There are many features of traditional text that can (and should be) adopted in hypertext. Just think about when you are reading a textbook, for example. What are the features of the text that most stand out to you and are the most helpful? For me (and most readers, I’d assume) the most helpful features are: the headline, subtitles, keywords (or vocab) and captions to photos.
In hypertext, all of these features can be made active, through their own links. Instead of having to read through all the subtopics, for example, a discerning reader could jump (via a clickable subtitle at the topic of the page) straight to a section he or she needed to bone up on.
Likewise, instead of having a giant index or list of terms at the back of each chapter, with hypertext, you could create a check-box style list of words where readers could self-select only those words he or she didn’t know, and the hyperlink would lead to a pop-up (or other style) definition. Much better than a textbook with far fewer choices, in my opinion.
In hypermedia, the game expands even further. Imagine a dense introduction to a fiction novel, full of lush prose describing the setting and era of the scene. For readers with less background knowledge (or visual learners in general) you could have a brief intro video that showed the layout of the land, some of the costumes from the era, etc. I bet that most students would have better recall and higher levels of engagement if these sorts of changes were made to traditional texts. So…why aren’t we doing these things in schools? Why have we persisted in purchasing “old school” textbooks by the truckload that end up stolen, damaged or lining the shelves of a dusty stockroom? …Don’t ask me, as I find it makes neither sense nor cents.