Developments in print technology have allowed an ever-growing distribution and proliferation of written works, which now includes electronic literature.
Definitions of literature have varied over time. In Western Europe, prior to the 18th century, literature denoted all books and writing. Literature can be seen as returning to older, more inclusive notions, so that cultural studies, for instance, include, in addition to canonical works, popular and minority genres. The word is also used in reference to non-written works: to “oral literature” and “the literature of preliterate culture”.
A value judgment definition of literature considers it as consisting solely of high quality writing that forms part of the belles-lettres (“fine writing”) tradition. An example of this is in the (1910–11) Encyclopædia Britannica that classified literature as “the best expression of the best thought reduced to writing”.