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contained in a tiny CD-ROM disk that looks the same as a music CD you can buy for as little as $5. The total sales of electronic encyclopedia on disks are approaching their first million as I write, and sales are rapidly accelerating. Even People magazine, the epitome of popular print publishing, launched a CD edition in 1994.
Computer hardware technology is a powerful driving force also. The Apple Newton, shown in Fig. 1-5, and a whole new generation of other practical, yet very portable personal computers, is stimulating the publishing of all kinds of electronic books, not just reference works.
The situation is similar to what happened following the introduction of early personal computers into the business and consumer markets. These computers were at first regarded as having limited usefulness for most people, mainly operating specific software--spreadsheets, databases, and word processors--for particular tasks. But human creativity generated a wide range of software applications, enabling the personal computer to evolve into a multipurpose machine that launched a revolution in all forms of information processing and communications.
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Similarly, the software--with all kinds of electronic literature as a major player--will power the success of the hand-held PDAs comprising this new wave of hardware. The multibillion-dollar global enterprise that is driving hardware development must stimulate, as well as benefit from, an explosion in electronic publishing from the desktops of thousands of individual authors. The two go hand-in-hand, like the ubiquitous audiocassette tape and Walkman tape player.
To help those of us not fully computer literate, the book metaphor is being carried over into the new PDAs, since it is so familiar to those for whom keyboarding and on-screen cues to interfacing are alien. Computing is changing to become a mass medium, and moving information from print to virtual electronic forms becomes not so much revolutionary, as evolutionary.
For example, AT&T's EO hand-held computer is a very high-tech device, but still reflects its paper ancestors by presenting itself as a notebook, with table of contents and tabs like file dividers. You can write into it and read electronic publications from it by just tapping on the screen, to use it as easily as physically turning pages. Right in your hand you have a device that works like a book, but also has a stubby aerial providing you with a gateway to the Internet (Fig. 1-6) and other on-line services--without the need even to plug into an electrical or telephone socket. With the developments taking place in satellite radio links and the cable "information highways," such PDA devices carry with them substantial amounts of published material, and are always within reach of some of the world's best libraries and publishers when you want to download more.
This quick introduction to a vast new field of human activity, demonstrates that you cannot ignore electronic publishing if your business, professional, or leisure interests concern words, pictures, and information. It is real, here, now--and very exciting. Everyone who can read can use and enjoy the publications becoming available on disk--and those of us who write can become more actively involved as publishers.
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Anyone with a PC can now create and publish electronically to high professional standards, using very affordable software and hardware. Examples of some of the best programs are described in this book, or included on the accompanying disk. They enable anyone who can create text on a computer to compile their manuscripts into easy-to-use on-disk presentations that can include such features as hypertext, graphics, and executable programs.
Distribution, packaging where appropriate, and marketing are also covered in the following pages to help you participate in other major electronic publishing functions. You will learn the resources available now to liberate writers from the frustrations and inhibiting aspects of the traditional book- and periodical-publishing business.
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The really good news is that, if their content matter is competently put together and meets a need, electronically self-publishing authors can generate revenue, advance their careers, promote their businesses, or achieve whatever other publishing objectives they seek without purchasing additional outside services or equipment. Authors, artists, and other creative people are all being empowered by this new technology in ways never conceivable before.
Creativity and enterprise will flourish in this new medium--but it is not all good news. The ease of electronic publication brings challenges and problems also. It solves only one of the three main difficulties of authorship, "to write anything worth the authorship, to find honest men to publish it, and to get sensible men to read it," defined by the 19th century English writer C.C. Colton.
Self-publishing authors will encounter increasing competition for the attention of readers, so they must be even more certain that what they write is worth reading. Writers are being challenged also to adapt to radically different methods for the production, marketing, and distribution of their intellectual property, with the problem of appropriate pay for their work not yet resolved.
Receiving payments for works distributed electronically is a particularly difficult issue, discussed in detail later in this book. There must be new incentives for the end users--the readers--to pay, and for authors to be rewarded. The existing financial systems for print often do not work well for authors, and individual creative talent might fare even worse in the electronic media, where ease of copying is an inherent feature of the technology.
Consequently, the author of electronic books might have to accept, as thousands of shareware software program authors have done already, that most of those readers who benefit from your electronically
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published work will never pay you a penny for your efforts. For example, we are already seeing developments such as the on-line library bulletin boards that offer "all you can read for $5 a month." Electronic texts are copied and circulated through rapidly expanding formal and informal networks, which authors and publishers cannot monitor or control as they do the conventional book trade and public libraries.
The publishers of nonfiction reference works must depend increasingly for their revenues on "the second sale," as is the case now for many software publishers. They may give away, or heavily discount, their titles to generate a loyal base of subscribers who will pay to lock into an update or new edition service.
The authors and publishers of fiction--together with most other nonfiction categories--who cannot adopt these "second sale" marketing policies will need to be very imaginative in how they generate revenues. They might need legislative and financial assistance similar to the Public Lending Rights concepts that operate successfully in European countries.
One encouraging development is in electronic catalogs, distributed free, in which a summary of your book can entice a reader to decide to buy it with just a telephone call, paying by credit card for a code that unlocks your text and pictures. If you have created a worthwhile reference work, that might be only the first of many payments you receive from that same reader, who may buy your book a piece at a time as he or she needs particular information from it.
If your publishing motives do not include generating income, electronic publishing has enormous appeal with very few disadvantages. Most of us need a financial return for our efforts, however--hopefully a better one than the majority of writers obtain from a traditional publishing industry notorious for the way it treats the suppliers of its raw material. Rewarding authors remains one of the biggest challenges for electronic publishing, but you will find in these pages that there is good news in this respect also.
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There are bound to be quality-control problems in such an easily accessed and open media as electronic publishing, where self-publishing writers are free to downplay the editing function. Editors have always tended to be maligned by writers. American author Elbert Hubbard got a lot of sympathy from his fellow writers when he defined an editor as "a person employed on a newspaper, whose business is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff gets printed."
He was wrong. Editors have always protected readers from an awful lot of rubbish that authors sought to impose on them, as well as disciplining writers worthy of publication into honing their work to higher standards. You need to have been an editor to comprehend also how they have protected readers from the carelessness with grammar, spelling, and accuracy displayed by even some of the best-known literary names.
Books with inferior writing or content don't deserve to be published in any format, but we will be exposed to lots of them from electronic sources where there are no active editors to filter them out. Consequently, authors will need to display more self-discipline.
Readers might download your book by telephone, or get a copy on disk for a nominal duplication fee, but they won't spend much time on it if it does not deliver acceptable standards. Readers will be helped to be selective as more electronic books are reviewed by qualified critics, but there will always be a need for writers to be very conscious of quality standards if the new media are not to be swamped by chaff, and worthy work lost among the rubbish.
Despite these problems, electronic publishing must, on balance, be good news for everybody. Among those who will benefit most are
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authors who have not been able to release worthwhile works of specialist or minority appeal because of the cost structures of conventional publishing and distribution. Now they will find many of their problems solved, and new opportunities for their enterprise created, particularly by exploiting database marketing techniques to reach niche markets.
For those who adapt to the changing times, publishing can become much more adventurous and fun with the availability of electronic media. The formats for electronic books are becoming even more varied than those of the paperbacks and hardcover volumes in different shapes, colors, and bindings that line today's bookstore or library shelves.
You will use your hand-held portable computer to read the electronic equivalent of a paperback novel or self-help book, with the pages entirely text, or with some simple line drawings or diagrams if appropriate. But there will also be lavish, full-color productions--books that are really multimedia programs incorporating such features as animated and live-action video, graphics, and advanced audio, such as the example in Fig. 1-7. A new generation of authors and publishers capable of producing these sophisticated electronic publications is being educated now, as illustrated by IBM experiencing a strong demand from schools for its advanced, and expensive, multimedia publishing system.
The overwhelming majority of the books sold after centuries of book publishing are physically very basic--black text in a few popular fonts printed onto sheets of cheap white paper stapled, stitched, or glued together. Similarly, despite all the hype, complex multimedia works are unlikely to dominate electronic publishing because of the computing and personal resources they require, their cost to produce, the large size of the computer files required, and the hardware needed to play these complex files satisfactorily. Most books on disk do not need lots of color, graphics, sound, or other multimedia features, although many will benefit from some of these features, and
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