ABDVol.31 No.3

How Far Is Publishing Digitized in Asia?


In order to see the overall state of publishing in terms of utilizing digital technology in the region, ABD Editorial Office sent out a questionnaire to our correspondents. It asked them about
1) Present state of publishing utilizing digital technology; 2) Prospects and possibilities of digital technology in publishing; and 3) Problems and difficulties in its utilization. We thank them for their co-operation in introducing informative reports in respective countries in the region. As we continue to receive replies, they will be carried in the next issue of ABD (Vol. 31 No. 4).


Major publishing houses use digital technology where the infrastructure is based on the following equipment: digital scanner; digital camera; digital printer (high quality resolution based laser printer); desktop publishing (DTP).
 Prospects and possibilities in utilization of digital technology in the field of publishing are as follows.
 In publishing: user-friendly technology for completing publishing-based projects; high-tech presentation techniques; minimizing the project time frame through modern & high technologies; minimizing the publishing-based project cost through faster and reliable technology; easy storing and maintenance of publishing materials; availability of digital technology in Bangladesh through local distributors of international digital technology-based publishing equipment manufactures; availability of skilled manpower in this technology within the country; proper maintenance, support and supply of spare parts (if needed) from the distributor; availability of operation manuals, trainers, etc.
 In reading: print quality is highly developed so reading is more friendly; user-friendly presentation is available through eye-catching graphics, tables, charts, etc.; various types of technology media available for readers like CD-ROM, floppy, HDD, and paper book for particular reading topic; mobility of reading time available, for example, CD based books (E-books) which can be carried anywhere with very little effort; investment in purchasing books is now greatly minimized and also, most of the national level newspapers are available on the Internet and interestingly they attract a significant numbers of readers. Moreover government and businesses are introducing themselves on-line at a faster rate.
 There are always some problems in planning, implementing and maintaining a technology, but as this technology was applied here in Bangladesh about 4 years ago, professional people and business houses are already available in the country, so currently there are not and never will be any major difficulties in using computers in publishing.


There are more than 500 publishing houses, 2,000 presses, and 8,000 magazines in China. Of these three, publishing houses utilize digital technology the least. Most of them just make traditional printing production into electronic style for people to read and consult on the Internet. At present, e-book and on-demand publishing are not mature, but China is working hard in this direction. Publishing on Internet will become an important complement to traditional publishing.
 It is estimated that e-book sales of a few publishing houses will reach 50% of total sales in 2005, and e-books will be bought everywhere in 2008, and 50% of the latest additions to libraries will be e-books.
 The greatest difficulties in using computers in publishing are: imperfect Internet system; because of the narrow bandwidth, delivering of large amounts of information is difficult; copyright protection; popularization of computers and improving of operating ability; few e-book contents. (Ruotao Huang, Publish Department of Beijing Printing Institute)


A beginning has been made for application of digital technology in book-publishing in India. Almost all the major publishers are using DTP-either in-house or by engaging outside services. Since India is a vast country having 18 official languages, the readership is spread to rural areas where the network of electronic publishing is not sufficiently available. The demand for electronic books per se is, therefore, at a nascent stage. CD-ROM usage is only adjunct to the main book and in certain cases the full book. The demand for CD-ROM format is low at the moment and is mainly restricted to research institutions. The National Open University is toying with the idea of distributing CD-ROM books to the students. Some regional language publishing companies, including Malayalam, have started e-books and marketing them through electronic means. It is expected that between the years 2005-2010 this communication will expand to the maximum depending upon the availability of electronic readership in rural areas. On-demand publishing has also been introduced and many academic publishers are presently using it.
 A majority of the publishers in English language are using digital technology in publishing and producing material through this means. The future seems to be bright with more and more IT savvy youth preferring to take advantage of the new technology. Because of the huge student/reading population, even a small percentage of users of digital technology will attract more publishers to adopt the new technology.
 In India publishing is done in 18 main languages. Some of them have common script. Now, efforts are being made to evolve a common keyboard which can handle many languages together. The main constraint at present is that computers have not yet gone to the majority of the households in India but they are catching on very fast.


The utilization of digital technology in general is still very low compared to that of the neighbouring countries, namely 0.7% of the population (203.4 million in 2000), while in Singapore it is 56% and in Malaysia 10%.
 In the publishing industry, most companies have been using digital technology, especially in the pre-press work (editing, layout, and film processing). Some media enterprises have been utilizing remote printing, but most of them use Internet for the transmission of the text to be printed. Very few of them are utilizing the satellite connection.
 DTP has been much used in publishing companies, but no book publisher in Indonesia has produced e-books as commercial commodities. Some information providers have been producing on-line information, but most readers still tend to prefer reading news in the printed media to reading it on their PC monitors. On-demand publishing is theoretically attractive, but has not become a practice.
 Its prospects and possibilities in Indonesia are promising. Presently, some big companies are preparing to apply digital technology for expanding their commercial enterprises, especially in the field of e-business. One of the opportunities is the plan of the Indonesian government to provide public schools with Internet, beginning with about 1,800 schools as a pilot project, involving various institutions such as TELKOM, INDOSAT, and the association of Internet providers.
 So far, there have been tens of on-line bookstores, offering varieties of titles, written by local authors, as well as selected books from foreign countries. Among those on-line bookstores are Balilife Bookstore, Gramedia Cyberstore, E-bookstore.com, Syalom.com, Aves Trubus Agrisarana, ekuator.com, and Planet Comics. The increasing number of online bookstores indicates that people begin to see their benefit especially for providing needed information about books and convenient facilities for getting them.
 The main problems using computers in publishing in Indonesia are telephone lines, computer viruses, and the fast change of computer programmes. The number of telephone lines in Indonesia is only 1% of the number of the population, more or less corresponding to the number of PC among the people. The users of Internet mostly complain about the crowded access to get the connection. People from printing companies using Internet for remote printing have been experiencing various hindrances in the optic fibre cable. The best way is to make use of the satellite connection, but it is still considered to be very expensive.
 The second problem, namely various computer viruses, is very discouraging. One of the recent exceedingly destructive viruses is called 'chi', which simply makes all the data vanish completely.
 The third problem is the fast change of computer programmes which makes it necessary in a relatively short time to buy the most recent programme issued by foreign computer industries.


Malaysia is strong in its intent to attain the highest level of communication technology. Its determination is reflected through the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) which is a US$40 billion project launched on 27 June 1998 to get into the electronic age. MSC acts as an impetus for the new information and communication technologies.
 In terms of production, since 1995 more than 1,000 titles of compact disks have been published and deposited at the National Library. Most newspapers and magazines currently have their on-line versions and academic journals and books, too, have started to go into digital versions.
 In the area of digital printing, there are various manufacturers and representatives of digital printing solution in Malaysia such as Xerox Docutech, OCE, IBM, Ricoh and Canon. Many printing companies including university presses and government-owned printers have acquired these facilities.
 Various government-backed ventures such as the Malaysian Institute of Microelectronic System or MIMOS, the Multimedia Development Corporations, the Smart School Projects and the Virtual Library Projects are providing wide opportunities for the development of digital publishing.
 Two Smart Cities are being developed in the Multimedia Super Corridor. One is Putrajaya, the new seat of government and administrative capital of Malaysia where the concept of electronic government will be introduced. The other is Cyberjaya, an intelligent city with multimedia industries, R&D centres, a Multimedia University and operational headquarters for multinationals wishing to direct their worldwide manufacturing and trading activities using multimedia technology.
 Publishers in Malaysia will have to collaborate with other parties such as printers and multimedia operators to identify solutions and create opportunities in publishing. Publishers need to acquire new skills in managing information technologies. Publishers also need to understand the various technologies and educate themselves so that they can make informed decisions and discuss meaningfully.


Pakistan was quick to adopt the computer revolution. However, the progress may not be called exemplary but it can be termed satisfactory. Many public and private institutions and organisations are involved in the business related to computers. For example, Pakistan Software Export Board is working to develop and implement a national policy framework for software and related industry. COMSTECH is promoting science and technology in Islamic countries. It is linking libraries in the Islamic world and also preparing a directory listing of all the notable scientists in the Islamic world.
 The Copyright (Amendment) Act 1972 is now extended to cover computer software. Pakistan is also a member of the Berne Copyright Union and Universal Copyright Convention and offers protection of foreign works.
 As far as use of computers for publishing is concerned it is still at an initial stage. The well-known publishing companies use it only partially. The leading daily newspapers, however, are using DTP to a great extent. Many private firms are providing services like e-books, DTP and on-demand publishing as listed below:
1) Hindi-Urdu: About.com is a U.K. based firm which has its office in Peshawar. It provides fonts and desktop publishing in Urdu and other Arabic-based scripts. Many newspapers and on-line publications are linked to it. It is also printing the Muslim sacred book, the Quran.
2) Asiasoft is also based in Peshawar. It provides typesetting and composing in Urdu, Persian and Pushto. It has also developed a typing tutor for Urdu, Persian and Pushto.
3) Seher Technology was launched in 1986 in Karachi. It has 50 clients. It has developed Urdu 98 for making web pages in Urdu. It is planning to provide e-mail in Urdu.
4) Mathtech.pk.com is based in Islamabad. It mainly works for the Ministry of Petroleum. It prints a monthly journal on petroleum concession information both on-line and in hard copy format. It also provides on-demand publishing in English. As far as e-books are concerned, books about Pakistan are mostly printed outside Pakistan.
 The prospects of publishing using digital technology in the future are bright. Pakistan has the potential to adopt new techniques quickly. No doubt, in the future, computerised publishing will become widespread. It is felt, however, that the government should recognise its importance and take steps towards its development. In a country like Pakistan the private sector is slow to develop without the help of the government.
 At present the computerised publishing sector faces the following problems:
1. Trained manpower shortage because of the lack of training institutes. Those who are skilled with high techniques don't get good jobs in Pakistan so they go abroad to seek higher standard jobs.
2. Lack of infrastructure like telecommunications.
3. Financial problems like difficulty in getting easy loans from banks.


Bookmark Publishing uses computers to publish books, from the pre-publication stage (editing, improving artwork, correcting errors). We use this off and on, because if manuscripts come from freelancers, these are submitted in CD-ROM or Zip Disk, which we forward to service houses where they do colour separation and they output negatives where colour resolution is shown or we use services of printers for the blueprint.
 The use of computers is partial. Sometimes artwork is provided by artists, on diskettes, sometimes we work with negatives. Sometimes it is the title page that is redesigned on computers. It all depends on the publisher to decide, when to intervene, using digital technology in some stages. Digital technology is something viewed as a positive development or prospect, because it is convenient, more efficient in the speed of corrections, there is permanence of storage of data without fear of it being soiled or eaten by silverfish. There is very little time lost in sending materials electronically to Hong Kong, where much coffee-table book publishing is done. The biggest development for readers is that book orders can be placed on the Internet and orders may also be done on software.
 The problems in using computers in publishing are due to a dual platform programme in the Philippines. The Macintosh set-up or architecture is such graphics-wise, it is faster, more stable and offers more fonts. The IBM is less manageable. Printers usually have Macs as tools or standards and in the process of moving Mac to IBM or in moving to an Imagewriter, glitches come out in the artwork and some fonts are altered.
(Eddie Yabut, Manager, Editorial Dept. of Bookmark Publishing)


Most publishing companies in Singapore are Multi-National Corporations (MNCs) headquartered in Europe, Australia and North America. The publishing output is not substantial enough to augur a dramatic change in the use of technology. DTP has been in place for most publishing companies in Singapore since 1990. As for e-books Oneknowledge.com was the only company that quite unsuccessfully released a publication on the rocket e-book but the market was not quite ready to consume information over PDAs as yet. Overall access and ownership to PDAs are limited to professionals and hence the acceptance is restricted owing to the cost of ownership. Web publishing has become the new means of delivering content. Knowledgenet.com is a forerunner in the publishing industry attempting to build an on-demand publishing model, though the publishing company (Landmark Books) that complements its online business (Oneknowledge.com) has not implemented the process. Reeds Elsevier is also exploring opportunities to tap into the e-book market. The problem is essentially one of fulfilment and charging (e-commerce). Most Singaporeans are not comfortable paying online.
 Though the printed book, by comparison, is the ultimate in portability and convenience, the use of e-books will be aggressively promoted in the years to come because of the advantages of the technical infrastructure (SingaporeOne) that Singapore has constructed. Digital technology is heavily utilised in the publishing industry with the Adobe Acrobat format as the de facto standard for proof-reading and exchange. Digital technology in terms of web access has become a norm though e-books themselves have not gained popularity as yet. The National Library Board will also be undertaking concerted efforts to stimulate the demand for e-books within the next three years.
 Regarding difficulties, faithful rendition of the original is compromised in both web and e-book publishing given the complexities of colour management and graphical presentation in creator-versus-access machines. Also the menace of copyright infringement exists with pre-published documents that are being electronically circulated. With convenient electronic re-distribution the problem of secure and protected delivery gives rise to the creation of surrogate copies of the original without the author's knowledge. In matters of aesthetic judgement, automation can seldom replace human beings. A spell checker program discovers simple mistakes, but has severe difficulties in discerning nuances or suggesting more drastic revisions.

Sri Lanka

DTP is used by most of the publishing houses. E-books are not yet used. Computer technology is used for publishing in scanning, DTP, etc.
 Use of computers has become very popular among the urban population. Newspapers are online on Internet. There is a good possibility that e-books will appear in the near future.
 Main problems are: the price of computers and accessories, and lack of computer human resources.