Electronic publishing and publishing

Pages291-292
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/eb045481
Publication Date01 Apr 1996
AuthorArnoud de Kemp
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
Guest Editorial
Electronic publishing
and
publishing
Arnoud de Kemp
Director of
Corporate
Development,
Springer-Verlag,
Tiergartenstrasse
17,
D-69121
Heidelberg,
Germany.
E-mail:
dekemp@adkathome.de
A short history
The first journals appeared in 1665: Le Journal des Scavans in Paris and Philo-
sophical Transactions in London. They were the first publications with quality
control, introducing concepts like approbation and imprimatur. Today we can see
approximately 70 000 regular primary publications. Catalogues from subscription
agencies like
Swets,
EBSCO and Blackwell list over
300
000 serial titles.
Little
has
been done to improve accessibility and retrievability; book catalogues,
whether printed on paper or electronically as OPACs (Online Public Access Cata-
logues), are still based on rather simple cataloguing rules. Journal literature is ab-
stracted and indexed by so-called secondary or
A&I
services: one of the most prac-
tical
tools
to access new articles in primary journals
is
Current
Contents.
There
is
no
longer a library that can acquire all relevant publications, not even the Library of
Congress (USA), the British Library (UK) or
the
National Diet Library (Japan).
The number of publications seems to double every 15 years, and it would be
interesting to correlate the number of active members of learned societies and the
number of publications offered and accepted over the years. The only effective
answer to this increasing problem seems to be the introduction of electronic pub-
lishing and communication over networks.
What publishers do
The publishing process, until very re-
cently, was traditional and reclusive.
There are many smaller publishing or-
ganisations. Publishers can be compa-
nies,
societies, universities, cities,
departments, institutions, states or in-
dividual persons on a part-time basis.
They are as varied as the aims and
scope, and many are so small that pub-
lishers are individual all-rounders tak-
ing care of editorial work, production,
marketing, sales and distribution
themselves.
Publishing as a whole is big busi-
ness,
with several mega-companies
that seem to dominate the landscape.
The many mergers and acquisitions
during the last 50 years have worried a
lot of scientists and their societies. In
STM publishing we define the follow-
ing categories: scholarly publishing,
professional publishing and textbook
publishing. Not all work published is
unsolicited material offered by scien-
tists for publication: instead, we see
many publications that are written at
the request of publishers or in their of-
fices. I would also like to mention the
reference works, dictionaries and
multi-volume compendia, some of
which have a very long publishing tra-
dition.
Publishers are not homogeneous,
but they share the belief of freedom to
publish. The basic or core activities in
publishing are selection, editing (also
copy and language editing), design
and illustration, translating and index-
ing, production, promotion, market-
ing, sales and distribution.
The computer has become
a
power-
ful tool and the large reference works,
along with the abstracting and index-
ing sources, were the first to be con-
verted to electronic databases. Still, it
has taken a long time for full text to
become totally digital, perhaps mainly
because computer screens
were
not
de-
signed for reading text in this
way.
Al-
though the acceptance of reading
words on a monitor has increased,
most information is printed on the fly
and then
read.
The next generation will
certainly be more receptive to screen-
based text.
Publishing has always concen-
trated on the printing or multiplication
of documentation and recorded infor-
mation: carefully checked and peer
re-
viewed, original, integral and authen-
tic.
In the electronic age it seems that
the barriers between informal commu-
nications and formal publications are
disappearing. I would like to make a
plea for a careful definition of: com-
munications; papers offered for publi-
cation; papers accepted for publication
in a specific journal or serial title; and
publications with paper numbers, a
publication date and so on that can be
cited in bibliographies. Also, in the
middle area, before the publishing
body can announce the fact of a final
version, it
is
recommended
to
specify
a
date and a version.
Last but not least, it should
be
men-
tioned that the publishing process in
the USA is partly financed out of re-
search grants and several publications
levy page charges, which is rather un-
common in Europe.
New technologies
Quoting Marshall McLuhan, who in
the 1950s said that automation confer-
ences looked
like a
gathering of coach-
men discussing the re-education of
horses in times of more and more
The Electronic Library, Vol. 14, No. 4, August 1996 291

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