Re: continuous publishing practitioners

Subject: Re: continuous publishing practitioners
From: Irene Wong <wongword -at- OZEMAIL -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Sat, 6 Mar 1999 23:14:56 +1000


I can't help but think that it sounds similar to the updatable services
that legal, accounting standards etc publishers do all the time. They
publish text, newsletters etc that covers changing legislation, law
cases etc. They call this "loose leaf publishing", although much of it
is on CD or online now. It is a massive, very profitable industry
throughout the world. It is dominated by just a couple of mega
companies, eg Thompsons and (Reed Elsevier???). This is what they have
done for over one hundred years.

My experience here in Australia is that only a few people from these
types of publishing companies get involved with technical communicators
groups or lists such as these. I hope those who are on this list come
out and respond to your question.

Maybe I'm way off the track of what you have in mind. But a few issues
come immediately to mind.

Nothing is insurmountable but think about:

* maintaining very accurate mailing lists for either hard copy or online
material, unless you just tell them where it is once and leave it up to
them to go get it online. Maintaining mailing lists can be a costly
exercise, but the list can be mined for other uses by your marketing
people etc.

* how new material gets to the person who holds the previous material or
who needs it in the future. Think about how to ensure that new material
is actually put with the earlier releases. ie if it is hard copy you
need to give them a sturdy binder to hold everything. Will you have to
tell them how to file this new material that you send them?

* users will expect you to tell them what old manual/pages etc to throw
out as no longer relevant

* develop techniques to tell people about what's new and what's changed.
Perhaps a newsletter between more substantial updates

* prepare to spend money on handling and postage costs if electronic
distribution isn't an option

* estimate the cost of reprinting a large document because some part of
it has changed. What happens if you don't reprint?

* charge people for continuing updates. Or give them a certain length of
time for free or with each version of the product it supports

* work out how to give late purchases access to all necessary
documentation that has already been released

* index all the bits and pieces that you gradually send out. Release a
new index with each update. (I guess it depends on whether you think a
search is good enough if it is online. But so much material really needs
a professional manually prepared index.)

* adopt consistent material that users will recognise as being similar
to read/navigate etc as the previous stuff you sent them

* perhaps you give them a CD at first. They can then use that CD to long
on to the latest information at a web page. They can down load new stuff
to their computer. Maybe you send them a new Cd from time to time. The
CD can have a "use by date" if necessary.

* if your customers own different versions of hte same product you need
to send the relevant documents to each group. This makes keeping the
mailing list more difficult..What if they upgrade the product they have.
Will you know that they have done this so you can send them the
appropriate manual?

* Establish a naming or numbering convention for each document you send
out, so you can talk about "Update 34" if they phone for help.

* How will they know if they have received every new shipment. Will you
have a list of all releases each issue so they can check that they
received all of them.

Irene Wong

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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