A Workshop at the 1st International WWW Conference,
Geneva, May 1994
Steven Pemberton, CWI, Amsterdam; Steven.Pemberton@cwi.nl;
The original intention of the workshops had been that people should
register for them individually before coming to the conference, to
allow for better organisation of the workshops, knowing how many would
Only 5 people registered for the Electronic Publishing workshop, and
so a relatively small room was reserved for it; we had planned then
each to give a presentation of 10 to 15 minutes on our aims, needs,
and targets, leading to a longer discussion.
In the event more than 40 people turned up, which made for quite a
cramped meeting, and a last-minute change in how the workshop was run.
(It also prompts the question of how many people might have turned up
to the workshops that were cancelled because no one registered for
There was 3 hours allocated to the workshop, so we dedicated the first
half to the identification of issues, interests and problem areas, and
the second half to discussion of a small selection of the more burning
There was a very broad range of interests amongst the attendees, from
people just there to learn what it was all about, and to observe, to
representatives of large international publishers and magazines who
were either already publishing electronically, or with plans for
publications far in the pipe-line.
After the first session of collection and initial discussion, we
collected the issues under four main headings:
These areas are of course not mutually exclusive; for example, access
control is both an administrative and a technical issue.
- Social issues
These issues are important for the users of electronic publications:
what are the differences between electronic and traditional
publications, what effects will they have on users, and the way they
- Political issues
These are related issues, but seen more from the point of view of the
suppliers of the information.
- Administrative issues
What are the problem areas for information suppliers?
- Technical issues
What is involved at the technical level in providing the information?
What is new about electronic publishing, over and above just
republishing what we already have on paper in an electronic form? What
can be supplied that is different? What new forms of information can
be supplied? What new ways are there for accessing information? How
will these new forms and supplies of information affect how people
access and relate to information and publications?
What is to be done for people who have no access to the net, a CD, a
computer, or the other forms of technology that will be used? Should
the information still be published on paper as well as electronically?
Aren't we further disenfranchising such people, especially people from
less technologically advanced countries?
Continuous vs discrete publications
To what extent is it acceptable to change the content of publications
over time, by updating information? Should there be discrete
publications, with separate new editions as they are updated, as is
now with current paper-based publications, or is it acceptable to let
them change? Are there types of publications that may not be changed?
What is there dividing line?
"Freedom of speech"
What are the issues involved regarding control on the content of
publications from external sources? Do constitutional guarantees still
apply to electronic documents? What are the international issues
involved with transferring documents over national borders?
How do we get electronic publication accepted at a formal level, so
that they can be accepted for tenure and CV purposes, for citing
purposes? How do we cite those publications? How do we prevent authors
from going back and changing a document to make it look like something
else was said?
Archiving/past and future compatibility/bit rot
How can we assure that documents are still locatable, accessible and
readable 100 years from now?
How can we guarantee copyright in a medium that is so easy to copy?
What are the new issues here?
Funding/adverts/loss of subscribers
How can publishers continue to guarantee income? Will advertisers be
willing to pay for adverts? How do you identify the size of
readership? Will readers continue to subscribe if the publication is
available both on paper at a cost and electronically for free?
What is a subscription?
What is it a subscriber should pay for? A fixed number of issues?
Access to past issues as well? Access to everything for a fixed time?
How do you restrict access to subscribers only?
What is the easiest way to convert existing information to on-line
form? What is the easiest way to produce a publication simultaneously
electronically and on paper? What tools are there for creating
electronic documents? What formats should you use? How can you avoid
locking yourself in when things are changing so quickly? How can you
best structure your documents independently of how they should look?
How do you deal with the differences between paper and electronic
formats, such as the essential pagination of paper documents vs. the
lack of the same electronically? How do you guarantee the look of your
document when the technology dictates large parts of the look, such as
The User Interface
How can you format and present the information to make it easier to
read and use? What are the new issues with regards to finding and
How do you structure documents so that the user can print them and
only get the needed information? How do you make printing easy, so
that the user doesn't have to follow all hyperlinks by hand in order
to print a document out?
In the end we chose three sub-topics to discuss in the second session:
Current Experience, where people who already had extensive experience
described the processes they go through to produce an issue, what they
consider the more important issues, and how they address them, Access
Control, and Copyright, though we left that to last, as it was clear
from the first session that it was a topic that threatened to swamp
all other discussion.
The large list of topics above makes it clear that Electronic
Publishing is such a large area that it cannot be adequately covered
in a single workshop. The individual topics are large enough in
themselves to be worthy of a whole workshop, or indeed conference, on