First, in Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 34.1 (March 2009), Bert Van Raemdonck presents a very concise and accurate overview of the book, noting:
Kirschenbaum brings to bear on digital media a combination of interdisciplinary and methodological approaches that few scholars, if any, have combined up to now. . . . Kirschenbaum succeeds in turning highly theoretical and technical passages into a cohesive and inspiring story, rather than a mere enumeration of dry facts. (125-6; emphasis in original)
Second, Johanna Drucker (inaugural Breslauer Professor of Bibliographical Studies in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA) has reviewed Mechanisms for Digital Humanities Quarterly. Drucker's review is especially important to me, not only because she has long been someone I looked to as a mentor but also because she is one of the key contributors to the theoretical conversation on materiality that drives so much of what's in the book. She writes:
[Kirschenbaum] combines his training in literary and bibliographical studies, engagements with critical and cultural readings in media, and a wonderfully self-confessed geek-enthusiasm for figuring out exactly how things work. The result is improbably readable in its details and compellingly suggestive and significant in its overall argument. The book is also an exemplary demonstration of scholarly method for the emerging field of digital media studies. I’d make it required reading for any class in this field because of its interdisciplinary approach and rich documentation of sources.
She also picks up on the narrative element in the book, as did Van Raedmonck. At times during the writing I wasn't sure how closely I should flirt with obvious thematic corollary to the detective story; so I'm happy if I've managed to strike the right balance. Indeed, Drucker notes: "In fact, one of the great things about Kirschenbaum’s book is that he manages to turn his own fascination with the process of discovery into tales of mysteries that get solved."
Drucker concludes with a provocation that is worth broader discussion. Regarding the book's three main case studies, she writes:
But do any of these works have literary qualities that merit our critical engagement? If these weren’t digital texts would we read them as literature? For all my respect for these folks, I doubt it. Have any works appeared in digital media whose interest goes beyond novelty value?
To some extent this is a conversation that has already been pursued, for example in an extended exchange on the Institute for the Future of the Book's blog, as well as in the online response to this article in the Guardian. In my own case, I would want stick up for both Joyce and Gibson--I find both afternoon and "Agrippa" to be genuinely affecting works. I also find Kate Hayles's distinction between "literature" and "the literary" useful in this regard. Do readers have additional thoughts?