`Art of Desktop Publishing' Best Look at Newest Computer Realm

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - After attending Comdex, the computer dealers' exposition, last fall I noted, as some readers may recall, that the most manifest trend to emerge in 1986 would be the popularityof desktop publishing. So convinced was I of the strength of this trend, in fact, that I initiated negotiations to purchase a startup magazine called Desktop Publishing. Unfortunately, I lost out tothe microcomputing publishing giant CW Communications. That corporation dropped the magazine's original title and chose instead the rather insipid, if punctuationally commanding moniker Publish!

I mention this episode not to tout any particular clairvoyance of mine, but rather to expose two personal biases of which readers of this column should be aware. First of all, I am convinced that desktop publishing is going to become a tremendous commercial success for the computer industry, although I do feel strongly that it will also lead to standardized mediocrity a la McDonald's.

Proponents of desktop publishing may quote various renditions of an assertion by the press critic A.J. Liebling to the effect that ""Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.'' But this remains true only while the press retains its individuality, something desktop publishers lose if they rely too much on canned software graphics and blocks of text they store and use again and again.

I come across more and more books carefully scanned by computerized spelling checkers before going to press wherein such contextual errors as the innocent substitution of ""new'' for ""knew'' and ""word'' for ""world'' appear. Such errors are usually so obvious that only a computer would be dumb enough to let them slip by. Others are more subtle, and misleading. We simply must not lose sight of the fact that making things easier does not necessarily make them better.

The second bias of mine that is pertinent here hinges on the almost incestuous nature of the computer-publishing industries. I knew Tony Bove and Cheryl Rhodes, who founded Desktop Publishing magazine. Now, along with Wes Thomas, they have written one of three books on the subject that I am about to review despite our acquaintance. Theirs appears to be the best of the lot for someone needing abroad-based introduction to the field.

The books are ""The Art of Desktop Publishing,'' by Tony Bove, Cheryl Rhodes and Wes Thomas (Bantam, $18.95), ""Desktop Publishing from A to Z,'' by Bill Grout, Irene Athanasopoulos and Rebecca Kutlin (Osborne McGraw-Hill, $17.95), and ""Desktop Publishing,'' by Frederic E. Davis, John Barry and Michael Wiesenberg (Dow Jones-Irwin, $25).

""Desktop Publishing from A to Z'' is directed to the entrepreneur. There is a basic discussion of what is involved in desktop publishing and a chapter devoted to a brief overview of the equipment needed. …