The Business of Electronic Publishing

review by Stephen Stockwell

The Business of Electronic Publishing
John Colette and Meredith Quinn
AFTRS/Allen & Unwin 1997
RRP $35 244pp
ISBN 0 642 27093 7

The information revolution is hyped as being as significant to humanity as the industrial revolution but rarely is the question asked: where is the money coming from? Of course the real money in computers is in the hardware and in the control of information distribution channels but these areas are already dominated by major players with extensive capitalisation. However, encouraged by Keating's Creative Nation scheme, many Australians are looking for employment opportunities at the softer end of the software business. They are punting their superannuation on the business of 'electronic publishing', which is a phrase that covers a grab bag of activities including the production of CD-ROMs and internet web pages. It's not writing the 'hard' code that made Bill Gates rich but producing the content that will give people a reason to spend their money connecting to the net.

But be warned. Info guru George Gilder has estimated that when the 'sweat' equity of all the flops is taken into account, the computer software industry is still running at a loss. One Bill Gates does not make up for the thousands of would be cyber-tycoons who have returned to selling do-nuts. And you can have that in aces for people writing content a long way from the money pots.

To maximise the reader's chances of turning a profit from electronic publishing, Colette and Quinn have pulled together a useful account of how people are making money out of the creative end of the information revolution.

Colette begins by looking at the big picture: how the industry is developing and the opportunities that suggests. He then moves on to discuss various production models that may be useful in establishing an electronic publishing house: straight publishing, filmmaking, 'hard code' software development. Each has some contribution towards understanding how electronic publishing might become a viable business.

Other writers look at the role of the producer, sources of government funding, how to write a business plan, copyright and the market for electronic publishing. Perhaps the strongest parts of the book are the case studies interspersed throughout the text that show how some people have made money from the business.

Overall, this book is a useful guide to the practicalities of a developing industry and would be a most useful text for a tertiary subject on the business of electronic publishing, a subject that would appear essential in the multimedia and internet publishing courses that are sprouting all over the country.

The only criticisms one might have of the book are that it is just a little Australian-centred for a discussion on a business in an avowedly international market and that, as the technology and politics move so quickly, it is in danger of being outdated all too soon. It is ironic that this material may have been better presented as a website which could be subject to constant improvement and updating, but then the authors would be hard pressed to get anyone to pay $35 for the privilege of visiting their website.

 Stephen Stockwell lecturers in Journalism and New Communication Technologies at Griffith University.

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Vol 2 No 1 April 1998
Editors: Nigel Krauth & Tess Brady