Re: Online vs. Hardcopy documetation

Subject: Re: Online vs. Hardcopy documetation
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 25 Jul 1996 21:56:00 EST

>The question isn't so much that of one of holding on to an "either/or"
>viewpoint, but of deciding which can be used to best advantage in each
>specific situation. Last year, for the first time, on-line encyclopedias
>outsold bound copies. Encyclopedia Brittanica is now doing a major on-line
>version designed especially to be a major player in the K-12 heirarchy.
>(BTW, this is a perfect answer to those who don't feel that an on-line
>strategy won't work for documents that must carry heavy TOCs and indexes.)

Good point in principle, but remember that EB spends a lot of money on its
online document, because it's a direct product, not overhead for another

>There will, for some time to come, be a solid place for those who choose to
>specialize in printed docs. But the wave of the future, offering IMNSHO the
>greatest opportunities for almost unlimited varieties of presentational
>style, will be on-line multimedia.

You didn't mention the biggest single driver in all of this: cost. Paper or
online doc have always been irritating to most companies, because it's
overhead, like insurance and legal help. What's driving companies toward the
Web and other similar solutions isn't the good of the end user so much as an
evaluation of how much INconvenience the end user will tolerate and still
purchase. It's classic economics. Offering the user heavy support for that
user's second- or third-most desirable product properties isn't of much help
to the bottom line. Rather, companies are shrewdly calculating that most
users will forgo great documentation, online or paper, to get other and more
obvious features. The Web gives such companies a wonderful out, by offering
document support to its users while actually spending much less on it and
giving the end user significantly less for his money. However, the market
will speedily decide if this strategy is a good one, and so far the market
seems content with shrinking doc, even as the individual users cry "foul".
It's a bitter lesson, but a real one that won't go away. The fact is that
companies are caring less and less about writing for the end user, and more
about the APPEARANCE of supplying good doc.

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
FrameMaker support ForeHelp support

Makers of DuoFrame, giving you online help and paper
documentation from a single parent FrameMaker document.

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