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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Summer 1997

Book Reviews

Veronica Calderhead
Physical Sciences Librarian
John Cotton Dana Library
Rutgers University
Campus at Newark

Electronic Publishing: Applications and Implications. Edited by Elizabeth Logan and Myke Gluck. (ASIS Monograph Series). Medford, NJ : Information Today Inc., 1997. 151 pp. hardcover $34.95. (ISBN 1-57387-036-6)
This ASIS monograph consists of selections taken from the May 1995 American Society for Information Science's Midyear Meeting. The monograph is divided into two broad categories: (a) Standards and Technology Issues in Electronic Publishing, and (b) Electronic Publishing Applications. The introduction states that these papers were not selected because they offer solutions and answers to electronic publication issues, rather that they demonstrate all the issues surrounding this developing medium.

The contributors come from varied backgrounds: computer science, library and information science, museums, horticultural and agricultural systems, newspaper prototype projects, and not surprisingly, publishers. The contributors and their institutions illustrate the variety of projects in existence or in progress; this variety speaks well for the near universal applications of electronic publishing. The readership for this monograph may include persons from backgrounds similar to the contributors, but it should not end there. Electronic publishing is a quickly expanding area, and any individual who may find his or herself involved in Web page design, newsletter editing, or any kind of publishing on a smaller scale than the projects discussed in the monograph could still benefit from the proceedings.

The common denominator to all the projects is the issue of standardization. The lack of standards at all levels (metadata, data, institutional) prevents complex projects from becoming fully operational. The project which perhaps best demonstrates the difficulties to be surmounted before any practical application becomes fully operational, is the ongoing cartographic and spatial information networks program. This project, as discussed by Myke Gluck, an assistant professor of Library and Information Science, demonstrates the need to understand the complexity of standardization and the benefits to the general public once the problems are solved. Supported by several agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, spatial and cartographic networked information will benefit millions once standardized methods are established. The specialists involved in the project are approaching the standardization issue from a three-pronged attack, metadata, standards for access, acquisition and display, and finally, the standards which will allow transfer and exchange of spatial data. It is an extremely complex project, worth noting because of its complexity, the difficulty and quantity of standards to be addressed, the different institutions and individuals involved, and the interdisciplinary nature of the project.

The interdisciplinary culture is another commonality shared by all the projects. Successful electronic publishing projects all have an interdisciplinary team approach. The team components are usually computer science, information science, and subject sp ecialist. Additionally, many projects, as mentioned earlier, have to consider representatives from all aspects of the project: academic, government, technological development (often private enterprise) and the end-user population. The team approach appears to be the natural mechanism for successful development in electronic publishing.

Each chapter has an interesting case study in electronic publishing. These different projects can serve as examples to like institutions, or to unlike institutions embarking on a similar project. The museum-based project, as discussed by Joseph Busch, program manager at The Getty Information Institute, could provide interest to any one of a number of culturally and/or library-based web projects. HortBase, a horticultural scholarly publication project, is an exciting team project in electronic publishing which all scholarly associations should consider. The chapter itself is written by four members of the team; a librarian, two professors (one in agriculture communications, the other in horticulture) and a publications coordinator. Finally, the electronic news project, presented by three computer scientists teaching at different Canadian maritime based universities, is something many of us have already seen or accessed to varying degrees, and will be seeing more of in the years ahead. These professors clarify broadband communication and multimedia technology integration without ever slipping into incomprehensible jargon. These are just a few of the very interesting projects currently underway in electronic publishing. There are points of interest in all chapters for readers regardless of their institutional affiliation.

This monograph has validity and relevance for many readers interested in or involved in electronic publishing: curators, librarians, journalists, information specialists, scholarly publication editors, academics, and the like. Unlike many books which discuss state of the art technology, it is still relevant even after its publication.

Many of the projects described in the proceedings were prototypes at the time of the conference. There are now full-scale active web sites of these or similar projects, demonstrating relevancy and project realization. In fact, its relevancy increases as more and more lay people, i.e., those not traditionally involved in publishing, find themselves involved in teams dealing with electronic projects.

The publication values are high; this work is free of the annoying feature of different typesets throughout, a feature commonly found with published proceedings. The indexing is well done, many of the figures are reproduced web screens and manage to retain their crisp resolution, even in black and white reproduction. The price of the book is very reasonable considering the practicality and relevancy of the information delivered. This book should be considered for both a personal and library a cquisition. Public libraries with collections in the following disciplines should consider adding this book to their collection: communications, media, computer science and technology. College and university libraries should add this to their collections primarily because of its increasing relevance to the academic community at large.

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