Electronic Publishing

Recently I had a visit from my brother-in-law, Christian Vandendorpe, who is very involved in electronic publishing.  This spring he is giving a workshop at the University of Sherbrooke in Montreal on electronic publishing but unfortunately it is in French.  I interviewed him about the subject.

I asked him about copyright and for most things academics publish it is a non-issue.  However he pointed me to a presentation given by Paulo Coelho, a very successful Brazilian author, who has sold about 40 million copies of his books worldwide.  In the presentation he says copyright is a lost battle.  He then talked about selling his book in Russia.  He was selling about one thousand copies a year because Russia is a large country and distribution was an issue.  He then made it available for download on the net and the next year he sold 10,000 copies and that got distribution solved and he sold 100,000 of his books.  He said the download give people a taste of the book and if they like it they buy the book because it is more accessible in book form.  Interesting experience.  You will find the video of Paulo Coelho at the DLD Conference 08.  It was held in Munich this last January, 2007.

He then told me you need to decide on format.  If you want it to be able to be printed PDF is best.  However if you use HTML, it is more accessible.  You can scan and surf with HTML.  He also a format engine called CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) which is the norm for formating.  see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cascading_Style_Sheets

If you want plan to sell it on the net you can put it on Amazon, lulu, or Google books.  They can be search-able and restricted so that is the person wants to buy it they can go to Amazon. 

The problem with electronic publishing is that reading on the back lite screen is difficult.  It is OK for short pieces  but for novel there is a problem.  Apparently with electronic paper the back-lighted screen is not a problem.  Two products exist now, Sony and Kindle.  Kindle is available on Amazon.  See http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Amazons-Wireless-Reading-Device/dp/B000FI73MA  Christian is part of research team that is evaluating electronic books.

The valuable thing of having material on the net in HTML is that one can scan and surf for research with ease.  This would be especially valuable with non-fiction where you want to find material using key words.   You can Google it, if that is a verb.

Any comments?

  1. Christian Reply

    Many people resist to the PDF format because they are afraid to lose the opportunities offered by hypertext and the pleasures of “surf-reading” as opposed to immersive reading.
    Hypertext gives the text a new dimension, which is a capacity to link any word to any other document in an immediate manner. It is a kind of generalized footnote, but with an order of magnitude faster and easier and bigger: the scope of the reader is no more the book but the entire library. Moreover, hypertext combines easily with interactivity, which gives the reader the possibility to react and make his or her voice heard by the author of the document and by the public. As in this blog.

  2. Codex Reply

    Very interesting, Jim.
    Regarding the question of Copyright, I like to refer to the American Constitution, where it is established in the following clause : “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” (1.8.8)
    Clearly, the justification for copyright is not linked to the ownership of the author, as if it were a property, but to the common progress of a society. This is also why academics favor Open access over private publishers.

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