Texts Can Contain Many Books' Chapters, Original Notes

Article excerpt

Imagine a history textbook that contains news reports of events that occurred only two weeks ago. Or a science book that combines sections from several popular textbooks. Or a business text with several chapters of original material written by the professor.

All of these scenarios are possible with the advent of on-demand textbook publishing. Ideally, such systems would have a wealth of textbooks--covering myriad educational subjects--online. Instructors could pick and choose which materials to include in a given text, then have the added ability to order as many or as few copies as needed, and have those copies in-hand in less than 48 hours.

Students and faculty at the University of California, San Diego campus (UCSD) will be among the first in the nation to witness the benefits of customized publishing of college textbooks and supplemental materials. In 1991, the campus opened its own publishing center using Primis, the custom publishing system from McGraw-Hill in New York, N.Y. The center is a joint venture between the campus' bookstore and graphics and reproduction services.

* Many Benefit

Primis is the first publishing system to offer custom textbook production. The publisher licenses Primis software to college bookstores and campus printing facilities, enabling them to establish local publishing centers similar to the one at UCSD. Printing software and hardware were developed in partnership with Eastman Kodak Company, located in Rochester, N.Y.

The advantages of applying on-demand electronic publishing to college textbooks are far reaching. For starters, publishers will no longer have to foot the bill for surplus inventories that rapidly go out of date. They also will no longer incur the considerable cost of printing and shipping sample textbooks to colleges throughout the U.S.

In addition, college professors will be able to augment standard texts with recently published periodical articles or their own personal notes. Decisions on course content can be made two to three weeks in advance, rather than five months in advance.

Campus bookstores also stand to gain. On-demand publishing of textbooks will allow instructors to order only what is needed for each class. Additional copies, even one or two books, can be supplied within 24 to 48 hours. Bookstores will avoid the cost of carrying overstocked inventory and shipping the excess back to publishers for full or partial refunds.

Even students will be affected, reaping both educational and economic benefits from demand-printed texts. Information will be more up-to-date, and the cost of materials is likely to decrease. Courses that require several textbooks may soon need only one, since customized publishing will provide the ability to order chapters from several different books.

"When this market is fully developed, colleges will have access to vast amounts of course materials on electronic databases," explains Bryan Powell, director of UCSD's graphics and reproduction services. "Colleges will pay publishers for materials by the page. Eventually, all major textbooks, from a variety of publishers, will be distributed electronically to campuses across the country."

* Primis in Action

At UCSD, selected textbooks can be ordered from a workstation located at the bookstore. …