When in Rom

John Sutherland

Ask what has been the single greatest influence on literary research since the Sixties and the answer might be the Xerox machine, the jumbo jet or Jacques Derrida. Ask what will transform literary research in the next ten years and a likely answer is The English Poetry Full-Text Database. This project, whose three serial instalments will be complete this summer, has reportedly clocked up almost a hundred sales. That may not seem a lot, until you multiply it by the unit price of £30,000 (£5000 cheaper if you got in early). Chadwyck-Healey is a commercial publisher and the sales figures are now well past break-even into substantial profit. More important, enough databases are available for the establishment of an academic information infrastructure – user networks, newsletters, bulletin boards, help groups and team research projects. All English departments in the UK will have at least one colleague who is nagging the library to buy it or is actually using it.

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