Magazine article Information Today

Japan's Electronic Publishing Conference

Magazine article Information Today

Japan's Electronic Publishing Conference

Article excerpt

The International Conference on Electronic Publishing took place June 20 in Tokyo. The 1996 conterence was the eighth in a series of meetings that began as a means for USACO Corporation, a large book and online distributor, to interact with its customers. Over the years, the conference has evolved into a venue for Japanese information professionals interested in information technology to meet and interact with others of similar interests.

USACO makes a significant effort to recruit speakers from outside Japan so that conference attendees can be updated on major developments occurring in the global information arena without having to undertake time-consuming and costly international trips for that purpose. I was invited to be the keynote speaker. This year's conference consisted of a total of four presentations, followed by short reviews and demonstrations of several leading information products and services.

Paid attendance at the conference was about 100, with the addition of about 20 overseas speakers and company representatives plus several USACO employees. Simultaneous translation between Japanese and English using professional interpreters was provided.

Background on USACO

USACO was founded in 1934 to import and distribute major American and European scientific journals and books to the Japanese marketplace. Its present customer base includes national and private universities, R&D institutions, and libraries and laboratories of private industry. The focus of the business now includes electronic media such as online databases, CD-ROMs, and subscriptions via the Internet, as well as conventional print products. USACO represents over 1,500 U.S. and European publishers; in the online services market, it is the Japanese distributor for Questel-Orbit and Ovid Technologies. Its current business is 70 percent journal and book sales and 30 percent electronic database sales, with an annual revenue stream of about $50 million. USACO is the third largest journal and book importer in Japan; it claims to be the largest in CD-ROM and networked information sales. The workforce is composed of about 90 people in the Tokyo headquarters and three local sales offices.

Internet Survey

At the conference, USACO distributed some interesting data on Internet usage, collected from a survey sent to 1,004 overseas publishers, vendors, and scientific organizations in the U.S., Europe, and Taiwan. There were 186 responses received. Here are some of the results:

About three-quarters of the respondents have introduced the Internet into their organizations, most since 1992.

Virtually all respondents use the Internet for e-mail. Additional uses include both ftp and Web pages (66 respondents), and Web pages only (39 respondents).

Web pages are being used for dissemination of corporate information (106 respondents), product/services introductions (96 respondents), dissemination of pricing information (72 respondents), public relations (32 respondents), and electronic commerce (21 respondents).

Major concerns regarding the Internet include connectability, manpower (the word's meaning was not specified), information security, and costs.

The Presentations

The theme of the 1996 International Conference on Electronic Publishing was "Internet Services for Scientific Information: Today and Tomorrow." Overseas speakers in addition to me were Daniel Marovitz, formerly Japanese development manager, Gateway 2000 Japan, Inc. and now at Gateway's U.S. headquarters; and Bela Hatvany, president of SilverPlatter. A fourth presentation was given by Daisuke Yoshida, associate professor at Yokohama National University. Product reviews were by Chapman & Hall (a major British publisher recently acquired by the Thomson organization), Elsevier Science Japan, Ovid Technologies, and SilverPlatter.

In his welcoming remarks, Takashi Yamakawa, president of USACO, noted that the first time he heard of the Internet was at a Special Libraries Association conference in San Francisco several years ago. …

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