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Multi-Use Documents: The Role of the Publisher

Focal Image Ltd, London

Abstract:  Not so long ago, a typesetter was only expected to produce `camera-ready copy' on paper or bromide. This is now rarely the case. Publishers now expect a variety of electronic files from the typesetter, both for publishing, and for archiving. The term `typesetter' sounds amusingly outdated, but the fact that it is still being used is significant. The publishing industry, by and large, still operates in the traditional `manuscript / edit / typeset / proofread / print' route. The process is still essentially paper-based, with the manuscript being submitted as the definitive author submission, accompanied by optional electronic files. Similarly, the typesetting is geared primarily towards the paper output, with the electronic files being supplied as an extra, after approval of CRC.

I suggest that we are in need of radical changes to these procedures so that files can be used to produce output on any medium, including paper, and I believe that these changes will benefit all concerned--authors, publishers, and typesetters.

TEX is an ideal medium to hold the definitive text in modern typesetting. Not only can it be directly edited by the author, but it can produce every type of output required directly. These include paper, PDF, SGML, HTML, XML, etc. (During the presentation, there'll be live demonstrations of this usage of TEX.) However, in order for this to work well, the document should be clean, and structured.

LATEX is probably the best standard at the moment, with a big user base. I see an important role for the publisher as that of encouraging the submission of structured LATEX files from authors. This could best be done by taking a more active role, and sending an `author kit' to prospective authors. The class file sent out in this kit need not--and I believe, should not--be identical to that used in the final typesetting of the manuscript. The class file for the author can be designed to run on most systems without problems, e.g., use Computer Modern font. The class file used by the typesetter could be more ambitious, perhaps getting away from the standard `TEX look', using unusual fonts, graphics packages, etc. This separation of class files frees the typesetter to be more creative in the final typesetting.

For book authors, there is another possible advantage in using structured LATEX files; namely, that the final source code can be sent back to allow the authors to work on the next edition (using the class file provided in the kit). There are very few other systems that can allow this approach. We have been using this method successfully. This could be a good selling point in encouraging authors to use TEX.

Finally, considering the advances in electronic delivery of files, I believe it is time to re-assess the standard marks used in copy-editing manuscripts. These have not changed at all to adapt to new technology. The marks are still geared towards traditional typesetting with paper output. Perhaps a new system could take into account the structure of the file, making sure that it translates well in all the output formats, including paper.

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Next: LATEXto XML/MathML for Web-Based Up: Wednesday August 18, 1999 Previous: Wednesday August 18, 1999
Page last modified on 1999-08-04