Paperless Publishing-Colin Haynes - Chapter 7 - Section 2

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project. That's over three million filmed news segments, from the silent movies of 1919 to recent television newsreel segments. These are all physically contained on a single CD-ROM disc waiting to be released as needed. Much of this material has never been widely seen before, and it will immeasurably enhance a long-term project about the World War II on which I have been working.

One electronic publishing development in particular is helping with this project. Horizons Technology, Inc. (HTI) has been working with another Hollywood company, Fox Movietone News, Inc., to put the unique Movietone News library footage onto CD-ROM as a digitized library of important events, personalities, and social trends. This database can be searched using HTI's fuzzy logic technology, which does not require exact parameters to zero in on what you may be seeking. This is ideal for projects where you can not always define exactly what it is you need. Fuzzy logic searching also helps identify material that is relevant, but which the human researcher, especially in the early days of a project, might not even consider.

These extensions of the creative dimensions of researching, writing, and editing come as valuable bonuses from electronic publishing. As such databases are established, the range of information resources available to us must steadily increase. More specialized databases will be published when opportunities are seen to select and group material in compilations that make sense and are commercially viable. This ability to unlock knowledge and make it usable enables electronic publishing to enhance the writer's power and earning capacity.

 

Writers share their resources

One concern by academics about electronic publishing is that future generations might find it difficult to analyze the development of writers. The argument is that it will be impossible to study early drafts of published manuscripts or view research material because this will have been zapped into oblivion by the author pressing the Delete key when his or her electronic notes are no longer needed.

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In fact, most authors I know seem, if anything, to be more inclined to hang onto early drafts and research material when stored on disk than when this potentially interesting material is cluttering up their workspace. Many authors don't want their early efforts to be seen by others, or to reveal their sources, but if you do, you might be able to arrange with your publisher to pack much of this material onto a floppy and make it available to anyone who asks.

 

Editors, just as librarians and writers, are particularly challenged by the new technology. Although self-publishing electronically seems to limit career opportunities for editors in some respects, new doors open as others close. A significant amount of electronic author-publishing will be by those who realize that they lack writing skills and have the motivation and funds to employ freelance editors. Informed authors and publishers alike appreciate the benefits derived from competent editing, and there always remains in this litigious society the need to check for accuracy and defamation.

Editors, like writers, will need to be informed better about marketing, distribution, and multimedia issues. There are very attractive careers opening for editors with the expertise necessary to handle multimedia projects. For example, a new category of publishing staff is emerging already: acquisitions editors specializing in multimedia. They might not be called editors, and they might work for software houses instead of publishers, but their function is to identify and purchase or retain creative talent. When you identify someone performing this role, nurture your relationship with him or her; it could be crucial to your future.

The evolving role of the editor is illustrated by the way that "Letters to the Editor" newspaper and magazine pages are taking on a whole new meaning. Readers by the thousand leap at the chance to communicate directly with the editors of their favorite publications. Almost all of the computer magazines, and an increasing number of computing-aware publications in other fields, now blur the lines between their established print products and their new on-line reader services.

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Omni is typicaly of the trend for magazine editors to host on-lline debates with readers about their plans for future issues. As a result, an article might begin as an on-line debate, appear in printed form in a magazine, and then continue as a dynamic document with a life of its own on-line. An interesting example is Omni's "Bordercrossings" article by Janet Stiles, which began when Janet initiated an e-mail discussion on relationships between the sciences and the humanities. After the article appeared in print, a special Bordercrossings folder was opened on the Omni Magazine Online bulletin board, giving readers the opportunity to extend the debate on this important topic.

As such activities expand, all journalists'reporters as well as editors'need to become far more interactive with their readers and to take paperless publishing into account when working on assignments, even if their main medium remains print. This adds a new dynamism to journalism never possible before.

 

Hypertext challenges editors

It might fall heavily on editors to be the architects of hypertext, with the monitoring and creation of dynamic links between items of information becoming an important editorial skill. Electronic publishing has ethical implications, also, that only impartial editors might be able satisfactorily to resolve. For example, in an e-magazine, editorial and advertising content can no longer be readily distinguished by the page formatting conventions established in print.

As hypertext offers attractive opportunities to generate advertising revenue, the degree to which editorial becomes blended with sponsorship, advertising, or other interests demands strict policing by editors. The editorial function might include ensuring that there are clear indications, perhaps by color coding, where a hypertext link from editorial leads to paid advertising material. We can expect to see this happening in such areas as movie reviews on-line, with a click of the mouse linking you by hypertext to downloading the movie to your home, booking seats at the local theater, or reserving a video from the nearest video store.

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Similarly, restaurant reviews and recipes could lead directly into on-line table bookings, while product reviews could generate, by hypertext, either more detailed information from the manufacturer, or the placing of a direct order to be delivered overnight. Knight-Ridder is but one of the newspaper groups that has been actively developing such concepts into practical realities to be available as services to both readers and advertisers in the mid-1990s.

 

Editors as quality controllers

The editorial quality-control role is emphasized by John Dawes, chairman and founder of the Author-Publisher Enterprise in Britain, which in 1994 launched road shows to inform writers of the many benefits they can enjoy from publishing their works themselves. A very experienced professional writer in the print medium, John is enthusiastic about electronic publishing, but warns, "Don't think that by publishing on disk instead of on paper you can avoid the publishing disciplines of selecting, editing, rewriting, illustrating, producing, reviewing, promoting, and distributing. If these traditional disciplines from print are not maintained in the new electronic media, we and our readers risk being buried under a pile of rubbish.

"There continues to be a prime need for the selecting and editing phases of the publishing process," he emphasizes. "For any publication to be successful, these must add value to the words, and to the information that the words convey. The editor remains the gatekeeper, only allowing through from the author what will entertain, inform, or otherwise benefit the reader."

 

Electronic publishing is becoming essential for the dissemination of scientific information. Some university and research libraries now spend more of their budgets on electronic publications than they do on conventional print. The only way they can keep up with the flood of information is to go on-line and use the fastest, most efficient, and

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most economical way in which researchers around the world disseminate information and document their activities.

 

Dependent on digitized data

Some researchers already rely almost totally on scientific information in digital format, and only refer to hardcopy to locate papers that predate electronic publishing. For many, not to have daily access to their favorite bulletin boards has become unthinkable, as was shown by the flood of protests in October 1993 from among the 8,000 physicists who use the bulletin board at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The board was only temporarily down as the result of a funding rather than a technical problem, but the reaction from around the world was a clear sign of the importance of electronic publishing among researchers.

"The episode not only demonstrates how much political clout can be generated through e-mail, it also shows just how much physicists have come to rely on the bulletin boards, and the extent to which they have changed the culture of physics," writes a contributor to Science magazine.

A further benefit is that scientists can now reach out as never before to communicate to special-interest groups and to the public at large. As more and more research findings become available as electronic files, so our ability to access that information increases.

 

International problems establishing standards

But there are snags. Scientific publishing is now generating so much material that even electronic formats cannot cope with it. The problem is aggravated by international and interdisciplinary disputes over standards for electronic publishing.

The amount of information being generated internationally by the Human Genome Project is an example of this problem. Researchers in Europe, North America, and other regions might have to create an

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international federation of databases just to bring some cohesion out of the cacophony of digital publishing resulting from this project. Much of the material is being published to bulletin boards in different computer languages as well as a variety of human languages.

Some of this information later gets on to CD-ROM, while other material is published to myriad environments on floppies, by direct file transfers, or to special-interest groups in Internet. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in the U.S. and the European Bioinformatics Institute have been trying to get the material indexed and practical links forged between the different sources and databases, so that researchers can find what they need in research fields where speedy access is synonymous with success.

The international scientific community must come to terms with the need to agree on a standard format, a lingua franca for databases. The NCBI has made a lot of progress with its ASN.1 format, but so has a European consortium centered on Germany in the development of its Integrated Genome Database with a different format. The opening in 1995 of the EMBL centralized data library in England might help point the way to a common standard, but there are programs scheduled through much of the 1990s in both the U.S. and Europe to spend millions of dollars just on research database technology to find a way out of the enormously complex electronic publishing maze created by the Human Genome Project.

This project has even spawned a new branch of science and a new word for our dictionaries: bioinformatics. The probable conclusion will be the emergence of at least two, and perhaps three or four leading database formats favored by molecular biologists in which to publish their work. This will require the formation of a kind of virtual international federation of scientific databases so that they have a means of talking to each other.

The Internet is probably the only way that scientific authors and publishers will be able to keep up with developments in this ongoing battle to establish publishing standards. The lesson from all this is not to paint yourself into a corner with a format that is not sufficiently flexible to enable data to be converted with reasonable ease.

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Academic and professional pressures to publish

Unless you are close to the academic and scientific communities, it is difficult to appreciate how great can be the pressures to get published, or the rivalries and anger that result from the competitive spirit this engenders. The stress and friction that can be created was dramatically illustrated in the case of an associate professor at Montreal's Concordia College, who posted messages on the Internet claiming that university officials were insisting on being listed as coauthors on papers to which they had not contributed.

The college sued him for libel, the professor's persecution complex escalated, his tenure application was rejected, and in August 1992 he shot and killed four fellow faculty members. Now he is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder. Paperless academic publishing might not solve such problems, but it certainly offers the hope of easing a lot of frustration!

"It seems only reasonable to grant electronic publishing the prestige currently afforded print publishing," says William Y. Arms, president for computing services at Carnegie Mellon University. Unfortunately, this is proving a slow process, being fought tooth-and-nail by some commercial interests vested in print.

If the need to publish in print becomes less important in advancing an academic career or obtaining funding, there will be fundamental changes in how academics view their intellectual products. There could be a distinctive move towards academic publishing for profit rather than prestige. As David Bearman, editor of Archives and Museum Informatics, told a recent electronic conference on this subject, academics in the humanities might need to adjust to "leasing" rather than giving away their intellectual property, in an era when public funding is being withdrawn.

"We will either become part of the economic system that is driving development, or be taken advantage of by it," he says.

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Education really is being transformed by electronic publishing, particularly multimedia. It is changing not just the teaching methods, but the actual classroom environment (Fig. 7-1).

Houston Community College, the largest in Texas, has created what it calls "mini-teaching bunkers" in classrooms. When a teacher arrives, perhaps from another of HCC's 46 different locations, he or she docks into the bunker the portable computer carrying all the computerized material needed for the course. The portable hooks up to CD-ROM and laser disk players, network connections, projectors, room lights, and anything else needed to make a complete multimedia presentation, or to access electronic publications virtually anywhere.

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Naturally, there are concerns that the trend towards electronic publications, and particularly the graphics-intensive multimedia starting to replace plain text in the classroom, will exacerbate the problems of illiteracy among the young. Much of the best evidence appears to indicate otherwise, however: exposure to multimedia seems to help stimulate interest in the written word.

Certainly having access to a computer is helping to close the learning gaps generally between children from poor and more affluent homes. In a 1993 report, the International Association for Evaluation of Education Achievement found that schools with high proportions of students from low-income and minority groups now have one computer for every 10 to 15 students. This improved ratio enables poor students to come much closer in their performance to classmates from more affluent backgrounds who have greater access to computers at home. This survey of over 11,000 students in 573 schools also found little difference between girls and boys over the degree of use and the proficiency with computers.

 

Teachers and students become publishers

Both students and faculty members at schools all over the world now publish electronically for serious motives -- and for the fun of it. You can create a journal and generate an information flow in both directions to help gain a degree or enhance your professional credibility.

Most of these publications are free and cannot carry advertising or be overtly sponsored by commercial interests because this would make them unacceptable to many of the bulletin boards and networks over which they are distributed. However, if your information is not available elsewhere and of sufficient quality, you might well attract revenue for it. InterText, a fiction e-magazine published by Jason Snell, a student at the University of California at Berkeley, quickly garnered over 1,000 registered subscribers out of an estimated readership of between 5,000 and 20,000.

Multimedia electronic publishing is enabling schools and colleges to have dynamic syllabuses for many courses, with the students

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