Blast from the Past: Redux of 1993 Session Taking Back Academia: Restructuring Scholarly Publishing

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That Was Then

Gopher was the original web access application.

AAUP Computer Newsletter

Winter 1987 issue—Word Star was the big word processing application.

One needed a bunch of computer conversion programs to accommodate all the dissonant applications from authors.

InDesign is the grandson of PageMaker.


Everyone adopting Cats Pajamas.

First computer viruses are seen.


Bibliographic database applications really figured out by Bruce Barton at Chicago.

CD-ROM publishing.

Local Area Networks (LAN) begins to appear.

Varityper VT-600 laser printer comes out. (Breaks the 300 dpi barrier.)


Docutech and print on demand was introduced.


Libraries lead the way by turning to digital publishing products.

Lessons Learned from the Past

Methods, models and meaning.


We thought we should replacing "books" with other "things." Things that would replace books. But costs were prohibitive.

Looked at SGML. Very detailed and nice, and appealed to the technologists, but was really, really hard. (XML is an offshoot and much more easy.)

Models confused us too.

Who owns which part of the product? There are licensing agreements and other complexities. No web to speak of yet.

Then we could do html with pictures and it was so cool but how do you make money?

We thought it would be micropayments. Each link out would cost a penny or something like that.

We wondered what happens if you don't need intermediaries.

Money Models Subscriptions Sales for products Pay for access for a time interval (renting information)


What happens to the academy then because of all this?

VP of Adobe was at 1994 meeting. They showed a 300 dots per inch screen. But it never came out.

NAP PDF experiment

1994 NAP begins posting PDF for free because they were asked to so information could get out to the scientists, etc.

58% of people would take the free pdf instead of pay for the book.

42% were still willing to pay to get the print book.

Told the institution leadership what the real cost would be if they posted free PDF's.

NAP also gives away half their books, which are esoteric subjects. Result is no difference to print sales.


Must adapt your products and means to the various audiences: some want pdf, some print books, some other things.

Eternal themes

Our "publishing":

  • Must be easy.
  • Must be portable.
  • Must be completely oriented to the user-person who wants it.
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