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The State of Digital Publishing

Author Michael Kleper provides insight from his definitive guide to the rapidly changing world of digital publishing, The Handbook of Digital Publishing Volume I and II.
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In the history of human communication, there has never before been a time when the expression of thoughts and ideas has been as easily recorded and shared. The process of creating, composing, and publishing all forms of written, visual and audible expression has been simplified, and reduced to skills that can be executed using personal computers, and other digital devices, and readily available software.

The desktop publishing revolution of the mid-1980s has evolved beyond the printed page to include all forms of publishing. Digital publishing, which involves the use of digital methods to create, produce, assemble, and deliver sophisticated still, motion, and interactive products, has revolutionized centuries-old technologies, such as printing; redefined more modern technologies, such as film-making; and helped to create the new publishing-related technologies associated with the Internet.

Among the most significant consequences of the technology that has developed in support of digital publishing is the empowerment of the individual to control all, or most, of the process. Digital publishing technology lets an author design and produce his or her own book, a film-maker edit and produce his or her own movie, a busi-nessperson design and launch his or her own Web site, and so on. In each case the content creator can utilize digital tools to produce all or part of their end product.

The revolution that is represented by the many forms of digital publishing technology is open to virtually everyone. It serves the creative expression of thoughts and ideas ranging from a schoolchild doing a report on the work of Gregor Mendel, to a Hollywood director producing a high-tech blockbuster movie. Digital publishing provides the potential for publishing anything, at anytime, anywhere, by anyone.


Digital publishing tools and methods are an effective solution for dealing with the glut of data that confront virtually everyone. News titan Ted Turner has observed that “a weekday edition of The New York Times has more information than one person in the 17th century was exposed to in an entire lifetime.”1 Today, workers in the United States receive an average of 190 messages each day, from e-mail, voice mail, interoffice mail, postal mail, and fax.2 In addition, the literature in science and technology is doubled approximately every six to twelve years, depending on the specific subject area.3 The barrage of information is constant, and accelerating, and its ultimate usefulness will be determined on how it is packaged and delivered to those who need it.

In the summer of 2000, the amount of data available through the World Wide Web was estimated to be 100 ter-abytes (1 terabyte = 1012). At about the same time, the total amount of on-line data (on mainframes, servers, and client workstations) was estimated to be approximately 1,000 petabytes (1 petabyte = 1015). Off-line data, in the form of tapes, CDs, DVDs, diskettes, and other forms of removable storage were estimated at 20 exabytes (1 exabyte = 1018). Yet, despite these impressively huge figures, they are small in comparison to the amount of data contained in the analog content of books, newspapers, photos, videos, microfilm, faxes, etc., which is estimated to be equivalent to 300 exabytes. Analysts predict, however, that by 2006 “on-line digital content will outpace analog content.”4 In other words, the trend is definitely digital, and rightly so, since digital storage provides faster and more accurate access and retrieval, easier manipulation and transmission, and more flexible workflow and output alternatives.

The digital publishing process begins with the generation of information content. Content creation, from any source, can be used to produce a variety of products and information on-demand services (Figure Intro.1). These products and services satisfy the particular needs of those who have messages to send, such as advertisers; and those who seek information, such as knowledge workers. The digital publishing process addresses these needs through the production of printed and electronic products that are produced in anticipation of a need, such as a mass-produced book; are personalized, such as a one-to-one marketing piece; or are provided as on-line services, such as databases, from which users can pull the information that they need.


Digital publishing products are derived from the creation of intellectual property. Content creation can take on a number of forms, moving from one to another, based on need. This book provides information on this process (see chapter notations).

Digital publishers contribute an essential service by taking data and information, and processing it into higher levels of knowledge. This is accomplished through logical organization, the application of aesthetics and good design, and the production of one or more forms of use-appropriate media.

1. Dofge, John. "Info Overload Is Here to Stay, Despite CNN Custom News." PC Week (June 6, 1997).

2. Knowledge Ability, Ltd. "Working by Wire: A Short Note on Information Overload." 1997.

http://www.agility.co.uk/wbwload.html. [Updated January 2000].

3. The Educate Consortium. "The Growth of Information." July 7, 1998. http://educate1.lib.chalmers.se/cth/pathciv/course/need/vastinfo.html.

4. Lucyk, Blaine. "Controlling the Digital Deluge: IBM Content Manager." Blaine, DB2 Quarter 2 (Summer 2000).

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