Paperless Publishing-Colin Haynes - Chapter 2 - Section 3

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the restricted sound capabilities with which their systems were delivered. This will continue to include many portable computers sold with only the voice they were "born" with, and no space inside to add a sophisticated sound card to replace the internal speaker.

 

Squeezing sound

If you have a lot of audio to squeeze on to a disk, you might consider going mono rather than stereo for at least some of sections and using only the right or left channels. This technique was pioneered by audio books that double the capacity of compact cassettes by recording separate sections of the book on each of the four tracks. You can play these books only on stereo systems that permit you to turn one channel completely down or off. Similarly, only some sound cards and CD-ROM players permit the playback of such discrete channels.

If you want to hear how this technique works in multimedia, it is used to good effect in Sony's electronic version of the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book.

 

Sound by telephone

The telephone provides a cheap and convenient way to obtain audio input for multimedia publications. If your work includes quotes, particularly by well-known people in the field you are covering, you can record these (with the subject's permission) while interviewing by telephone as well as when face-to-face. When converting an existing manuscript to multimedia, you might go back to interview subjects and ask them to repeat particularly interesting quotes over the telephone for you to record and then incorporate in your multimedia production.

Spoken endorsements of your electronic publication can be very effective as sound files accompanying summaries of your publication in on-line or CD-ROM catalogs, or in other promotional material that you distribute.

We are entering an era in the expansion of telephone services when distributing electronic publications by telephone will be important

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also. An interesting example of digital audio distribution by telephone is the new Digital Generation Systems network out of San Francisco, which transmits radio commercials from its computer to the computers of local radio stations around the country. This cracks one of the last barriers to radio stations switching almost entirely from analog to digital systems.

 

Binaural stereo could give you the edge

Binaural stereo is an interesting opening in the audio element of multimedia publishing that you might find worth exploring. It's not new, the concept having been invented in the 19th century by Frenchman Clement Ader, but binaural stereo is comparatively unknown, even among audiophiles. The British Broadcasting Corporation has used it very effectively in both radio drama productions and in a documentary about the hearing of blind people. Its commercial exploitation has been very limited, however, because most recorded material is designed for playing back through loudspeakers, whereas binaural audio only really works when heard through headphones. This could be appropriate for the personal way in which electronic publications are read by one person at a time in situations where headphones might be preferred.

Binaural recordings are made using a dummy head with a microphone in each ear. It is not absolutely essential to have a head, as long as the sound being recorded is separated into two distinct channels. The BBC positioned microphones on each side of a large disc to get the same results as a dummy head, and there are various alternative approaches to achieving this separation when feeding audio signals into a sound card.

By trying to create as far as possible a recorded sound exactly as it is received by each ear of someone on the spot, and then playing it back directly into each ear of the listener, you get really impressive results, particularly through high-quality headphones hooked into 16-bit sound cards. Headphones avoid the mixing and blurring of sounds from speakers.

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Binaural sound is more than a gimmick, but you could use it effectively just as a gimmick to stimulate interest in your title. The technique might add sufficient production values and marketing appeal to certain electronic publications featuring audio to reduce or eliminate the need for incorporating visuals. Use it, for example, to demonstrate music, bird and animal sounds, or to give a richness to the human voice in poetry.

 

The activity in multimedia publishing creates many opportunities for writers to sell material or be commissioned to work on projects. Many authors have existing works that will convert effectively to the new media. Major multimedia publishers such as Voyager already have on staff acquisitions editors seeking suitable works.

If you want to see hardcopy examples of the types of children's and adult books that transfer well to high-level CD-ROM multimedia productions, just go into your nearest bookstore and browse through the Dorling Kindersley titles there. Peter Kindersley, an Englishman who founded the imprint after a long career as a book packager, was one of the first publishers anywhere to switch his print production and layout operations to computers. Even those titles he produced in the '80s show the influence that his banks of Macs had on design, with crisp, colorful graphics and blocks of text laid out like icons on a clear white page.

Kindersley considerably advanced some of the design concepts pioneered in print by, among others, Reader's Digest how-to books, with their emphasis on stylized graphical images and easily digested short bites of text. Such books work really well as multimedia. Even on the printed page, the graphics in such Dorling Kindersley titles as David Macaulay's great The Way Things Work, almost invite you to press on them to make them become animated. That's just what does happen in the multimedia titles Dorling Kindersley is producing in conjunction with Microsoft. In the first of these, Microsoft Musical Instruments, a child or adult can enjoy learning about instruments

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from all over the world, and call up an immediate playing demonstration of any of them.

This electronic book immediately became a big seller. If you take a look at it, you can see that it represents a substantial investment to achieve such high production values. Those up-front costs can be greatly reduced if there is an existing hardcopy illustrated text from which to build the multimedia title.

 

Scope for self-help titles

Already, multimedia versions of the popular do-it-yourself home and car repair manuals are starting to appear, and almost any kind of self-help title has multimedia potential. It might merit the full sound and pictures treatment, or simply easy search facilities and perhaps an interactive quiz feature.

If you have already, or can generate, an appropriate title, explore sponsorship and advertising possibilities. For example, for home or car maintenance titles, sponsors might be found among tools, parts, and other hardware suppliers, as well as manufacturers and distributors of paints, timber, and other consumables. Hardware and motor parts stores offer attractive retailing opportunities when you have your multimedia title ready to market.

 

Do-it-yourself medicine

Self-diagnosis medical publishing in multimedia formats is another potentially large growth area with plenty of room for additional titles in addition to the considerable number already available. Such major releases as Home Medical Advisor and the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book on CD-ROM disks might seem so comprehensive that there is no room for anything else, but they offer general advice and fairly basic search options. You might be able to reach larger potential markets by publishing more focused information on floppies, as well as zeroing in on special-interest groups. I wish I'd thought of these opportunities when I signed away without thinking the electronic rights to my book about computing-related health problems!

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The ability offered by newer authoring programs to add greater interactivity and more capable search features such as fuzzy logic make medical advice and diagnostic multimedia titles far more capable. Health maintenance organizations love them because they can reduce doctor consultations and recommend non-prescription medication.

If you have access to, or can create, appropriate material, you might consider sponsored publication through an HMO, citing the successful experience that the Harvard Community Health Plan has had with its scheme. Patients able to tap into the Harvard medical database and advice program on-line made 5% fewer clinic visits than those without this facility. This experience indicates that specialist medical bulletin boards and on-line services could do well, and provide marketplaces for a variety of publishing enterprises. Diabetics, for example, are targets for much product advertising and publishing.

A significant number of hospitals use videodiscs to help patients already diagnosed with conditions such as breast or prostate cancer to learn about these diseases and evaluate their various options. Such valuable services can be made much more widely available by transferring the programs to CDs or distributing them on floppies to install on hard drives. There is a lot of scope to create new multimedia material based on texts and visuals that might already exist in print, and so could comparatively easily be computerized and made interactive.

 

You might need few or no visuals in your multimedia production if you have a text subject suitable for musical illustration. For example, an author with musical knowledge can produce impressive titles about individual instruments, performers or composers, detailed analyses of great works, profiles of orchestras, and similar musical titles with quite modest hardware and software resources. Publishing music by computer also becomes much more practical now that there is very affordable and functional music reading software, such as Midiscan for Windows, which can automatically convert sheet music to multitrack MIDI files.

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Pop musicians who have grown familiar with computerized musical instruments might seem to be leading the way, but the attractions are so great that we can expect to see many electronic publications about classical, jazz, and other music forms also. They don't all need to go onto CD-ROM; for many purposes it might only be necessary to combine text with simple graphics, musical notation, and sound files, all of which can be compressed effectively to get a comprehensive multimedia publication onto floppy discs.

Using Midiscan is a revelation in how easy it is to score music directly into the computer and print out scores with almost the same ease and proficiency as word-processing text. Couple such developments with the amazing software and hardware additions that can turn even a modest personal computer into a powerful music machine, and it is inevitable that much original composing and arranging, as well as the publishing of works created in the traditional way, will in the future be digitized.

This is culturally a very important development that all who love music can welcome, even those for whom the sounds of electronically synthesized instruments are no substitute at all for the real thing. Much published music must be captured as dynamic information that evolves through the continuing input of composers, arrangers, and musicians, and at various stages needs to be duplicated for wider access. One can envisage the day when it will be the norm for the members of an orchestra or band to refer to scores on portable liquid-crystal displays. These scores will be truly active electronic documents, evolving during rehearsal as amendments and notations are made on them by everybody involved. Apart from the practical and time- and cost-saving benefits, the quality of performances might actually improve as such fleeting moments as a phrase of inspired improvisation during rehearsal can quickly be captured and recalled at will.

 

Another technological software development with great potential in electronic publishing is morphing, a form of animation in which one image is transformed into another. Even low-cost morphing programs

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such as MorphWizard and HSC Digital Morph can be used to add production values and aid comprehension. Industrial processes, or the evolution of product designs, can come to life by morphing in ways far more difficult to depict in words and conventional graphics.

For example, you can add impact by making the points around a visual of a mouth move to combine with a sound file and so create a talking head. A simple storyboard, or collection of slides, can become much more impressive by morphing between the images. A slow, gradual morphing can indicate the passage of time, while you can give impact to an individual image by freezing that particular frame.

Morphing effects between text and visuals can be very effective. I look forward to experimenting in my Lake Poets' project (described in detail in chapter 10) by trying to morph Wordsworth's words host of golden daffodils "fluttering and dancing in the breeze" into visuals of the flowers that inspired him.

 

Virtual reality might not yet be seen as a publishing medium, but in fact it has enormous potential for almost all genres. The applications in fiction and poetry are limited only by the imagination, as you create virtual worlds in which readers can directly interact with your characters, settings, and plots. In nonfiction, it must become commonplace to provide virtual reality simulations in a wide range of tutorials, and for research purposes.

Molecular scientists are able to invite colleagues to join them inside the interesting molecule they describe in the accompanying research paper. Together, author and readers can move around and examine the relationships of atoms, neutrons, and protons. Expect this kind of publishing to be applied extensively by researchers involved in The Human Genome Project, since they have the financial and computing resources to push this technology to its limits.

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Virtual reality might be used to enhance text and two-dimensional drawings and photographs already published in other media. Delegates to the 1993 Imagina conference in Monte Carlo saw an impressive example of this. They walked around the Abbey of Cluny, once the cultural center of Europe and the world's largest Christian church. The Abbey was physically destroyed after the French revolution, but it was rebuilt in virtual imagery in Monte Carlo using the published and unpublished research of Professor John Kenneth Conant of Harvard, who devoted much of his life to excavating the site of the Abbey.

Students of the Ecole National des Arts et Metiers, with the help of IBM-France, were able to rebuild an amazingly realistic computer simulation of the cathedral. Now, wearing a virtual reality helmet and movement sensors, you can walk into the nearest equivalent we can ever have of one of the world's most architecturally and culturally significant buildings. Unfortunately, Professor Conant died in 1984, missing by only a few years the enjoyment of what must be the ultimate publishing experience.

While the computer reconstruction and simulation of the Abbey of Cluny is of immense importance to historians and archaeologists, it is also a milestone in electronic publishing. It shows just one way that texts can be republished electronically for results that the original authors could not even have dreamed were possible. The advent of multimedia makes it particularly important to preserve authors' original notes and research materials, as examined in more detail later in this book.

 

Games have become an important publishing category on the information superhighways, as well as being distributed on disk to stand-alone computer and game-playing hardware. The range is far beyond the combat video games for children that are generating so much controversy. Some of the writers involved in the games medium report that they find it just as challenging to develop meaningful characters with depth, and intricate plots and settings, as to create

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fiction for print. Games deserve to be taken seriously as a significant publishing medium because they can be used to explore such a wide variety of human situations and needs in addition to just offering transitory entertainment.

Computer adventure games are obviously moving away from the text games that were once so popular to incorporate ever-more-ambitious graphical elements. The style and distinctive points of view of the original authors can still be preserved to a large extent, as was demonstrated with the game version of Gateway, by science fiction writer Frederick Pohl.

While creating complex electronic games is very much a team effort, with the role of the authors tending to be obscured, there is still scope for authors and designers to emerge as distinct creative artists developing their own loyal followings. The opportunities for publishing in game formats to niche markets have hardly been tapped yet. There are several competing, and usually incompatible, hardware platforms struggling for a slice of the lucrative electronic games market, so you need to be careful in choosing the format in which to publish if you go beyond the Macintosh and DOS/Windows environments.

The trend with the dedicated games hardware is toward greater processing power to enable the games to be more realistic, so the 32-bit and 64-bit systems such as 3DO and CD-I will expand at the expense of the older 8-bit and 16-bit formats. The user bases are enormous and create viable markets for a wide range of electronic publications. The Sega Genesis system alone has an estimated 18 million users, and reaching them becomes easier with the introduction in 1994 of the Sega Channel on cable television, and the joint venture with AT&T for games to be played by telephone.

There are particular publishing opportunities using games systems that will play Photo CDs, and many ways to promote your games titles through magazines, retail outlets, and the manufacturers of the hardware. These manufacturers are always looking for good promotional opportunities among the developers of new titles for their systems.

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The ancient board game, chess, is a clear ancestor for the complex computerized war and business games, with substantial text elements, used to evaluate real-life military and corporate events. There are many opportunities to create games on computer for training purposes. These can be published electronically in their own right, or incorporated into other print or electronic publications to add an interactive games element to a predominantly text work.

Games can also be used to promote publications. Create a game to release as shareware or freeware to generate publicity and sales for your book. There is software available to help, so even with little or no programming experience, you can create powerful promotional tools for your self-published works.

A particularly interesting example of the role of games in the blurring and merging of the boundaries between media is Craig R. Hickman's The Strategy Game, which has three distinctive publishing "identities." It is an exercise in a kind of vertical multimedia marketing of a core creative concept that could prove to be a trend-setter.

Business McGraw-Hill published the book version, which is structured as well as possible in print to be similar to an interactive computer game. Readers can choose their paths through the text, react to prompts, and garner information much as children do with some of their video games. Instead of shooting down space invaders, readers interacting with the book take decisions as the chief executive of a mythical company. Depending on the quality of those decisions and how they apply the information available in the pages of the book, they and the company are winners or losers.

The computer game with the same core concept as the book is not, as one might expect, packaged with the book. Craig decided to make the software a distinctly different product, allowing the book version of The Strategy Game to incorporate the best and most appropriate features for its particular market, and then create the computer version to be the best that it could be for that particular medium. Each version is self-contained and complimentary to the others, so that satisfied buyers of one have a strong incentive to purchase the other also, which generates higher overall sales. With this packaging

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and marketing approach, total revenues should be greater than if the book and the disk were packaged and sold together as a single product, like the book you are reading now.

This example of segmented multimedia publishing does not end there. Craig's concept in either the soft- or hardcopy forms (or both!) lends itself to business management training, so he produced another book as a guide to how to use The Strategy Game as training material.

 

You don't have to start from scratch to launch such a multifaceted multimedia project. You might already have manuscripts or other materials that you can develop in similar ways. Never before have there been such powerful tools to enable you to create your own publishing opportunities, and they coincide with a rapid expansion in alternatives to conventional publishing channels to market original works.

As H.G. Wells commented, printing enabled "the intellectual life of the world to enter upon a new and far more vigorous phase--it ceased to be a little trickle from mind to mind; it became a broad flood, in which thousands, and presently scores and hundreds of thousands of minds participated."

The first Renaissance of Western civilization seemed to Wells, writing early in this century, to have happened remarkably quickly after the Germans in the fourteenth century began making paper cheaply enough for the printing of affordable books to take off when Gutenberg invented movable type. Even Wells, that technology visionary, could not have anticipated the far greater speed with which multimedia developments are stimulating a "Renaissance 2." Developments that took decades now happen in months, and the new skills and knowledge that comes with them are affecting not just hundreds of thousands in Europe, but millions of people around the world.

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That's why, to return to the theme of this chapter, writers and other creative artists cannot afford to ignore multimedia. There is a tendency among some authors to adopt a Luddite approach, distancing themselves from this technology. Perhaps they fear that the culture in which they have a defined role as writers is threatened by it, and their own positions consequently threatened.

To quote H.G. Wells again: "New and stirring ideas are belittled, because if they are not belittled, the humiliating question arises, 'Why then are you not taking part in them?'"

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