Electronic Publishing: Stop the Presses, for Ever!
Joseph, Cliff, The Independent (London, England)
There was a time when the phrase "electronic publishing" had just one meaning. In the mid-1980s, magazine and newspaper publishers found that they could save money by using low-cost personal computers to create their page layouts, rather than paying outside printing companies to do it for them. This completely changed the economics of the publishing industry and led to the launch of many new magazines, as well as newspapers such as Eddie Shah's ill-fated Today, not to mention the one you are currently reading.
The world-wide desktop publishing industry is now worth billions of dollars, and has made the fortunes of companies such as Apple Computer and Adobe Systems, which specialise in publishing-oriented hardware and software. But although the design process was electronic, the actual medium that these magazines and newspapers were published on was good old-fashioned paper.
In the 1990s, electronic publishing has taken on a wider meaning. Now the publishing medium itself can be electronic. The Internet is the best- known example, with the "pages" of the World Wide Web forming a vast global library of information on every conceivable topic.
Also, CD-Rom has established itself as an important publishing medium, spawning entirely new categories such as "infotainment" and enhanced audio CDs.
Encyclopedias were among the first publications to make use of electronic media. The ability to store vast amounts of information on a CD-Rom and to search for specific subjects at high speed is an obvious benefit for the users of reference books. However, the first electronic CD-Rom titles were visually unappealing, containing millions of words of text without illustration.
Gradually, publishers began to produce more complex electronic publications that contained the same range of graphics and typefaces as their paper- based counterparts. The Independent and the London Evening Standard produced a CD-Rom containing back issues that, when viewed on a computer screen, exactly matched the page layout of the original issues.
There was even a short-lived flirtation with electronic novels, with titles such as Jurassic Park being put onto CD-Rom or floppy disk and enhanced - or ruined, depending on your point of view - with sound effects and pictures of dinosaurs. The publishers of these electronic books grandly announced "the death of the novel" and promised that we would soon be reading electronic books and newspapers on laptop computers as we travelled to work in the morning.
It didn't happen, of course. These publishers overlooked the fact that electronic books were not only more expensive than paper versions, but you also needed about pounds 1,000 worth of computer hardware to read them. You certainly couldn't curl up on the sofa with an electronic book in one hand and a cup of cocoa in the other. These early electronic publications simply didn't offer anything new that would justify their extra expense or make them clearly superior to paper.
The missing ingredient was multimedia. Paper-based documents are limited to static text and graphics, but multimedia allows you to add sound, animation and video, creating a much richer experience for the reader.
At first, the limited power of personal computers meant that they could only cope with very small, unimpressive video images. The reaction of most people to the first multimedia titles was …
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Publication information: Article title: Electronic Publishing: Stop the Presses, for Ever!. Contributors: Joseph, Cliff - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: August 12, 1996. Page number: 11,12. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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