past & future
Delivery: Online and Disk
page considers online versus physical format digital publications
(eg CD-ROMs), including online delivery of content for
It covers -
is followed by discussion of formats for electronic publishing
- PDF, HTML, XML, TEI.
Developments in print-on-demand publishing are discussed
later in this guide.
In publishing information electronically you face
what are the needs and expectations of your readers
you are going to deliver the publication (online or
embodied in data carrier such as a floppy disk, zip
disk or CD) and
how the information is going to be presented.
Different presentation mechanisms - PDF, HTML, TIFF, GIF
etc - can be delivered online and in physical carriers.
Your answers should be determined by what works best for
your markets and by consideration of issues such as cost,
maintenance and portability.
Estimates of future use of different media vary significantly.
One of the better studies is The Scale of Future Publishing
in Digital and Conventional Formats: a report to the British
Library Policy Unit (PDF)
by Mark Bide & Associates
physical format publications
A decade ago the "road ahead" for many publishers
appeared to be physical format publications rather than
the global information highway. As late as the mid-1990s
Microsoft still envisaged that you'd be using CD-ROMs
rather than accessing content online, a vision memorably
recorded by Fred Moody in I Sing The Body Electronic
(New York: Viking 1995).
Why the emphasis on publishing bits of plastic? There
are two reasons.
Some publishers (and librarians and consumers) are more
comfortable with tangible objects. More importantly, CDs
offer 'canned bandwidth': the ability to quickly deliver
large quantities of information - video, text, audio and
still graphics - to a market that may not have a good
Although pricing and infrastructure constraints mean that
broadband has yet to arrive
in much of Australia, publication on the web meets the
needs of most users and publishers. With the exception
of products involving quick access to video or major interactive
graphics (eg virtual reality), physical format is now
generally seen as at best a transitional stage in the
move towards publication online. Few database/book publishers
now use CDs.
As a consequence there is little recent writing about
CD publication. One exception is On A Silver Platter:
CD-ROMs & The Promises Of A New Technology (New
York: New York Uni Press 99) edited by Greg Smith, a collection
of US academic essays that now appears almost quaint.
Most of the technical literature is concerned with specifics
of the technology, for example the excellent guide
by Grant Erickson of the Uni of Minnesota, or with sound
and video recording.
Examples of that work are Sorin Stanís definitive The
CD-ROM Drive: A Brief System Description (London:
Kluwer 1998), Lee Purcell's CD-R/DVD Disc Recording
To Optical Media (New York: McGraw-Hill 2000), Mark
Chambersí Recordable CD Bible (New York: IDG Books
1997), the CD-ROM Professional's CD-Recordable Handbook:
The Complete Guide To Practical Desktop CD (New York:
Info Today 1996) by Dana Parker & Robert Starrett
and their more general New Rider's Guide to CD-ROM
(Indianapolis: New Riders 1994).
The CD-ROM Handbook (New York: McGraw-Hill 1994) is
a detailed collection of technical papers, edited by Chris
Sherman, on the history of CD-ROM and CD-R.
Purcell & David Martin collaborated on The Complete
Guide to Recordable CD (New York: SYBEX 1997). Many
of the above are accompanied by a CD-ROM of demonstration
software for several platforms.
Electronic Publishing on CD-ROM: Authoring, Development
& Distribution (Sebastopol: O'Reilly 1996) by
Steve Cunningham & Judson Rosebush and Creating
Interactive CD-ROMs for Windows & Macintosh (Boston:
AP Professional 1996) by Scott Fisher are now difficult
to obtain, as is Electronic Publishing Unleashed: Discover
the Power of Electronic Publishing Online & Via CD-ROM
(Indianapolis: SAMS 1995) by William Stanek, Lee Purcell
& Robert Bind. The latter's title foreshadowed the
future: the next edition was simply titled Web Publishing
The archival performance of CD-ROMs and CD-RWs remains
contentious. One starting point is the discussion in Images
on Ice (PDF)
by E. Sapwater.
In presenting information online publishers have several
options, depending on requirements for navigation through
the document, verisimilitude to a printed text and inclusion
of audiovisual content.
In practice publication as ASCII text - just the text,
nothing but the text (no hyperlinks, no formatting) -
while acceptable for a browserless internet of the early
1990s is no longer a viable presentation standard.
Debate instead rages about PDF versus derivatives of Standard
Generalized MarkUp Language (SGML) - ie XML, TEI and HTML
- and about particular graphic or audiovisual tools such
as TIFF, GIF, JPEG and PNG. The following page of
this guide explores those standards. Later pages look
at how they are being used by specialist and general publishers.
As a starting point Bill Kasdorf's 1998 article
on SGML & PDF: Why We Need Both in the excellent
Journal of Electronic Publishing (JEP) discusses
both technologies. There is more detailed coverage of
tools and issues in the Design
guides elsewhere on this site.
delivered online for reading offline
Although it is clear that electronic publication is replacing
some print formats, much of the content delivered online
is actually read offline and away from a screen.
In essence, many users are using the web and intranets
to identify and access publications but then print the
particular publication rather than reading it in detail
onscreen. Many similarly print publications that they
have received by email. Many print multiple copies for
distribution to professional or other contacts; explanations
for copying print rather than electronic formats include
"it's more polite" or "I can add a comment".
Reasons for relying on printouts of online publications
rather than relying on personal computer monitors, PDAs
and other devices include -
with online navigation through long documents
to simultaneously read and annotate paper versions of
a glance' benefits of paper, such as juxtaposing a passage
of text with its corresponding footnotes
legibility of print (with associated greater reading
speed, improved comprehension and lower fatigue)
quality graphics and more tables
intangibles such as greater comfort with a physical
such as A. Dawn Shaikh in the 2004 Paper or Pixels:
What are People Reading Online? study
note that reasons for preferring online publications include
ease of identification, 24-hour access (including from
home, office and other locations), lower cost and convenience.
The extent of reliance on print embodiments of electronic
publications varies, depending on audience and the nature
of the publication.
Some publishers have, for example, sought to build technological
restrictions into networked and physical format electronic
publications - readers cannot readily print their own
copy and must pay a premium for an authorised hardcopy
available only from the publisher.
Shaik cites a study, consistent with other research, suggesting
that although 96% of academic participants located academic
journal articles using the web only 3% reported reading
the entire article online, instead skimming the text before
printing selected articles so that they could read from
Feedback about use of this site suggests that many users
combine reading online and offline, for example using
links in the online version to jump to other electronic
documents and using a print copy for reference purposes.
next page (formats)