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incorporating color and graphics need add nothing to production costs.
There is an enormous pent-up demand to publish information that can be conveyed satisfactorily just as text. Read any of the magazines for writers and you get just a sampling of the burning desire by so many writers to be published. Consequently, self-publishing on disk will expand to satisfy the needs of thousands of writers, irrespective of the demand or lack of it from their readers. As is the case with some print publishing of poetry, writers will still publish to other writers if their work does not find a general market.
The amateur novelist will seize these new opportunities to break through the publishing logjam and get his or her work duplicated and distributed in the hope that it will succeed on its own merits. Nonfiction authors will exploit the ease with which they themselves can add graphic illustrations such as charts, graphs, diagrams, or line drawings to augment their texts. Many writers of nonfiction will be motivated to publish on disk because they know their niche markets
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well and can cost-effectively target books on disk to their readers in ways just not practical or affordable for printed works.
It is so fast and easy to get the computer to turn a manuscript into a book on a disk that we will see a boom in such schemes as the electronic publisher who recently promised "the death of the rejection slip." He invited authors to send their written work as straight text files on disk, which he would convert into a properly formatted book on disk. If the publisher thought it of high-enough quality, or with sufficient potential readers, the title would be listed in his catalog and distributed on a royalty basis.
In this scheme, even if your works were "rejected" for commercial distribution, your creative effort would not automatically die. The publisher returns your disk with the formatted book on it in a finished form, professional title screens, chapters, and an index, that you can copy as required and distribute at minimum cost. Although not accepted for commercial distribution, you might still be able to make your book a financial success through your own knowledge of the market for your work and the effort you can put into promoting to that market.
Much of the frustration, heartache, and disappointment in writing of all kinds will be eased by the fact that electronic self-publishing offers an alternative to the very long odds of your work being accepted by a commercial publisher, broadcaster, or theatrical producer. Even now, print publishing's rejection slip is not the end of the publishing road, as demonstrated by the author of Star Trek scripts rejected by Paramount who has released them via bulletin boards to get reactions from his fellow Trekkers.
Self-help and self-improvement books are just one field in which authors will release their manuscripts on disk--either before publication to get advance input from others with relevant experiences, or to share their words and boost their prestige after their manuscript has been rejected by commercial publishers.
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A scientist who needs to publish to advance his or her career, but is frustrated by the restrictions and overload of the scientific and academic publishing system, can now circulate up-to-date copies of research electronically more efficiently and cheaply than through established journals. Internet and other communications networks and bulletin boards already link millions of scientists and academics around the world. The distribution channels are in place to disseminate technical, scientific, and academic publications of various kinds. There are specialist writers and researchers who have even started their own bulletin boards to disseminate and enhance their work.
Increasingly, researchers, academics, and others who write to further professional interests or careers will package the files for downloading by their peers, colleagues, and critics into more sophisticated electronic book form. These will come complete with hypertext facilities and a wealth of cross-references, sources, and executable code to extend the written word into computerized demonstrations or presentations. Such works not only present their authors as impressively as possible, but can transform publications into practical working tools. For example, I am preparing an electronic book including the code-breaking programs that Penn Leary used to research the printed book he wrote about Francis Bacon being the true author of Shakespeare's plays. Academics will be able to evaluate this research better--and pursue it themselves--in ways impossible from Penn's original print publication.
I have just edited another text to be released electronically that will make available to thousands of medical professionals the findings of important new research on nitrous oxide gas therapy for recovering alcoholics and patients with drug dependencies. Although my author friend Dr. Mark Gillman has gained over 200 print publications in scientific journals, much of his work falls between the parameters set by individual highly specialized print publications, so electronic media enabled him to share his important findings with a large global audience with a definite need to know about it.
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Of course, the ability for researchers to publish so easily poses dangers and problems in a world where getting in first and offering quick-fix solutions are such great temptations. It will be more difficult to differentiate substance from hype and reality from illusion in research papers presented on disk or on-line.
The freer flow of research information made possible by electronic publishing could bring greater benefits than the risks, however. In any case, there must be alternatives to the present peer-review and editorial selection processes. As you will see later, just one area of research, the international Human Genome Project, is generating so much material so fast that print simply cannot cope with it anymore.
Poets, politicians, and those who write to meet various professional or business objectives are among the seemingly unlikely bedfellows who will find that taking the electronic route offers previously undreamed-of opportunities to be published. For example, the prime motivation for many poets is to share their words rather than sell them to generate income. Now they can do so on disk at minimal cost and free themselves from the expensive and unsatisfactory practices of vanity publishers.
Publishing a book can also be very effective in advancing a career or achieving a political or business objective. The Clinton presidential campaign used electronic publishing to advance its cause in ways that will be widely applied in future elections.
If you are in business, you might be forced to become involved with electronic publishing sooner or later, even if its possibilities do not excite you now. Much of the business community has no choice but to move from paper to electronic media now that the U.S. and
European governments are compelling their suppliers to produce manuals and other documentation in electronic formats. As the majority of internal corporate correspondence moves to electronic
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mail by the mid-1990s, so the bulk of the business community's internal and external documentation will become digitized to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and cater for the growing demand by end-users to get their information in this more digestible and easily handled form.
Once it moves off paper, information of all kinds displays a remarkable ability to become more dynamic. A company might start with straightforward document imaging for archival purposes, then move rapidly to exploit the far greater opportunities for cost savings and increased efficiency. An author who simply transfers a word-processed manuscript into a file that mimics a book is soon tempted to add hypertext, sound, or illustrations, using tools like TextArt in WordPerfect for Windows (Fig. 1-8). For several years I wrote a pulpy
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romantic serial, and it would be fun to go back and add the sound effects of deep breathing, a trickling stream, and perhaps closing video clips of the sunsets into which my heroes and heroines walked hand-in-hand!
All the many new electronic publishing options--from the $10,000 IBM multimedia school system to $30 shareware running on an aging PC picked up in a yard sale--can break through the physical boundaries of the printed page to communicate more effectively. Graphics in color that enlarge a perspective or help to explain or entertain, audio samples and effects that add a sound dimension to pictures and written words, easy cross-referencing and footnotes through which you can take hypertext leaps into an author's original sources are just some of the options available already. This is not a look into the future. Electronic publishing is here and now.
The giant Sony Corporation, which made an investment greater than the defense budgets of some nations so that it could get a headstart into electronic publishing, released a disk version of Ira Levin's novel Sliver that ends the reader's problems of tired eyes or failing light. When you no longer want to read the text, you can switch to the audio version on the same disk and have the book read aloud to you. Individual self-publishers are able to offer readers that facility also.
Fiction and nonfiction works on disks are a boon to the visually handicapped and to the elderly--the latter being the fastest growing consumer group with particular needs that only electronic publishing can satisfy. The public library services on which so many senior citizens and others rely are in rapid decline because of the high cost of acquiring, storing, and handling print. Libraries can obtain and offer readers a much larger inventory of electronic books adaptable to aging eyes at far less cost than they can printed works that are bulky, expensive, easily stolen, and deteriorate rapidly.
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When demand for a title exceeds the copies available, the library can create another copy in seconds, in large print if that's the way the reader needs it. Readers with their own hand-held computers who find ordinary-sized print difficult to read can just press a button and the electronic text doubles, triples, or quadruples in size.
Electronic books are a blessing to the visually handicapped because every book published in electronic form becomes accessible to the blind. Computers can convert almost any computerized text into talking books--at rapidly reducing cost and increasing efficiency. Authors benefit also. Audio books are one of the expanding areas of publishing, and the electronic book on disk is over half-way into this other medium. Also, you don't have to turn the pages of an electronic book--and such a simple reading task is difficult, painful, or impossible for millions of people.
The variety of subjects for electronic publishing is virtually limitless. The categories available already extend from contemporary popular literature back to the classics. The million words in Shakespeare's plays and poetry are generating some of the most popular electronic publishing titles, giving a new high-tech dimension to Life magazine's comment, "Each new generation returns to Shakespeare to try to find, like any other whodunit reader, the truth within those wonderful words."
The Hypertext Hamlet available on floppies is not a gimmicky exploitation of a perennial favorite, but demonstrates how electronic publishing can make great literature more accessible and enriched by background information, comment, and sources for further information. Among the many searchers after literary truth who are tapping into electronic publishing's vast potential are the university researchers in California who can analyze, in ways never possible before, the disputed authorship of Elizabethan works, and probe into the mysteries of the Renaissance Golden Age of Literature.
A lawyer in Nebraska, an investigative journalist in Mexico, a schoolteacher in Singapore reflect the enormous range of
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