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Re: ALPSP statement on e-publishing.

At 4/28/02 09:14 PM, Eric Hellman wrote:
>Peter's argument about the University of Chicago Press experience is
>incomplete without noting that the University of Chicago Press's
>production process has always been oriented towards very high-quality,
>carefully redacted titles. In other words, the electronic-first process
>saved money on a process that started out expensive.

I think that Peter made that point already in his posting.  However, we
also find that electronic-first is at least break-even on less expensive
content (content without lots of math and tables), if not for
lower-quality processing. We don't do much lower-quality work at Chicago .
. . at least, not intentionally.

>Many other publishers have found that in order to go electronic, they have
>had to clean up a lot of messes that the print-first process was letting
>them ignore. So, in fact they are not lying when they say electronic costs
>them more.

Indeed.  But that has nothing to do with electronic first or electronic
last; we all had messes to clean up, some more than others.  If you have a
high level of redaction, you have the opportunity to check other things at
the same time, such as the SGML tagging or the online only additional
content, at a low additional cost.

>I have previously observed that journal publishing is now a technology
>business, and like all other technology businesses will experience an
>exponential decline in cost of production. The chip industry has been on a
>curve of 100% improvement every 18 months; for the steel industry the rate
>has been much smaller, but constant nonetheless.
>My estimates are that per-article cost of production in journal publishing
>will decline by about 10% per year for the forseeable future. Producers
>that exceed this rate will do well, producers that lag will not do well.

The cost reductions that the industry has seen in the last 10 years have
been in parts of the process that are manufacturing (printing and binding)
or in areas where it has been possible to move the work to low-wage areas
of the world (typesetting and redaction).  Moving work to e.g., India,
however, is a one-time reduction, not a 10% per year decline thereafter.

I don't quite see that publishing is comparable to chip manufacturing; it
seems to me that a better analogy is a professional services industry like
law. Most of the costs are human costs (editorial office staff, production
and copy editing, marketing, etc.) and although technology does help, it
is hard to imagine 10% per year reductions in of total costs.  Unless we
give up reading and thinking and interacting with the content entirely,
the human costs won't diminish quickly . . . and never completely.

Evan Owens
Information Technology Manager, The University of Chicago Press
1427 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637-2954
(773) 753 3375  Fax: (773) 753 3383