Magazine article Information Today

Optical Publishing: Life in the Fast Lane

Magazine article Information Today

Optical Publishing: Life in the Fast Lane

Article excerpt

Optical Publishing: Life in the Fast Lane

As this issue goes to press, InfoTech goes to press with its second annual CD-ROM industry performance study and forecast, the Optical Publishing Industry Assessment 2, published by the Optical Publishing Association in Columbus, Ohio. At this time, InfoTech celebrates its fifth anniversary in an appropriate way--updating a large database documenting the fruits of an industry which did not yet even exist when we went into business to advise it.

It became evident that the business of CD-ROM was accelerating in March of this year, when sales figures being collected from 1988 began to exceed the projections we made last year by a substantial amount. As the time approached to announce our preliminary data at the Microsoft CD-ROM conference at the end of March, industry growth in 1988 had established itself at an unforeseeable and unprecedented rate.

Fortunately, this year's assessment was much more scientific than last year, using an SQL database management system to organize and sort the 6,520 primary data points and hundreds of secondary ones for analysis. Given that we knew the industry had at least doubled since 1987, our research was necessarily much more comprehensive, based on interviews with hundreds of optical publishers and software suppliers.

Even so, the 1988 numbers were so high, we were afraid some people might not believe them. And being ultra-sensitive to over-stating the industry potential (which was the grave error many made in the beginning), we spent a great deal of additional time to check our listings and the information the CD-ROM publishers had disclosed to us. As the final inspection was passed, and the final numbers are being released in the Optical Publishing Industry Assessment 2, we are absolutely sure, and quite proud to report, that 1988 gross revenue and the end-user installed base grew more than four times over the 1987 level.

In all, 15 countries are represented in the optical publishing industry with 326 commercial titles in print in 1988 (listed in descending order of number of titles in print in 1988): United States and Canada Italy United Kingdom France Germany Netherlands Australia Sweden Austria Belgium Switzerland Japan Spain New Zealand

Compared to 1987, with 135 commercial titles from nine countries, the number of new titles was not startling, and was only half again more than projected. As each commercial title was verified for actual availability in 1988, a substantial list of forthcoming titles in 1989 was gathered and included separately in the report. Every indication is that the growth rate in number of CD-ROM titles in print will continue to accelerate.

Readers or drives and gross revenue from sales of titles and drives were the real startling figures. The relative size of the installed base of reader hardware is the classic comparative measure for analysts from the computer industry, while the number of titles and resulting revenue are more classic indicators for the print and database publishing industry analysts. Installed base figures for the commercial publishing sector were just under 90,000 for 1988, while commercial revenue for titles and readers sold to end-users came to $311 million worldwide.

Installed base and revenue are indicators of how substantial the industry is today. The level of titles in print is a leading indicator of future sales and a historic record of the risk/reward evaluations of 165 CD-ROM publishers. Even those of us who are selling at the high end of the range of unit sales, all of which were available for more than one year. …

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