Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Future of Taxonomic Publishing

Following are some thoughts about the future of taxonomic publishing.

This is a though by Hugh McGuire

Defining a book by what you cannot do

What's striking about this state of affairs -- though not surprising, given the conservative nature of the publishing business, and the complete unknowns about business models -- is that we define ebooks by a laundry list of things one cannot do with them:

* You cannot deep link into an ebook -- say to a specific page or paragraph chapter or image or table
* Indeed you cannot really "link" to an ebook, only various access points to instances of that ebook, because there is no canonical "ebook" to link to ... there is no permalink for a chapter, and no Uniform Resource Locator (url) for an ebook itself
* You (usually) cannot copy and paste text, the most obvious thing one might wish to do
* You cannot query across, say, all books about Montreal, written in 1942 -- even if they are from the same publisher

You cannot do any of these things, because we still consider that books -- the information, words, and data inside of them -- live outside of the Internet, even if they are of the e-flavor. You might be able to buy them on the Internet, but the stuff contained within them is not hooked in. Ebooks are an attempt to make it easier for people to buy and read books, without changing this fundamental fact, without letting ebooks become part of the Internet.

Many people don't want books to become part of the Internet, because we just don't know what business would look like if they were.


Unfortunately, the "many people" are not few authors and many publishers, but explicitly or implicitly a majority of the taxonomists (authors as much as users) that don't understand what it means to have a piece of a description (treatment) online with links to external resources, that can also be reused, linked to.

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