Re: e-books and heritage - limited selection

Subject: Re: e-books and heritage - limited selection
From: Ginna Dowler <gdowler -at- questercorp -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 07 Jan 2000 17:21:44 -0800

PHILA -at- Mail -dot- VIPS -dot- com wrote (in part):
> Which books are likeliest to be converted to electronic format? Obviously,
> those that will sell. The dollar imposes one form of censorship; the culture
> itself imposes another. ...

> It's not e-Books that frighten me; I agree, they're simply another medium.
> What frightens me is, first, the limited range of authors and titles that
> e-Books will be likely to offer; second, the factors that will determine
> that range; and finally, the limited lifespan of what could conceivably
> become the publication format of choice.

I think you're being needlessly pessimistic here. Books are currently
enormously expensive things to produce. There are up front costs, ie
paying the author, editor, indexer, publisher's overhead etc. Then there
are the printing costs (which are frankly astronomical, especially for
hard covers). And finally, you have the major killer, returns. The fixed
costs are (almost) inconsequential compared to the other two. So
publishers are justifiably selective in who and what they publish. If
you can't sell X copies from a run, you don't even try. Finally, there's
national, and even international distribution to consider.

E-books have the potential to actually vastly increase the number of
marginal books which get printed. Even better, they have the potential
to remove the phrase "out of print" from our collective vocabulary. If
you've already spent the money editing a book, and the author has earned
out their advance, and you can (for the cost of a MB of storage) keep a
book "on the shelves" in perpetuity, why wouldn't you? Books go out of
print because distibutors don't want to give shelf space to items which
will not continue to sell a minimum number of copies. With digital
delivery, there's no problem.

Now, here's where I bring it back to technical communication. E-books
look particulary good to publishers of text books, and they should to
manual publishers as well. We all love PDF, but the common refrain seems
to be "I can't read it in the bath, or bed, or whatever". If I can keep
my manual readable as a book, with hyperlinks and all the good parts of
online distribution, how can this possibly be a bad thing?


--
Ginna Dowler
Project Manager and Documentation Supervisor
Quester Tangent Corporation
Sidney, BC
gdowler -at- questertangent -dot- com




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