NEF - Le Livre 010101 de Marie Lebert - From the Print Media to the Internet

From the Print Media to the Internet (1999)
4. Publishers on the Web

4.1. Publishers: Examples and Directories
4.2. Do Authors Still Need Publishers?
4.3. Electronic Publishing

4.1. Publishers: Examples and Directories

A number of publishers chose to put the full text of some of their titles on the Web. There was no drop in the sales of these publications - on the contrary, sales increased.

The National Academy Press (NAP) was created by the National Academy of Sciences to publish the reports issued by the Academy and by the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Research Council. The NAP publishes over 200 books a year on a wide range of topics in science, engineering, and health, presenting the most authoritative views on important issues in science and health policy.

The NAP Reading Room offers more than a thousand entire books, free for reading, from the first page to the last, and available in a variety of versions, including scanned pages in image format, hypertext HTML books, and as Adobe Acrobat PDF files.

The MIT Press (MIT: Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is dedicated to science and technology. The MIT Press publishes about 200 new books a year and over 40 journals, and is a major publishing presence in fields as diverse as architecture, social theory, economics, cognitive science, and computational science, with a long-term commitment to the efficient and creative use of new technologies.

In the Project Gutenberg's Newsletter of October 1997, Michael Hart wrote:

"As university publishers struggle to find the right business model for offering scholarly documents on-line, some early innovators are finding that making a monograph available electronically can boost sales of hard copies. The National Academy Press has already put 1,700 of its books on-line, and is finding that the electronic versions of some books have boosted sales of the hard copy monographs - often by two to three times the previous level. It's 'great advertising', says the Press's director. The MIT Press is experiencing similar results: 'For each of our electronic books, we've approximately doubled our sales. The plain fact is that no one is going to sit there and read a whole book on-line. And it costs money and time to download it'."

Some sites maintain a directory of publishers, for example, Publishing Companies Online and Publishers' Catalogues.

Publishing Companies Online is the WWW Virtual Library list of publishing companies, classified in the following categories: academic publishers; computer book publishers; scientific, technical, medical (STM) publishers; electronic publishing companies; on-line publishing projects; and other commercial publishers.

Maintained by Peter Scott of Northern Lights Internet Solutions Ltd. in Saskatoon (Saskatchewan, Canada), Publishers' Catalogues has a very practical geographical index.

4.2. Do Authors Still Need Publishers?

The Internet has considerably reinforced the relations between the authors and their readers. In fact, do authors still need publishers? Thanks to the Web, a writer can now post his work, sell it or discuss with his/her readers without any intermediary.

Murray Suid is a free-lance writer of books (How to be President of the U.S.A., Moviemaking Illustrated, etc.), multimedia products (Oval Office, The Writing Trek), and screenplays (Now, Moving to Mars). He is also vice president of Monday Morning Books, an educational publishing company located in Palo Alto, California. He replied to my questions in his e-mail of September 7, 1998:

ML: "How do you see the relationship between the print media and the Internet?"

MS: "For one thing, the Internet serves other print media. [...] My recently published book, The Kids' How to Do (Almost) Everything Guide, would probably not have been done prior to the invention of e-mail because it would have cost too much in money/time to locate the experts. So the Internet is a powerful research tool for writers of books, articles, etc.

Also, in a time of great change, many 'facts' don't stay factual for long. In other words, many books go quickly out of date. But if a book can be web extended (living partly in cyberspace), then an author can easily update and correct it, whereas otherwise the author would have to wait a long time for the next edition, if indeed a next edition ever came out.

Also, in terms of marketing, the Web seems crucial, especially for small publishers that can't afford to place ads in major magazines and on the radio. Although large companies continue to have an advantage, in Cyberspace small publishers can put up very competitive marketing efforts.

We think that paper books will be around for a while, because using them is habitual. Many readers like the feel of paper, and the 'heft' of a book held in the hands or carried in a purse or backpack. I haven't yet used a digital book, and I think I might prefer one - because of ease of search, because of color, because of sound, etc. Obviously, multimedia 'books' can be easily downloaded from the Web, and such books probably will dominate publishing in the future. Not yet though."

ML: "What did the Internet bring to your professional and personal life?"

MS: "Professionally, the Internet has become my major research tool, largely - but not entirely - replacing the traditional library and even replacing person-to-person research. Now, instead of phoning people or interviewing them face to face, I do it via e-mail.

Because of speed, it has also enabled me to collaborate with people at a distance, particularly on screenplays. (I've worked with two producers in Germany.)

Also, digital correspondence is so easy to store and organize, I find that I have easy access to information exchanged this way. Thus, e-mailing facilitates keeping track of ideas and materials.

As for personal uses, the Internet has increased my correspondence dramatically. Like most people, I find that e-mail works better than snail mail. My geographic range of correspondents has also increased - extending mainly to Europe. In the old days, I hardly ever did transatlantic pen-palling.

I also find that e-mailing is so easy, I am able to find more time to assist other writers with their work - a kind of a virtual writing group. This isn't merely altruistic. I gain a lot when I give feedback. But before the Internet, doing so was more of an effort."

ML: "How do you see see your future life - professional and personal - in connection with the Internet?"

MS: "I'm not very state-of-the-art so I'm not sure. I would like to have direct access to text - digitally read books in the Library of Congress, for example, just as now I can read back issues of many newspapers. Currently, while I can find out about books on-line, I need to get the books into my hands to use them. I would rather access them on-line and copy sections that I need for my work, whereas today I either have to photocopy relevant pages, or scan them in, etc.

I expect that soon I will use the Internet for video telephoning, and that will be a happy development.

I do not know if I will publish 'books' on the Web - as opposed to publishing paper books. Probably that will happen when books become multimedia. (I currently am helping develop multimedia learning materials, and it's a form of teaching that I like a lot - blending text, movies, audio, graphics, and - when possible - interactivity)."

Esther Dyson is the president and owner of EDventure Holdings, a company focused on emerging information technology worldwide, and on the emerging markets of Central and Eastern Europe. The company produces the annual PC Forum and High-Tech Forum conferences. Since 1982 she has been the editor of Release 1.0, a monthly information newsletter which is considered the computer industry's most intellectual letter.

In 1997, her first book Release 2.0: A Design for Living in the Digital Age was published at the same time by several publishers in the world (Broadway in the United States, Viking/Penguin in the United Kingdom, Droemer Knaur in Germany, Shueisha in Japan, etc.). In this book, she explores the impact and implications of cyberspace: its effect on our daily lives, the responsibilities that come with our new powers, and the global issues the Internet creates. She also addresses the fundamental conflicts in the spread of digital communication: conflicts between personal privacy and society's interest in openness; between security and freedom; between commerce and community. At the same time, Esther Dyson opened a website to converse with her eaders. She will take her readers' comments into consideration in a paperback version, Release 2.1.

Jean-Paul, a musician and writer living in Paris, sent his comments in his e-mail of June 21, 1998:

"My future on the Web is more personal than professional. The Internet will allow me to do without any intermediaries: record companies, publishers, distributors... Above all it will allow me to formalize what I have in my head (and elsewhere), for which the print medium (micro-publishing, in fact) only allowed me to give something approximate. Then the intermediaries will take over, and I'll have to look somewhere else, a place where the grass is greener..."

4.3. Electronic Publishing

Since the seventies, the traditional publishing chain has been drastically disrupted.

The printing work traditionally done by pre-press shops was first weakened by the introduction of photocomposition machines. The text and image processing work began to be executed by advertising agencies and graphic art studies. The impression costs went on decreasing with the spread of desktop publishing, copiers, color copiers and digital printing equipment.The text and image processing work is now provided at low price by desktop publishing shops and graphic art studios.

Furthermore, digitization accelerated the preparation process of a publication, because the sub-editor, the artistic designer and the staff responsible for the make-up can now work at the same time on the same book.

During the ILO Symposium on Multimedia Convergence held in January 1997, Peter Leisink, Associate Professor of Labour Studies at the Utrecht University, Netherlands, explained:

"A survey of the United Kingdom book publishing industry showed that proofreaders and editors have been externalized and now work as home-based teleworkers. The vast majority of them had entered self-employment, not as a first-choice option, but as a result of industry mergers, relocations and redundancies. These people should actually be regarded as casualized workers, rather than as self-employed, since they have little autonomy and tend to depend on only one publishing house for their work."

Digitization makes possible the on-line publishing of educational and scientific publications, for which the latest information is essential. Some U.S. universities distribute specific textbooks gathering a selection of chapters selected in an extensive database and some professors' articles and commentaries. For a seminar, a very small print run can be prepared upon request with electronic scientific texts sent to a printer. Electronic publishing could also keep alive some academic publishers, and publishers issuing documents relating to very specific and specialized research, for which the printing of a document in a small number of copies has become more and more difficult for budgetary reasons.

At present, electronic publishing and "traditional" publishing - such as on-line bookstores and "traditional" bookstores, or cyberlibraries and "traditional" libraries - are complementary.

Even if electronic publishing considerably expands over the next few years, people will still find it convenient to have the paper version of a book or a magazine, perhaps until the digital books become really cheap. Nevertheless, the functions of traditional publishing will certainly have to be thoroughly redefined in relation to the development of electronic publishing and its considerable prospects, beginning with the low costs and the quick access to documents.

The Web has developed more and more interaction between the printed document and the electronic document, to such an extent that it becomes difficult to establish a frontier between the two supports, and it will probably no longer be necessary to make a distinction between them in the future. Most of the recent print media already stem from an electronic version on a word processor, a spreadsheet or a database. More and more documents are "only" electronic. Because of the development of digital libraries, there are fewer documents available in print. Those documents existing only in a print version can easily be scanned if necessary.

In his article The Future of Publishing, Kushal Dave, an avid computer and modem user and a high school freshman, stated:

"[...] the fully electronic document is coming into its own, thanks to the many benefits it provides. The cost is a magnitude lower than paper, while the speed is much higher. Michael Hart is the executive director of Project Gutenberg [...]. In an electronic mail dialogue, he cited the example of Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland. Not taking into account the cost of a computer (as little as $1000) since most people have them anyway, a copy of the book on floppy might cost a dollar. There is also no time spent publishing the document, once it's in e-text (electronic text) form it can be gotten almost instantly. On the other hand the cheapest possible paper copy of the book would be $5 because of the cost of printing, and printing would also delay its availability to the public. Electronic documents also have a better availability, since they can be reproduced infinitely and do not require leaving your house, thanks to low-cost modems. Furthermore, it is now possible to read Associated Press Reports as they are released, not in the next morning's paper, and you don't even have to pay the 25 cents. Cost, speed, and availability are just some of the compelling arguments for electronic publishing instead of paper.

Another advantage of electronic publishing is all the new possibilities it provides. Just about anybody can electronically publish anything. [...] Karin L. Trgovac, director of communications for Project Gutenberg, sums it up by saying, 'I think electronic publishing helps to level the field in terms of who can publish. Look at the range of people who have access.'

Fortunately, the increased variety of the documents does nothing to impede searches for particular documents. Services like Gopher on the Internet can lead you in the right direction, and within a document, searching is a snap. Just type in what you want and before you could find the index in a paper document, you'll have found what you want.

Thanks to feedback and other features, electronic documents are an example of the encroachment of interactivity upon the passive activities we hold dear. [...] 'Physical media just can't compete . . . [electronic text] just offers more 'bang for the buck', explains Hart.[...]

There are also many companies attempting to capitalize on the multimedia possibilities of electronic publishing. Sound and pictures are being incorporated in low-cost Internet World Wide Web 'publications', and companies like Medio and Nautilus are producing CD-ROMs that represent the new generation of periodicals - now music reviews include sound clips, movie reviews include trailers, book reviews include excerpts, and how-to articles include demonstrative videos. All this is put together with low costs, high speed, and many advantages."

Kushal answered my questions in his e-mail of September 1, 1998:

ML: "How do you see the relationship between the print media and the Internet?"

KD: "This is still being worked out, of course. So far, all I've been able to see is that electronic media undermines the print form in two ways: a) providing completely alternative presses that draw attention away from the previous strongholds and b) forcing the print publications to spend resources trying to counteract this trend. Both forms of media critique one another and proclaim their superiority. Print media operates under a self-important sense of credibility. And the electronic media operates under a belief that they are the only purveyors of unbiased truth. Thus, there are issues of niche and finance that need to be resolved. The Internet is certainly a more accessible and convenient medium, and thus it would be better in the long run if the strengths of the print media could be brought on-line without the extensive costs and copyright concerns that are concomitant. As the transition is made, the neat thing is a growing accountability for previously relatively unreproachable edifices. For example, we already see e-mail addresses after articles in publications, allowing readers to pester authors directly. Discussion forums on virtually all major electronic publications show that future is providing not just one person's opinion but interaction with those of others as well. Their primary job is the provision of background information. Also, the detailed statistics can be gleaned about interest in an advertisement or in content itself will force greater adaptability and a questioning of previous beliefs gained from focus groups. This means more finely honed content for the individual, as quantity and customizability grows."

ML: "What did the use of the Internet bring in your professional/personal life?"

KD: "The Internet has certainly been a distraction. ;) But beyond that, an immeasurable amount of both trivial and pertinent information has been gleaned in casual browsing sessions. [...]"

ML: "How do you see your professional/personal future or the future in general with the Internet?"

KD: "In my personal future, I'd like to get a B.S., M.S., and M.Eng, working in the industry for a while before moving on to write about the medium for some reputable publication. The future of the Internet in general I see as becoming more popular and yet more fraught with conflict over the growth of commercialism and the perception that the Net's devolutionary spirit has been undermined. There will also be a need to deal with a glut of information - already we see Internet search engines reinventing themselves to try to provide a more optimal and efficient portal."

Concerning taxation, an outline agreement was concluded between the United States and the European Union in December 1997, and this agreement should be followed by an international convention. Internet is considered as a free trade area, that is to say without any custom duties for software, films and electronic books bought on the Internet. The material goods and other services are subject to the existing regulations, with collection of the VAT for example, without any additional custom duties.

It has not yet been statistically proved that the large-scale use of computers and electronic documents will save paper, and therefore avoid or at least reduce the cutting of trees, as hoped by all those concerned by environmental problems. We are still in a transition period in which many people still need to print to read "better", or to keep track of a document in case the electronic file is accidentally deleted, or to have a paper support for their documentation or their archives.

Apart from its easy access and its low cost, the main quality of the electronic document is that, when it is regularly updated, the Internet user can benefit from the latest version. It is not necessary to wait for a new printed edition linked to commercial constraints and requirements from the publisher.

Chapter 5: On-Line Press
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From the Print Media to the Internet
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1999 Marie Lebert