Books - Born In a New Way
Publications In the Era of Digital Publishing
by Eric Baerwaldt
Since the printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century which made the printing of books possible, the book has become a medium in terms of pure democracy, which enables large groups of the population to obtain further education. Nowadays, books are present everywhere and reflect the knowledge of mankind.
Due to commercial considerations, the traditional publishing agencies do, however, exercise a kind of "censorship" which makes it hard or even impossible to publish on a chosen subject. Unless the issue to which the author intends to make his point is likely to bring about the desired sales figures, no publisher is prepared so much as to look at the manuscript. Yet in this case, too, the personal computer proves to be a blessing and an invention in favor of basic democratic principles in the profound sense of the word. The concept of making whole books with the help of the computer and a digital printer - which has developed under the catch phrase "Digital Publishing" - allows the publication even of the smallest edition with a limited number of copies.
The OS/2-user might at this point have second thoughts and say to himself, "Which means that this will put me
once again out of the game with my particular operating system as there is no suitable software for OS/2 for this purpose." Actually, digital publishing used to be, over many years, the domain of the Apple Macintosh. Now it is also possible with Windows to publish quite handsome books. But what about OS/2? Nothing to worry about...
When about two years ago I was looking
for a publisher for my software compendium for OS/2 Warp, I received nothing but negative replies. Even as yet "OS/2-friendly" publishers in Germany are not prepared to edit any more books on this particular operating system. "It must pay for itself and if we just sell a few copies, we will lose." That was the unanimous view. Moreover I was taught a lesson in the field of calculation: For another project in which I was interested I was offered 10% royalties on the sales price. "The book trade receives 30%, the printing is extremely expensive and we need to earn a little ourselves." It seemed totally unjust to me to see the author as the intellectual parent of his work, who as a rule cedes his author's rights to the publishing house, being put off with barely 10% whereas the publishing house and the book traders fill their pockets plenty without embarrassment, should the work become a best-selling book.
Not long after I read in a magazine about a company that publishes books in small editions. Though at first skeptical, I contacted this company spontaneously requesting further information. I was invited to have a conversation in the course of which it became clear that this young enterprise offered quite a good basis for business negotiations: I decided to manufacture my book myself on the computer. That is, in the form of a manuscript, but comprising the complete preliminary stage for the printing procedure.
My interlocutor also explained to me which hardware and software I would require for the purpose: "Well, a fast Pentium-3 with 1 gigahertz is a must, fast hard disks, then, if possible "Windows 2000" (2000 was at the time considered state-of-the-art) "PageMaker or Ventura Publisher and the Adobe Acrobat so as to generate the PDF files." Having let the young man finish his speech I politely remarked that as far as I was concerned I did not work with Windows nor with any of the other mentioned products. "Well, you could naturally use an Apple just as well," he replied with a meaningful smile. "Sorry, I work with OS/2 of IBM and 80486 computers of the same manufacturer." At this his smile froze. After all he had already heard of OS/2 and even knew that this system is far better than the other mentioned platforms.
I took my copies back home and wondered if my old equipment would really not stand the test for the completion of a digital book publication. That remained to be seen. No sooner said than done. Back home I made a list of what I would need for the digital publication:
- a conventional personal computer (a well tuned 80486: it does meet the requirements - as I have by now noticed - quite well, without long waiting times),
- fast hard disk drives (possibly SCSI-systems),
- a postscript laser printer (in my case a Lexmark Optra R),
- a CD-ROM-recorder,
- and finally the corresponding software.
Corresponding software? Along with the operating system OS/2 Warp this was in my case:
- A text processor - and as I love the old stuff, I still work quite often with WordPerfect for DOS version 6.0b. (The present article, though, is written with the Star Writer 5.1a for OS/2.) WordPerfect 6.0b offers all you need for such a publication. Additionally, WordPerfect takes the lead of all the current word processors - exception made for Papyrus.
- Next, for the making of screenshots I needed a small OS/2 tool named "Gotcha!" Gotcha! is freeware. Another useful program for the making of screenshots is "PM Camera," which is no longer attended to but nevertheless works very fast, is solid and brings good results.
- For the designing of the jacket a destop publishing program had to be provided. The only native DTP application existing under OS/2 and eCS is the "MAUL Publisher" by Peter Koller. MAUL Publisher is being further improved. It is very fast, saving resources and mature.
- And finally, I needed a counterpart to Adobe Acrobat. I don't like working with the Command Line; this keeps reminding me of the nursery school system Linux. That is why I wanted to acquire a program where I did not need to input interminable parameters - which can easily cause mistakes. So I ordered a CD-ROM with GhostView 4.00 and GhostScript 7.00 in Melbourne. The CD-ROM cost 70.00 AUD, i.e. about a tenth of what Adobe demands for their Acrobat. With the Duo GhostView-GhostScript you can generate PDF files from PostScript files very comfortably and under graphical interface.
Having completed the provision of the software and equipment, I sat down to work. First I had to convert the available WordPerfect files into PostScript fFiles. To this end you just transmit printing orders into a PS file instead of into a physically existing printer port. Before that I had the files in part
printed out so as to be able to check their quality and modify them in case of need.
Then I loaded the so generated PostScript files into GhostView and converted them into PDF format. With two very fast SCSI U3W hard disks working at 10.000 rpm each, it was a joy to realize how fast the megabytes were. I viewed the PDF files in the Acrobat Reader for OS/2 for control; a
comparison between the sizes of the files made me fear the worst. Approximately 900 MB WordPerfect files had turned into approximately 140 MB PDF files. This shrinking process gave rise to my fears as I reckoned with massive deterioration in quality especially for the imbedded
BMP screenshots. However, after verification in the Acrobat Reader and once more in GhostView, I determined that Russell Lang in Melbourne had performed excellently. Even the BMP files were rendered in outstanding quality and had been converted without any problem.
Finally, I went to the digital printer with a small test file to make sure that my book, after printing it on the Xerox Digital Printer, was still the same as I had viewed it on the computer - and in fact, the
test print did not fall short in any requirements.
"How did you get this done?" inquired the printer. "Well, with OS/2, WordPerfect, Gotcha! and GhostView, namely on a PS/2 which is clocked at 100 MHz." Incredulous amazement and again that freezing smile. It is quite obvious: All you need is the right system.
Eric hails from Germany where he is in the process of setting up a website - http://domfree.de/warpfan - devoted to his favorite operating system. His book on OS/2 is in the process of being translated.
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