Shakespeare and electronic publishing, cont. (148)

Mon, 20 Mar 89 20:55:16 EST

Humanist Mailing List, Vol. 2, No. 742. Monday, 20 Mar 1989.

(1) Date: 20 Mar 89 11:53:30 gmt (12 lines)
Subject: The Bard and cd-rom

(2) Date: 20 March 1989 (90 lines)
From: Ruth Glynn (RGLYNN@UK.AC.VAX.OX)
Subject: CD-ROMs and floppy-disk publications

(3) Date: Mon, 20 Mar 89 12:30:01 EST (21 lines)
From: David.A.Bantz@mac.Dartmouth.EDU
Subject: Re: the cost of Shakespeare, cont. (18)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 20 Mar 89 11:53:30 gmt
Subject: The Bard and cd-rom

On Shakespeare why not consult the thesis by Tom B. Horton
done at Edinburgh University using machine readable texts.
The latter should still be around somewhere on our mainframe.
Horton worked on stylometric comparisons, and is now in Florida.

On cd-rom I can't comment on Shakespeare but fellow Ibycus users
will know that large chunks of Milton are on the PHI rom. Using
Ibycus with Greek literature is a great asset. David M.
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------92----
Date: 20 March 1989
From: Ruth Glynn (RGLYNN@UK.AC.VAX.OX)
Subject: CD-ROMs and floppy-disk publications

Brad Inwood's comments of 15 March ('Shakespeare Clarification')
raise several issues on electronic distribution media.

At the end of 1988 the installed base of CD drives was approx.
50,000 -- about half the anticipated figure for 1988, which was
supposed to be the 'Year of the CD'. There are several reasons
for this and they are not all related: (i) there remains too
much vapourware -- even large software houses have had
difficulty in meeting publication deadlines because the editorial
and data-prep burdens proved far greater than envisaged
both in time and expense; (ii) much of what comes out is
little better than straight textual
material with unexciting retrieval software wrapped around it
(there is the odd exception); (iii) the hardware remains *very*
expensive -- in the UK you won't get much change from 650 pounds
even if you bulk buy (say 5 units at a time); (iv) the market
is confused by the variety of optical media available and,
particularly, is deterred from purchasing kit for the existing
technology because it has been seduced by expectations of
something better 'coming soon' -- usually erasables.

The last point is important, and you do have to distinguish
between the different optical and magnetic media and examine what
each has to offer. Brad Inwood is quite right in stressing
the need for and usefulness of floppy disk as the
appropriate medium for non-dynamic reference material
for suitably sized
publications. But I do not think that erasables are necessarily
right where CD-ROMs may be wrong. Erasables do not pose the
greatest threat to CD-ROMs, but rather to magnetic storage media.
The markets for these two optical media are different: it seems
that erasables will (should) take off in the PC consumer market,
superseding magnetic disks; CDs, on the other hand, should trade
on their advantage as a static medium and this needs to be
emphasized as a selling-point. (Incidentally, erasable drives
are even more expensive than CD drives -- the figure I have seen
quoted for the Maxtor drive is in the order of 4000 pounds, with
the cartridges retailing at around 100 pounds each.)

Floppy-disk publications and CD publications can be regarded as
fulfilling different functions -- as different in their own way
as a printed text is from an electronic. For the CD to succeed,
however, it must enjoy 'added value' -- i.e. make the most of
advantages not offered by printed or isolated electronic
documents. (Of course this is in the context of the academic
market: major financial, medical and government institutions and
industrial manufacturers find CD-ROMs with purely 'functional'
retrieval software ideal vehicles to replace
massive and frequent in-house paper publications.) CDs must also
begin to offer publications that have been well planned so that
the most useful paths, cross-references
and links are built in. To do this CD publishers need to
exploit the potential of Hypertext (I don't particularly like
this term either, but we seem to be stuck with it), which can
be made to work to advantage in the context of multi-edition
texts, critical apparatus etc., just as well as it can in, say,
the context of molecular biology. The editorial effort, planning
and presentation that would go into such an electronic
publication is comparable to that devoted to an author's
typescript by the copy-editor, the designer and the printer. But
the publisher needs to consult with state-of-the-art software
houses and bring in expertise not traditionally associated with
his business for such an electronic publication to succeed.
He also needs to listen to the market -- it will be feedback
from the users that will ultimately shape successful future

Most of what has been published to date on CD has been mundane
and unexciting in exploiting what the medium has to offer.
The reasons for this cannot be attributed wholly either to the
publishers or to the software houses who have written the
retrieval software -- both are feeling their way in a new
environment. It is only a matter of time before the blend
of these two areas of expertise acting on market
response, delivers the goods properly
packaged, easy of access, and at an attractive price.

For CD to to become more popular as a publishing medium, this
'added value' element must be fully exploited so that CD-ROMs
become less an interesting side-line and more of a necessity.

Ruth Glynn

(3) --------------------------------------------------------------34----
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 89 12:30:01 EST
From: David.A.Bantz@mac.Dartmouth.EDU
Subject: Re: the cost of Shakespeare, cont. (18)

--- Ruth Glynn (RGLYNN@UK.AC.OX.VAX) wrote:
[Humanist Mailing List, Vol. 2, No. 735] Friday, 17 Mar 1989.

"Twenty favorite plays" for $175...around $350 for the lot...
which is more than the OUP electronic edition....
--- end of quoted material ---

But the original posting indicated the "Stratford Town" version
specifically allowed multiple copies; the $300 price for OUP
version is single user; site license is listed at $1000/five year license.
That may still be a reasonable price, depending on the
reliability/thoroughness/appropriateness of the editorial decisions.
I'm a little disapointed there doesn't seem to be indication of
variants, or other comments, etc. and that the format is straight
ASCII with in-line mark-up. I would like to put a "front end"
on the texts with nicer formatting, but wonder if the text encoding and
indexes are sufficiently documented.