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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Sunday, June 24, 2007

    Street signs or SatNav: a publisher on (e-)publishing

    Print is Dead: Books in Our Digital Age reports that O'Reilly's editor of Craft and Make magazines, Dale Dougherty, spoke at their TOC Conference on “The Beauty of Print in a Digital Age”:
    In terms of the encroaching tidal wave of online experiences and digital products (what Chris Anderson yesterday called a “relentless march”), Dougherty talked about print and digital co-existing. Or, as he put it, “The old and the new are interwoven, and the art of our day is to figure out how these two pieces fit together.”
    Which sounds pretty good - very Web 2.0, and pretty much what you would expect from a publisher which is "a chronicler and catalyst of leading-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption" and has an "unshakeable belief in the power of information to spur innovation."

    Slightly odd, then, that Dale Dougherty was:
    dismissive of an online or digital interface, saying that “the Internet today is largely a collection of snippets,” characterizing the experience as being one of “small bits of information scattered everywhere.” He continued, saying that this is “very much different than reading a book…it’s more like reading street signs when you’re driving a car.”
    Not unreasonable for the editor of 2 print journals to think that print offers a great experience, but to follow in Michael Gorman's footsteps, likening the Internet to a 'collection of snippets' seems short-sighted. And the characterisation is inappropriate: the Internet is whatever the content providers and publishers make of it - much like any publication or collection of publications. Editors (Web or otherwise) can put together street signs (perhaps SatNav would be more Web 2.0!) or whole atlases of information! If small bits of information are published, the book or journal will be a collection of snippets; if large bits of information (say, scholarly articles) are made available, then the medium - Internet, journal, magazine, “book/magazine hybrid” will be more worthy. Like most publications, the Internet has some good and some poor material. But that doesn't make the Internet a dangerous "tsunami of digital change" (Michael Gorman: The Siren Song of the Internet, Part 1).

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