, though it generally indicates that a work of writing has been provided online in a digital format. An original written work, for example, might be created by a writer with digital publishing and online posting as the intended format from the very beginning. The writer of such a work might take advantage of various aspects of the Internet and digital publishing, including the potential for the use of multimedia in such publications, to more dynamically tell his or her story. This type of online literature can be fairly popular and allows a writer to work around the limitations and restrictions of the publishing industry to publish his or her own work online.

Online literature can also consist of a work that has previously been published in a physical format, usually as a book, which has been converted to a digital medium. These works can be scanned in as digital images based on the original book publication or may be created as digital books that have been typed or converted from the original format. Such online literature has become increasingly popular with the proliferation of electronic reading devices and portable media players that allow such digital works to be more easily read away from a computer.

There are also fairly large databases of online literature consisting of written works that are no longer covered by copyright protection. These works are typically referred to as “public domain” and can be used freely by anyone who wishes to do so. If a publisher pays to have a public domain work published, then the publisher does have a copyright on that particular publication and it cannot be scanned directly into a digital format without violating that copyright. The actual text of the work, however, is not protected by copyright and so online literature libraries can be created simply by reproducing the original texts without violating a publisher’s copyright.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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