Ever since publishing was first invented a long time ago, there have been two main obstacles to overcome. The first is the limited audience that will see the published material, with the second being having to frequently update the documents. Now with the invention of electronic publishing and the Internet, these problems have been solved. Publishing documents electronically on the Internet allows it to be seen by millions of people, and it can be easily updated and posted with a word processor. The on-line publishing craze started as soon as the Internet was running.
However, there are some disadvantages that come with electronic publishing. In some cases it is easier and more practical to use a book instead of an electronic document. When should we use an electronic document and when should we use a simple hard cover book? Is the information in electronic documents accurate? Will electronic documents take over the role that books play in our lives? These are the questions that must be answered.
2Overview of electronic publishing
The term “electronic publishing” covers a multitude of things, which are in fact different in certain significant ways. Electronic publishing is the creation, publication and updating of literary work on an electronic medium. These works can include many types and formats such as novels, journals, magazines, encyclopedias, letters etc. The electronic medium that they are created, transmitted and stored on can be on magnetic media disks (standard 3.5-inch disk,) digitally on the Internet or on other electronic forms such as CD-ROM and DVD technology. These are two of the most frequently used as they can digitally store thousands of pages of information on a compact disk.
Electronic publishing has made work easier for millions of people around the world as they can have millions of pages of information at their fingertips. This information can be easily found, edited and updated much quicker than conventional or manual methods.
Electronic publishing was originally started for the purpose of being able to update and edit literary works and publications easily and efficiently. This is still the main driving force of electronic publishing today but now it is also used for many other reasons.
However, electronic publishing does have disadvantages and flaws. A fair amount of information that is published today is confidential or meant only for a specific group.Many things such as security and integrity of the information must be taken into account when an electronic document is read. The first thing that the reader should ask is who has written this document, and is all the information correct?
(from Art of electronic publishing, Robertson 2000, p.12)
One of the biggest advantages of electronic publishing today is the Internet as it allows anyone in the world to publish electronic documents. One of the biggest disadvantages of electronic publishing also is the Internet. Because anyone can get On-line and publish material, this means that some of the material will be meaningless or incorrect. How do we know who wrote the document and if he/she can verify the authenticity of the information?
3.1Author(s) of information
One thing that must be taken into account when reading electronically published material is the background of the author. For example, has the published journal on the consequences of the Internet you are using for a report been written by a computing professional, or a 15-year old school boy having some fun?
3.2Integrity of information
The accuracy of the information in the electronic document is more important than who wrote it. It must be correct and the person reading it should be confident that it is. However, not all of the information going around in the form of published electronic documents is accurate. For example, you know that when you read a book on how to play the guitar, you trust the information contained in the document. But if you found an electronically published document on the Internet on how to play the guitar, it might not have all the content that a proper book would have. The information in the document may also not be accurate. You may not really know who wrote it and why it was written.
A man called Jonathan Swift once destroyed a hostile critic by spreading the rumour that the man was dead. So convincing was Swift that the man’s attempts to counter the rumour were dismissed as a prank. If this could happen centuries ago in the world of hot type, the opportunities for such mischief are greatly increased on the Internet. Almost anyone has access to it, and they can publish or edit electronic documents at will. They can also steal others works and pass them off as their own much more easily than in the past.
4Plagiarism and copyright issues
Before the creation of electronic publishing, when people wanted to research a topic and do a publication on it, they had to use books to get the information they needed. They would find and then analyse it and eventually use the information that they learnt in their publication. There were some cases where people would directly copy the information and pass it off as their own without a reference. This was known as plagiarism. Plagiarism is still around today and is an ever-growing threat not only to conventional book publishing, but also to electronic publishing on the Internet.
4.1Plagiarism on the Internet
Plagiarism in the world of electronic publishing is mainly directed towards the more popular transfer mediums such as the Internet. This is because so many people have access to it and so many people use it as a source of information. If a book described earlier on how to play the guitar was published in book form, the only people who would be exposed to it are people who see it in the book stores or librarys that have it. If it were published electronically on the Internet, millions of people have access to the Internet and all they have to do is run a search for a book on how to play the guitar and they will probably find it. The Internet immediately exposes an electronic document to the entire world, not just wherever the hardcopy book is available. An Internet “bookstore” is open for business to your readers 24 hours 7 days a week 365 days a year.
This is why there is more plagiarism of electronically published materials rather than conventionally published materials. There is a greater audience exposed to the material on the Internet and a fair amount of people will plagiarise from it. This is a great disadvantage to electronic publishing and can bring consequences with it.
4.11Consequences of plagiarism on the Internet
Nobody wins when someone plagiarises. First of all the person that does the plagiarising learns nothing by simply copying information and putting it on their documents with no references. They are cheating and it may prove costly if a situation arises where they need that knowledge but cant remember it because they didnt analyse and interpret the information.
Another consequence it that the author who wrote the document gets no credit for what he/she has written. Plagiarism can also slow down the advancement and research of a topic. If everyone plagiarised from others on this topic, no new ideas or thesis would arise and it would eventually lead to a loss of the variety or diversity of information on the topic. This is why a process called copyright is used to protect things such as published materials.
Copyright is an exclusive right comparable with a property right and embracing moral rights and property rights. Copyright protects the creators of literary works, of scientific and artistic works (text, music and pictures, but also databases and computer programs) as well as certain producers of cultural emanations (Lanlard 1995, p.13). This means that copyright guarantees creators and producers both control over and participation in the commercial exploitation of their protected materials and achievements.
We are going through a digital age where protecting your information can decide the future. This is why copywriting electronic documents are necessary. This also ensures the reader of the authenticity of the information contained.
5Feasibility of using electronic publishing
The most important questions a reader of electronically published material must ask is is this all worth it? We must take into account factors such as the cost of electronic publishing, the medium it is transferred on and how we search for information in these documents. With the answers we can tell whether is it more practicable to publish a document electronically rather than hard copy. The first and most important factor to analyse is the cost of publishing electronic documents.
5.1Cost of publishing electronically
There are many advantages when using electronic publishing in a cost sense. Books can be expensive. The books could also be free if you can get the book electronically over the Internet. Electronic publishing can also be beneficial as it reduces printing costs. No paper is used, saving money and environmental efficiency.
However, with the advantages come disadvantages that must be taken into account. Firstly, you have to buy the computer and less than 1/5 of worldwide households have the most recent version in computerised technology (Fowler 1999, p.13).
Hard copy books cost less than computers, last for decades, and still work after being crumpled and thrown around. Internet access can also get expensive. Who knows what access to and use of the Internet will cost 5 or 10 years from now, especially if privatization proceeds?
5.2Medium of Information
The medium of the information is the format in which it is stored. Conventional hard copy books use paper as a medium while with electronic publishing you can use magnetic media such as disks and digital signals such as the Internet. Both paper and electronic mediums have advantages and disadvantages.
Many people still prefer paper medium for some materials such as fiction books. A drawback of using computers as a medium is that it is uncomfortable and inconvenient to read the words from a computer screen for a longer period of time.
A book is also portable and lightweight while a computer is not. Although, it is more difficult to do studies while reading because of minor annoyances due to page.
Everyone also knows how to use a book rather than a computer. Another factor is informality of use: A novel may be read in all kinds of places until it is finished – in bed, on the train, in the bath, by a plate in a restaurant or even while walking down the street. Do the readers really want to drag out my notebook computer, attach it to a portable telephone, dial-up a Web site and start reading (at some enormous cost in telecommunication charges) on all of these occasions? Of course not. This factor applies to all of those kinds of books that people read for entertainment, creative stimulation, vicarious experience and “escapism” – novels, poetry, travel books, history, biography, popular science, and so on.
However, electronic publishing can store much more on its media compared to paper. For example, it is possible to place the equivalent of over 200,000 printed pages on a single CD-ROM, or 154 publication-quality 3″ x 5″ full-colour photographs utilising no compression, or even over 10,000 full-screen colour images using standard graphics compression. Electronic media can also store sounds and animations while paper medium cannot. It is up to the reader to determine what they want more: a practical medium or one that can store more information.
5.21Degradation of medium
There is also no loss in quality over time for the information in an electronic document. The problem with degradation over time is especially apparent in photographic documents on a paper medium. The data in a digital format can also be quickly and perfectly duplicated onto new media if the durability of the medium is compromised or comes into question. The durability of electronic media has been persuasive enough so that some portions of the library community have begun to look at this format in order to preserve documents that are currently on paper such as newspaper archives.
5.22Duplication and updating of information
As stated above, electronic documents can be easily duplicated should the need arise. All you have to do is perform a couple of actions on the computer and it is done in less than ten seconds. With the paper medium it is not so quick and easy. A copier must be used to copy the information and it must then be printed out again which can take a long time if it contains dozens of pages.
The best feature of electronic publishing is that the information in the documents can be easily updated and posted for the readers. A book has to be redone, printed, shipped, and sold. Electronic publishing just has to be redone and posted. The posting is instantly, but the printing, shipping, and selling could take a long time. Additionally it allows people to post forums and discuss the publication on the Internet. This will give people the opportunity to expand their communication skills and also their intelligence.
The main disadvantage to the paper medium is that books can’t be updated without printing a whole new edition. This proves to be a waste of time, money and resources for the author and publisher. Another disadvantage to the paper medium is that it can be hard to search for something.
5.3Searching for information
Online publications provide the ability to search for particular content within a paper or a complete journal. If you want to search for a footnote in a book you have to flip back the pages, while on the computer it’s at the click on the button. Moreover, books are linear whereas, computers are not. It is a great advantage for the reader to go back and forth easily while reading an article On-line without loosing much time, which one does while reading a printed book. Books go in a chronological and systematic order, which you can easily follow. This means they are read word after word from the beginning to the end; and if you get lost you can always turn back and not lose your original place. This means With computers for example when you are searching the web sites the search might be put in a middle of another site and its much more difficult to find yourself and not to get lost.
6Privacy and security issues
Privacy is an important issue. Publishers would like to find out about their readers, but readers want control of what information is available. Work is also under way on intellectual property rights, digital signatures and the many problems surrounding payments. The field of security extends to accounting, access control, integrity and risk management. Another important development is PICS, the platform for Internet content selection. This system allows information on the Web to be labelled and rated in various ways. It thus offers control over access to material without affecting the author’s right to publish. It also has potential for the development of more informative navigational tools. The reader sometimes likes to remain anonymous and has every right to do so.
6.1Anonymity of reader
Many readers today insist on anonymity when reading certain materials as they can be sensitive issues. This is important when the reader is looking for information in the electronic or paper medium. He/she must decide what is best. For example he/she can go to the electronic journal site for sexual assault charges and anonymously read information for a report that has to be done. For the paper medium, he/she would have to go into a library or police records bureau and search (or ask) for information on sexual assault charges.
6.2Privacy of Information
In this digital age that we are living it is important that information which is published should be only seen by whoever is meant to see it. Now this doesnt matter when it comes to hard copy books as the only one person can see it at a time. For example, the Australian Army has just finished its plans for troop positions in East Timor and has written a report. The British Army is to see this report and send feedback. If the report were written on paper then it would have to be couriered to Britain. This would take a while but nobody but the British would be able to get the information. If the report was electronically written and sent, it would arrive in Britain immediately but it could have been intercepted along the way. The Internet can be a very dangerous place for sending confidential information. It seems paper is a better alternative but there is a special process to protect the data that can be used on the Internet called encryption.
The use of encryption systems has greatly increased in the past five years. Encryption of data or information involves converting the data into useless garbage characters before the data is transmitted electronically. The data is encrypted using a complex mathematical formula. It is then sent to its destination where it is decoded. To decrypt it a key is needed.This key contains the mathematical formula to decrypt the data and put it back to its original form. This process is effective and safe as if the data is intercepted it will be seen as a series of random characters. For example, the word electronic publishing may be encrypted to y5%?67*567Ad#jhg61. To decrypt this you need the right key. Another example is with two keys; a private key A, and a public key B, the latter being readily available from public databases. A work encrypted by A can only be decrypted by B, and vice versa. This would allow secure transactions, for instance if person B purchases a work from person A, person A would first encrypt the work with his or her own private key A, and then with the public key of B. On receipt, B would decrypt the work with his or her private key, and the public key of A. If the result is an understandable work, it proves that the work originated by A and was meant for B, and B only.
(Harry Papacharissiou 2001)
The scheme may seem rather complex, but as end-user equipment and automatic retrieval of the public keys enable the encryption, the user will not really be bothered by what is going on. But this is only a crude sketch, in reality there will be further routines to make the communication as efficient as possible.
So in summation, it is clear that there is a movement towards greater use of electronic media in almost all areas of publishing. However a constant theme of discussion was that one must recognise that there are important differences between disciplines in the benefits, requirements and applications of electronic publishing
Electronic publishing increases the speed of information transfer and decreases the costs of publication. It vastly improves traditional means for spreading, exchanging, updating and retrieving information. The integrity and security of the information is sometimes questionable, but is usually much more reliable and in many cases, more practical. Information can be found more quickly in electronically published works but it is sometimes more practical to read a hard cover book.
Because of its advantages, and in spite of its disadvantages, electronic publishing is likely to replace certain categories of book and/or journal publications. The key factors that affect the probability of this happening are the possibility of rapid publication, rapid up dating, and the economics of electronic distribution. These facts mean that electronic publishing is ideal for publishing data or information that has a limited period in which it can be put to use, which must be updated frequently and which is directed at a known, limited target audience. However, The hard copy book still has a future. It has been around now for a very long time and there are established social and organisational reasons for its creation and preservation. It will be some considerable time before electronic publications have such an assured basis for their existence like the hard copy book has today. Just like painting did not become extinct because of modern photography, books are not going to become extinct because of electronic publishing.
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