Everything you need to know about technology

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  • Everything You Need to Know About Technology

    Czeslaw Jan Grycz

    Technological change in publishing comes in three forms: (1) software applications intended to increase efficiency of existing processes; (2) entirely new publishing opportunities, and (3) pressures exerted on the system of publishing. For educators and publishers, this poses a challenge. Teaching computer applications is often indistinguishable from mere skills-training, and may be inappropriate for most professional publishing education programs. The study of possible business opportunities may be impractically abstract, and consequently may be viewed with indifference by professional publishers. The study of systemic change requires a more inclusive definition of scope than is enjoyed by most academic and in-house education programs. In every case, fostering an understanding of the context and process of change itself is crucial .for meaningful education. The author uses examples based in traditional scholarly publishing as illustrations.

    T echnological change is a Trojan horse. Technology is introduced into the workplace in the guise of mere labor-saving innovation, or is insinuated through promises of improved efficiency. Once established, its real potential is released, invariably resulting in fundamental readjustments in the workplace, typically through pressure for organizational change, new employee job de- scriptions and remuneration scales, challenges to hierarchical and supervisory structures, reordering of relationships between departments, and even by gen- erating wholly new kinds of work. Shoshanna Zuboff examined the effect of introducing computers into various blue-collar workplaces and observed the important psychological advantage in employee involvement in implementing technological change. 1 To ignore doing so is to run the risk of a troublesome implementation. But it also retards a more important skills acquisition, which can be described as "organizational maturity" or "corporate preparedness" to exploit new business opportunities.

    Educational programs that aspire to produce students with skills that pub-

    Czeslaw Jan Grycz heads the Scholarship and Technology Study Project at the University of California. He was previously design and production manager of the University of California Press. Address for correspondence: Scholarship and Technology Study Project, University of California, Kaiser Center, Eighth Floor, 300 Lakeside Drive, Oakland, CA 94616--3550

  • 4 Publishing Research Quarterly / Winter 1991/92

    lishers will find useful, or to advance the skills of employees, will do well to emphasize the process of personal and organizational learning. This emphasis creates employees able to adjust continually to the instability of technological innovation. By all that is measurable, such instability will be a constant for some time to come.

    Ease or difficulty of adaptation is generally proportional to the sophistication of introduced technology. Thus, the changeover from scroll to codex--while sig- nificant in its time--had a less profound impact, overall, than did the replace- ment of the scribe by the mechanical printing press. In our time, highly sophisti- cated technologies portend significant changes in our industry. The publishing community needs to respond to the reality of the dominant role of technology in the future shape of its industry.

    Technological Influence

    Curricula that address technology in publishing need to differentiate among four distinct areas: (1) instruction in practical computer applications, (2) expli- cation of the dynamics of change, (3) risk-assessment and opportunity-evalua- tion skills, and (4) systemic considerations.

    Computer Applications

    Computer applications for publishers are software programs intended to improve or alleviate the labor involved in publishing processes. They can range from basic word processing to advanced pre-press color separation. The pro- grams can be custom designed, or generic (off-the-shelf) packages. Whatever their form, instruction in the mastery of computer applications is a dubious priority for programs in publishing education. Changes in software occur with great rapidity. Skills levels of individual students can vary considerably. Specific needs of individual employers can also differ widely. And equipment suitable to respond to these diverse needs is expensive, especially since it so rapidly becomes obsolete.

    These caveats suggest it may be difficult for community colleges or univer- sity-based publishing programs to maintain their currency in the most recent software applications. Alternatively, if programs are developed solely around well-established or already proven software programs, there may be little to distinguish such courses from the many commercially available software train- ing programs. On an ongoing basis, such programs will never manage to fulfill either student or industry expectations.

    Dynamics of Change

    In contrast, considerations of technological change and adaptability in the context of its organizational impact, financial decision-making, and training implications can be appropriate curriculum topics. These provide an opportu-

  • Grycz 5

    nity for industry case studies and historical surveys. They provide research potential into organizational psychology and personal qualities needed for successful competitiveness. Courses that foster broader understanding provide students with assets that are readily transferable to new specific situations, ones the students will invariably encounter on their very first (and subsequent) jobs. These are skills publishers need to have.

    Education in the dynamics of personal and organizational change is increas- ingly important in an era of "learning organizations," defined as communities whose organizing principle depends on mutual psychological support through empowerment and accountability; and collaborative commitment to respon- siveness, flexibility, and mission-oriented team building. 2

    New Business Opportunities

    Technology often represents new business opportunities for publishers.

    9 Fiche and microfilm created one such opportunity. 9 Online services created another, with their related spinoff industries:

    abstracts and indexing, front-end searching, and niche-oriented mar- keting of online newsletters.

    9 A highly successful opportunity was recently exploited in the advent of audio book recording.

    9 Presently, CD-ROM technology permits publishers to repackage existing materials for specific markets.

    9 Multimedia promises important business potentials in corporate train- ing, consumer-oriented "edutainment" products, and a range of refer- ence and pedagogic applications which can be aimed at various school levels.

    The technology that makes new types of publishing "products" possible si- multaneously demands specific skills with which to analyze, evaluate, and judge the merits of one opportunity over another.

    Some may romanticize risk taking in new technologies as an innate part of the "entrepreneurial spirit." The truth--as anyone who has dealt with venture capitalists knows--is that every investment of labor and capital must be based on systematic risk assessment, careful cost analysis, and detailed market re- search. These are skills we can and ought to teach in the context of the publish- ing industry. All too often, courses that deal with such matters are relegated to other departments and programs. They belong as an integral part of our cur- riculum. Mastery of the skills for realistically analyzing business potential will not only serve students in their every endeavor, but will generate improved publisher confidence in graduates.

    Learning to understand change, being comfortable in a changing work envi- ronment, and having the necessary intellectual evaluative skills prepares an individual (or company) to exploit new business opportunities. The final in-

  • 6 Publishing Research Quarterly/Winter 1991/92

    gredient is to understand the complexity of our industry, both to identify its dynamics and to discover an appropriate niche for individual talents.

    The System of Publishing

    At one time the publishing industry could be neatly segmented into self- contained specialized roles: publishers had their role; authors, theirs. Editors dealt with words; designers with layout. Research institutions had clear re- sponsibilities; so had institutional libraries. Bookselling was a commercial en- terprise almost unto itself. The legal underpinnings protected capital and intel- lectual property investments in a well-understood economic model based on (1) encouraging intellectual creativity while (2) protecting physical investments.

    Today, however, publishing is a many-faceted enterprise. Technology has blurred previously fixed distinctions and has changed the relationships among virtually all of its players.

    A Case Example: Scholarly Publishing

    A consideration of scholarly publishing, as an example, may be useful here. Today, many academics, university administrators, and other involved observers perceive the system of scholarly publication to be showing signs of distress. The outpouring of research has outstripped the capacity of paper to contain it all. Neither is it clear that all research ought to appear in print. New technologies promise faster and less expensive publication. Faculty who have invested in desktop publishing express reservations about the "value added" of a publisher's imprint, especially in specialized scientific research areas. Digital and electronic collections of published work permit more flexible retrieval, manipulation, and use. These changes have led to calls for a reexamination of sacred cows like peer review, "publish or perish," and even the very theory behind protecting intellectual properties. One might even say that the current conflict surrounding institutional overhead rates for government research is related to this examination.

    Scholarly Books. Originally, scholarly presses were entirely funded by their universities. Publishing was seen as a natural offshoot of the teaching man- date, one expression of which was in classrooms and seminars; the other, through printed faculty research reports and books. Founded on the high stan- dards appropriate to their calling, the services provided by scholarly publish- ers were, and continue to be, understandably expensive. Some claim that, today, the expense surpasses the value. But many factors have contributed to in- creased costs, while accounting for real costs and value is fraught with diffi- culty. 3 Over time, universities have backed away from their commitment to economic support, increasingly asking their presses to be economically self- sufficient. Similarly, in the not too-distant-past, a university press could count on guaranteed sales to college and university libraries, numbering in the several hundreds of copies of each monograph it published. This formed a de facto

  • Grycz 7

    subvention which shared the risk of publication in narrow and restricted fields where individual sales promised to be meager. Today, downward budget pressures have annually reduced real funds available to libraries for purchas- ing monographic studies, and the de facto subvention has, necessarily, evapo- rated.

    Serials. In the sphere of serials publications, similar forces have transformed traditional relationships. Research conducted on campus was originally pub- lished by university presses through serial "service" publications. Some of these were provided gratis to libraries for use in exchange programs with for- eign countries or specialty research laboratories. This permitted a reverse eco- nomic subvention by which a library's collection could be enhanced without incurring out-of-pocket expenses. Gradually, economies of scale were perceived through commercializing serial publications, resulting in the evolution of a welcome genre of "commercial scholarly publishers." These, naturally, sought to develop their new markets among specialists and researchers, and suc- ceeded quite well in doing so. Today, these same companies are attacked on the basis of what has become known as "the serials pricing crisis. "4 Most scholarship is now published by commercial giants, who can demand what appear to many to be unconscionable price increases in subscription rates.

    Growing Complexity. Such pressures--felt in various ways by individual constituents of the system, and occurring gradually over time--are difficult to observe; change occurs in minute stages. The combined effect, however, is that it is now impossible for individual constituents to respond to change in isola- tion from one another. The causes, effects, solutions, and resulting problems are intertwined in a far more complex system than existed when scholarly publishers were first established by their universities. 5 But this does not mean there are no historical precedents to observe and similar experiences from which to learn in the history of publishing.

    Speed of Technological Change

    In her classic book The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, Elizabeth Eisenstein catalogues the astonishing speed with which the printing press flourished and proliferated throughout Europe in the beginning of the seventeenth century. 6 In a space of fifty years from its invention, no major European city was with- out an established printing press. But the impact of the device itself unleashed sweeping social change which took another century (and more) to come to fruition. Entirely new institutions were formed in the service of the printed book; existing institutions were transformed; some disappeared entirely. Most readers of this journal owe our living (some five hundred years later) to insti- tutions that derive their present form and structure from the existence of a single physical artifact: the book. Indeed, we live in societies and under gov- ernments that have, in similar ways, been organized around the printed word.

    In a recent address, Gordon Graham identified publishing with book, by say-

  • 8 Publishing Research Quarterly/Winter 1991/92

    ing that quintessentially, publishing was "one person writing; one person reading, one word at a time. "7 He exhorted educators to defend the "classic concept of publishing" and to preserve its "integrity." Human memory is so short, and our involvement with the book--for centuries--is so intimate, that it is hard to imagine a moment in time when that relationship did not exist; harder still to imagine that in printing words on paper, we might even have lost something from an earlier day in which songs, poetry, or storytelling flourished as a vehicle for transmitting ideas and preserving community and cultural values. So it is, attempting to look into the future. It is difficult to be enthusiastic about an evolution in which the book loses its centrality to media which appear more ephemeral and transitory.

    It seems arguable, however, that publishing depends, not on the physical artifact, but on a series of attitudes and accomplishments: attitudes of thoughtful evaluation and careful selection of things to publish; attention to authenticity and verification of opinion; and accomplishments concerned largely with dis- tribution: conveying the chosen materials to an individual, in a form that is most useful. For centuries past (and centuries to come) the book has fulfilled the criteria of usefulness for both publisher and reader. This, however, does not exclude various alternative technologically innovative delivery systems.

    Arenas of Change


    In a paper recently delivered to the American Council of Learned Societies, entitled "Electronic Texts and University Structures," Richard Lanham, an eminent UCLA professor, pleasurably anticipated his eventual release from the arbitrary restrictions imposed by the printed page and looked forward to the time when he will be able to marshal a robust variety of teaching aids in preparing and delivering his courses, s He expects to utilize text, but also im- ages, sounds, animations, and colors in the teaching of his specific field of interest ... rhetoric. As a teacher, he perceives the pedagogical advantage of multimedia as superior to exclusively printed educational materials.

    Recently, another eminent humanist scholar wrote to his editor inquiring about the possibilities of electronic publication of his concordance to James Joyce's Ulysses. 9 He wondered whether his material---involving backward cita- tions to often obscure sources used by Joyce, and forward citations to demon- strate Joycean influence on contemporary l iterature--might best be served, not by a book, but by a freeform, updatable, and annotatable database.


    These examples are from the humanities. Scientists have been even more visionary. The American Physical Society recently impanelled a task force to develop plans for the society's strategic approach to publications in physics. 1~

  • Grycz 9

    The report of the task force, recently completed, makes fascinating reading. It documents the impasse perceived to have been reached in the sciences. Per- ceptible problems in the exchange of prompt and reliable reports of scientific discovery have been identified due to the burgeoning proliferation of scientifi- cally interesting and publishable research, the internationalization of collabo- rative scientific effort, and the incapacity of print to accommodate the demand (let alone the ability of libraries and institutions to finance the purchase of such publications). Along the way, the task force envisioned, in considerable detail, a discipline-specific electronic resource of scientific literature (made up of both converted print and originally digital documents) which permits retrieval of information and access to underlying data, facilitates collaboration among sci- entists at considerable remove from one another, provides for annotation and correspondence with an author, and fosters a new way of dealing with scien- tific inquiry. Ronald Besse has pointed out that a present vulnerability for publishers is lack of data about what readers really want. 11 The APS Task Force Report satisfies this need, because it expresses the opinion of a significant community about what they want from publishers in their future.

    Barriers to Implementation

    There is little to indicate that such activities will soon disappear or are seri- ously threatened by the new digital communications technologies. Print pub- lishing has already slipped from its central role in facilitating communication and delivering timely information, but it will always retain its capacity to be a nonpareil vehicle for synthesis, advocacy, and contemplation. A formal study of print vs. digital Communication reveals interesting data about media effi- ciency, information management, intellectual property rights, and economics.

    Media Efficiency

    One reason to expect the role of the book to continue is its inherent effi- ciency. Edward Tufte has even gone so far as to analyze the surface area of a printed page and contrast it with that of a computer monitor. 12 He convinc- ingly demonstrates that the printed page has many times more capacity for conveying data bits of meaning than does a computer screen. From what we know about display technology, we can predict with some certainty that re- dressing this deficiency will take a very long time.

    Information Management

    We have had several centuries in which to understand the nature of print. The systems and institutions by which it can be made useful, retrievable, and profitable are sophisticated. We have extrapolated laws to defend social and personal rights associated with freedom of expression and freedom of access within the domain of print. These experiences are of utmost importance for the

  • 10 Publishing Research Quarterly / Winter 1991/92

    digital medium. Fundamental equivalents in the electronic milieu--analogous, for example, to publishers' quality assurance imprints, ISBNs, Library of Con- gress numbers, or cataloguing classifications--have yet to be fully developed for the electronic environment. More important, the role of private and public enterprise, the policies concerning funding and access, and the implications for personal and social rights are in formation for electronic publishing. Ironically, these topics are under consideration apart from traditional publishers. A com- pelling book by Ithiel de Sola Pool, Technologies of Freedom, is mandatory read- ing for those who wish to study how important and subtle are the decisions that determine the future course of technological innovation, and how diverse are the participants engaged in the struggle for power. 13

    Intellectual Property Rights

    Similarly, the "ownership" of intellectual property faces challenges in the transition of publishing from printed to electronic form. Digital publishing forces us to examine the entire premise of economic return for actual publica- tion, value added, reasonable return, fair use, and other manifestations of copyright. In this context, Peter Lyman's Bill of Rights for Electronic Citizens sets forth a compelling argument for considering entirely new models for appreci- ating what is at the essence of to publish. 14 He and his co-authors point out that the copyright model under which we work is based on justice. It was designed to protect the not insubstantial capital investment of printers in their equipment and publishers in the physical components of their books. Readers are asked to consider an alternative model, potentially more appropriate for the twenty- first century "Information Age." Although new in its application to intellectual properties, their model is based on existing human social organizations in which the principle of sharing takes precedence over owning. Applied to pub- lishing and publication law, such a model would mean wholesale transforma- tion of contractual relationships.

    Economic Models

    Fundamentally, it is the lack of suitable economic models for electronic pub- lishing that constitutes the greatest barrier to the emergence of satisfactory digital publishing. Policy makers do not know how best to foster efficient collaborations. Publishers do not know how, safely, to protect their invest- ments. There exists no consensus of priorities around which to establish research prototypes to identify specific solutions.

    One example of an approach that ought to be studied and emulated by publishing educators is in the year-old Coalition for Networked Information. 15 CNI is a consortium made up of librarians, scholarly and commercial publish- ers, university administrators, computer center directors, information managers, and professional scholarly societies. As only one of its several activities, CNI is engaged in identifying and disseminating various "economic models for elec-

  • G rycz 11

    tronic publishing." The attempt is not to suggest that any one of the models will ultimately prevail, since no single model will prevail in the pluralistic societies we have come to cherish in Canada and the United States. Rather, the attempt is to examine complexity by its essential stakeholders, in a systematic way, that can illumine the present and provide clues for the future.


    Technology has historically been a dynamic force in publishing. Today tech- nology is at the heart of significant changes taking place in the industry. Pub- lishers, their employees, and would-be employees should understand these forces in order not to be distracted or overwhelmed by them, and in order to succeed in environments marked by continual cycles of innovation, adaptation, and obsolescence. They need to develop evaluative and risk-assessment skills, not only for themselves, but to contribute to their workplace.

    One can imagine traditional publishers restricting their future activities to the comfortable sphere of print-on-paper, with which they are familiar. It is un- thinkable that they should do so. Skills that publishers have developed over the last half-millennium are essential for the milieu of the electron. Educators and publishers must support the education of future publishing professionals, capable of bridging the old and the new; rooted in an understanding of print, but comfortable in the milieu of the electron.


    This article is adapted from a paper presented at the founding meeting of the International Association for Publishing Education, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C., May 1991. I. Shoshanna Zuboff, In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (New York: Basic Books,

    1988). 2. The concept of computer-aided scientific collaboration was developed by network pioneer Douglas

    Engelbart, who is continuing his research into this field through a foundation he established, called the Bootstrap Project (6505 Kaiser Drive, Fremont, California 94555). Englebart's theories have been refined into the precise formulation of "learning organizations" by George P6r, Evolutionary Learning Systems, Berkeley, California.

    3. At least two groups of economists, at Stanford and Carnegie Mellon Universities, are analyzing the real costs of traditional publishing, from a systemwide perspective.

    4. Many articles in the popular and academic press attest to the existence of this "crisis" mentality. For a comprehensive survey of the problem, read Ann Okerson, Of Making Many Books There is No End, Asso- ciation of Research Libraries report, 1990. Also of interest is an online Serials Pricing Newsletter con- ducted by Marshal Turtle, University of North Carolina (TUTTLE~UNC.BITNET).

    5. A useful discussion is found in Charles B. Osburn, "The Structuring of the Scholarly Communication System," College & Research Libraries, May 1989.

    6. Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

    7. Gordon Graham, keynote address, founding meeting of the International Association for Publishing Education, Vancouver, B.C., May 1991.

    8. Richard Lanham, "Electronic Texts and University Structures," Occasional Paper #14, Scholarship and Research Libraries in tile 21st Century: A Compendium of Talks Given at the 1990 American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Meeting. New York, N.Y., 1990.

    9. Professional correspondence between Ulysses scholar James Gifford and editor William J. McClung, University of California Press, shared with the author.

    10. Stuart Loken et al., "Report of the APS Task Force on Electronic Information Systems." This report has been distributed in various places and is soon to appear in print in Physical Letters.

  • 12 Publishing Research Quarterly / Winter 1991/92

    11. Ronald Besse, Chairman, Canada Publishing Corporation, in remarks given in the Business and Man- agement Skills Workshop, IAPE Conference, Vancouver, B.C., May 1991.

    12. Edward R. Tufte, Envisioning Information (Cheshire, Conn.: Graphics Press, 1990). 13. Ithiel de Sola Pool, Technologies of Freedom (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1983). 14. Peter Lyman et al., A Bill of Rights for Electronic Citizens, prepared for the Office of Technology Assess-

    ment of the Congress of the United States and published as an OTA report in 1990. 15. The Coalition for Networked Information was formed through a joint initiative of CAUSE, EDUCOM,

    and ARL. It is presently housed at the Association of Research Libraries, 1527 New Hampshire Av- enue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.

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