Paperless Publishing-Colin Haynes - Chapter 4-Section 2

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Even when Ron underwent a heart-bypass operation in 1993, he continued his commitment to nurturing the infant Digital Publishing Association that he had founded a little more than a year earlier. Continuing as president of the DPA, he has done a great deal to bring together writers, software authors, and entrepreneurs who share his belief in the future of electronic publishing.

"I started the DPA to try to help organize a new band of talented but disorganized artists into an effective group," Ron recalls. "I hope that we will continue to gather momentum in establishing electronic publishing as a legitimate medium for authors and publishers."

Ron provides an interesting marketing case history. He self-published three computer books in conventional print form before discovering the benefits of releasing his work on disk. He sold out the 1,500 copies of the first edition of his book, The Communicating Computer, but although the sales had been brisk, he doubted if a viable market remained for a reprint costing $2,000. Then he came across the shareware Hyperwriter program, which enables text files to be compiled into attractive screen displays with hypertext reference facilities. This, one of the first shareware book-authoring programs, made it possible for Ron to issue an electronic edition of his book.

"Thousands more readers have now seen my work, and the cost to publish the book in this form is negligible," Ron reports. "I had discovered paperless publishing and am now convinced that it will be the wave of the future. I foresee the day when electronic publishing will become more common than printed materials."

Soon after Ron established the DPA and set up its bulletin board in 1991, the word spread that here was a source of quality information about a totally new way of publishing. Often the lines to the board have been jammed with authors, programmers, and even curious print publishers trying to get on-line to find out more.

In addition to being able to go on-line for discussions with other writers and publishers, the DPA's bulletin board is a unique source of

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information that could pay off handsomely in the way you produce and market your publications. The board reflects DPA's vision, as expressed in Ron Albright's forecast that "it will be the norm for most books to be available from modem-accessible electronic publishing houses. Readers will be billed for downloading. The authors will get royalties based on electronic sales. You will get updates quickly and easily. Bookshelves will be replaced by disk cabinets."

By investing the modest $25 annual membership fee to join the Digital Publishing Association, you become part of a very diverse group of writers, publishers, and programmers with a shared objective to promote electronic publishing as an alternative to traditional, paper-based publishing. The primary goals of the DPA are

The DPA and its members, who now range across the United States, Canada, and Europe, use the world's expanding bulletin board systems, commercial communications systems (such as CompuServe and GEnie), and computer user groups to increase awareness among computer users of the quality of reading material available through electronic publications. As a member, you have direct access to a unique source of expertise and will be pleasantly surprised by the generosity with which members share their knowledge.

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The DPA bulletin board number in the U.S. is 205-854-1660. It has an expanding list of electronic books that you can download.

 

You can market to the world with disks and files transmitted by modem in ways denied to traditional book publishing. The Internet, discussed in a later chapter, is helpful, but has some built-in problems when actually trying to sell products. However, it and other on-line services and organizations offer valuable marketing intelligence and promotional resources.

 

Foreign language editions get easier

The international market really opens up with the much-improved translation software now available. Even the major problems of moving from the Arabic alphabets of most Western languages into the graphical and symbolical elements of written Asian languages are being bridged more effectively. You now have a choice of creating at least draft translations in the main European and Central and South American languages for an outlay of under $100 for programs such as the surprisingly competent Spanish Assistant and its French, German, and Italian stablemates.

Trying to create a Japanese translation using the over 6,000 possible combinations of Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana will set you back more in initial cost because the task becomes much more complex and difficult, but the returns can be very attractive if you make available fast treatments of subjects otherwise only covered in English. The Japanese market promises to become very important for electronic publishers and, because so many readers there are quite proficient in English as a second language, it is practical to format English originals and computer-generated translations side-by-side for release in situations where there is not the time or the budget to generate a professionally translated and edited Japanese version.

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The program with which to generate this type of electronic publication is EZ Japanese Writer (Fig. 4-2). Writers can start using it at the initial marketing planning phase, well ahead of the publishing process, to start good things happening sooner. It took some two years after the original North American publication for the first of my books to be released in Japan, by which time I was already deep into an update. Now I can use my computer to turn my original proposal in English for a new book into comprehensible Japanese that can either help in negotiations with a prospective American publisher or be sent directly to a possible Japanese publishing partner.

It is still essential to have any machine translation edited by a native speaker of the language before commercial publication. However, in the case of an initial proposal, it is acceptable in most cases to submit both language versions, with an explanation that the translation is only a machine-generated draft.

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Many of the translation programs enable you to do a printout with the original and the translation running side-by-side, or with each line of the original language above the equivalent line of the translation. This is going to become a very common way of communicating internationally in business correspondence, and so particularly appropriate to many business, technical, and scientific research publications. It is a real boon to a reader in, say, Japan, for whom English is a second language with which he or she still battles for fluency, to receive a technical document or book in both the original English and a reasonable literal Japanese translation.

 

Software translators

Other new aids to international electronic publishing are programs that actually translate the menus and help screens for software programs, not just text. (The Help menus and texts in Windows are fast becoming a viable publishing medium in their own rights, particularly to accompany published databases. Programs such as RoboHelp enable you to create these Help documents directly from a word processor.)

CyberMedia of Los Angeles (310-843-0800) recently released its Multitalk Ambassador to enable an English-language version of a Windows program to function with the menus, and other user-interface elements of most of the world's major languages. This could be very important if you are shipping your electronic texts with run-time reader modules with which your end-users are not familiar. CyberMedia also produces diagnostic and repair software for Windows called First Aid, which I suspect will become essential for many people coping with the system conflicts created by multimedia hardware.

 

Europeans have their own group also

Despite NAFTA, Europe remains effectively the world's largest publishing market, so if you have an international strategy, it must be included. There is no electronic publishing group in Europe equivalent to the DPA in the U.S., but if you want to market in

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Europe and keep abreast of what is happening there, consider joining the Author-Publisher Enterprise (A-PE). Its satellite enterprise, New Meridian Limited, provides products and services for authors. Together they are a rich source of practical marketing information for self-published works.

Although the A-PE has been given an initial impetus by the venerable Society of Authors, it is completely independent and spearheads efforts in Europe to enable writers of all kinds to exercise their rights to be published without being fleeced by the vanity presses. The A-PE evolved from a visit to England in 1985 by Dan Poynter, who has done so much to stimulate self-publishing in print in the U.S. British authors interested in self-publishing began networking informally after Dan's presentation at a Society conference, and then set up as a separate organization.

"Within three months--without any promotion on our part--we had received several thousand inquiries from aspiring writers," founding chairman John Dawes recalls. "No wonder vanity publishers are flourishing!"

That remarkable response reflects the universal urge to write and be published. British authors express the same frustration with their print publishing establishment as their counterparts in the U.S. British involvement in electronic publishing is very important, because Britain is still the intellectual gateway into much of the English-speaking world, particularly the developing nations in Africa and Asia.

The A-PE offers networking, marketing, and information facilities that tend to be print-oriented, but usually can be just as applicable to electronic publications. The members are predominantly experienced authors, very practical, and passionate about maintaining standards in author-publishing in any format. Membership costs only 25 pounds annually. For more information, write to A-PE's secretary, Trevor Lockwood, at

7 Kingsland Road
West Mersea
Colchester, Essex CO5 8RB
England, U.K.
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Foreign marketing sources

For evaluating international as well as North American trends and prospects, Publishers Weekly keeps its finger on the pulse of both hardcopy and electronic book publishing. Subscriptions are expensive, but most local librarians subscribe. You might have to ask specifically, as librarians tend to keep it tucked away in their offices and are reluctant to allow it to be checked out. The same goes for another useful resource for marketing information, the American Library Association's American Libraries.

If you need specific information on foreign markets, go directly to consulates and such sources as the annual U.S. book export and import figures compiled by the Department of Commerce's Bureau of the Census. In recent years, these have been showing massive increases in exports of books to Mexico and some South American countries, with Japan and some European markets buoyant also. With CompuServe and other on-line services expanding into Mexico, the opportunities for electronic publishing might increase there significantly.

UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) in Paris provides lots of valuable market research pointers in its annual Statistical Yearbook and various special reports. By matching up international patterns of computer availability and usage with the UNESCO figures for printed books, you can predict where potential markets might exist. Although the U.S. tends to be viewed as the world's most attractive market for almost any product, in fact Germany and the United Kingdom each release more book titles annually, with France, Italy, and Japan being among other significant publishing territories.

China publishes far more titles every year--over 70,000--than any other single country, but poses particular problems for electronic book exports because of the few computers per capita and widespread piracy. Expect those Chinese with computers and access to on-line services to get hold of an increasing number of English texts available electronically, then pirate those copies on disk and on paper. The same situation prevails in the former Soviet Union. It is

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becoming easier to get distributed in the world's largest reading markets, but even more difficult to get paid!

 

Keep in touch--and don't forget to list your works

Another great way for electronic authors and publishers around the world to keep in touch with what is happening in this young medium is through Serendipity Systems' bulletin board. This organization also offers you the facility to list your electronic publications just as books in print are listed in directories and reference works. If you do not like spending time on-line, you can get a lot of valuable information mailed to you regularly as an electronic publication on disk.

Serendipity Systems releases an on-disk magazine called The Electronic Publishing Forum quarterly. It includes evaluation copies of new or updated shareware, as well as news and technical and marketing information. The subscription is $12 a year.

It also publishes the annual Electronic Books in Print, which costs $6 on disk in the U.S. and $8 (in U.S. funds) for overseas orders. If you are publishing on-disk or on-line, make sure that your titles are listed in the next edition. It is compiled in the final quarter of the year, and there is no charge to have your book listed. Information on a new publication is usually first briefly listed in the New Electronic Publications section of its forum, then added to Electronic Books in Print at the end of the year.

To be listed by Serendipity Systems, you will need to supply comprehensive information about your work on disk as an ASCII text file. Here is the information that you must provide to get a listing in Electronic Books in Print:

The requirements are listed here because they constitute a very useful exercise to bring together the basic information you must have about your publication for marketing and other purposes. For example, compiling your listing for Electronic Books in Print can be a big help in creating the media releases you distribute and the background briefing to accompany review copies of your work.

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Address your listing, or write for more information, to

John Galuszka, Editor
Electronic Books in Print
Serendipity Systems
P.O. Box 140
San Simeon, CA  93452

(That address, near fantastic Big Sur on the Pacific Coast, illustrates the footloose geographic flexibility of locating an electronic publishing enterprise!)

 

How to get an ISBN number

It might be vital for your publication to carry an ISBN (International Standard Book Number). The ISBN system applies to books, software, and mixed media. It is used throughout the publishing industry as a reference for ordering and tracking publications. Although you are not required to put this ten-digit number on your title, it can be crucial in making sales.

In the U.S., the agency for this international system is

R.R. Bowker
121 Chanlon Road
New Providence, NJ  07984
They will send the forms that get you started. This is a service available only to publishers, not authors, so put on your publishing hat when applying for an allocation of ISBN numbers.

Every title has its own unique ISBN that can never be reassigned, even if the work goes out of print. That number should appear in the book, on the packaging, and in all promotional materials. You would be amazed how quickly it can find its way into various databases and references that could lead to sales for you. When you reprint a title, it must keep the same ISBN, but when you change formats or revise a work, you need a new ISBN. If you are transferring a book from print to electronic media, it will require a new ISBN, even if you make no changes to the content.

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