ABDVol.31 No.4

How Far Is Publishing Digitized in Asia? (II)


Continued from the last issue of ABD (Vol. 31 No. 3), the following evaluate the overall state of publishing in terms of utilizing digital technology of some countries in the region, by way of replies from our correspondents.


On-demand publishing is currently used in publishing out-of-print books and custom publishing for individuals, also used for printing parts of long documents as needed (i.e. insurance contracts, corporate history). The future looks promising. The number of bookstores installing data-reception equipment and binding the data is expected to increase.
  DTP is employed by most large publishers, but many small and mid-size publishers still use traditional publishing methods. A speedy switchover to DTP is expected.
  E-books have great possibilities, but are not widely used due to insufficiency of peripheral equipment and infrastructure for data transmission. The electronic paperback publishing site "Paburi" jointly run by several publishers, is still in the experimental stage. The format for data downloading varies from publisher to publisher, and it is not expected to be standardized. We can expect growth of this market in conjunction with the advancement of cellular phone technology. With the introduction of easy-to-use devices on the market, it may rapidly spread among the younger generation.
  Problems are high communication costs, insufficient infrastructure for high-speed data transfer. Also it is difficult to obtain copyright holder's approval in digitizing works. It will not lead to expansion of the publishing industry if the reading population does not grow.
  Future issues:
1) The improvement and popularization of peripheral devices will lead to enormous advances in digitization of books.
2) The role of paper books and e-books will become more distinct, according to content.
3) The downturn in the publishing industry continues. Even if the economy recovers, we cannot hope for more money and time allotted for reading.

For information technology (IT) to be widely utilized, people who use it need to change (in cultural, social, and educational aspects).


In urban centres, particularly Vientiane, some people and organisations are now publishing in-house or using small providers with expertise in DTP and digital technology. Schools, government offices, aid project offices, small companies and individuals are able to produce documents that were previously beyond their reach financially. Computer use is spreading, but lack of electrification and funds hampers the spread of technology in rural areas.
  E-mail and Internet are becoming popular and more widespread but remain new and too expensive for many. Capacity for using these tools is spreading but is limited for publishing purposes. The present infrastructure makes electronic transfer of large amounts of information difficult. Use of these tools in publishing is presently confined to a few specialised agencies. Internet use is extremely low outside the main urban centres and the service is not completely reliable. Pamphlets, books and manuals are being printed more than before due to the spread of technology. The standard of such materials varies greatly. Lao fonts are already well adapted for most software.
  Information on many subjects can be disseminated very quickly and relatively cheaply using computers. As computer use spreads, books or information on any subject can be sent to all districts of the country, providing vital knowledge on subjects such as primary education methods and curricula, health and sanitation, cultural events and business opportunities. In a country with communication problems due to mountains and lack of roads, such development will have a huge impact. If computers, printers, stationery and Internet access were provided in every district capital the proliferation of data essential for human development would be accelerated markedly. Information could be printed locally in appropriate volume for immediate distribution.
  Expense and lack of human resource capacity are the main obstacles to successful use of computers in the publishing field here. Even the most inexpensive equipment is beyond the means of most people and most public organisations. As a result, there are not enough people with training or experience in the field. In Vientiane, the situation is constantly improving, but progress is not so encouraging in the rest of the country. Lack of funds for peripheral supplies such as paper and printer ink is a problem where computers are already installed. Maintenance capacity is low and there are not enough trainers. Software is widely available, but any attempt to enforce copyright laws on computer software would be disastrous for the immediate development of this sector. Design concept and publication planning are generally poor and training is essential to get more office workers competent in this work.
(Dr. Chanthaphilith Chiemsisouraj, Director General, Dept. of Publishing, Ministry of Information and Culture, Vientiane)


About 200 of the 800 printing houses in the Kingdom are using offset technology and 8 of them have multi-colour printing facilities including newspaper publishing concerns. Modern technology for use of Photoshops, Powerpoints, DTP and image makers are used in varying degrees by the principal publishing houses. For instance, a leading media publishing house Himal Media P. Ltd. uses modern DTP technology in publishing four of its magazines. The company has an assemblage of 100 computers and well trained fleet of 30 journalists. Rajendra Dahal, editor of "Himal" fortnightly, feels that there is need of a standard software training facility in Nepal.
  But the reach of digital technology is limited by the fact that only 16% of the country's population have access to power supply.
  E-book shops and e-libraries are yet to make their debut in Nepalese market partly because of lack of management know-how and promotional incentives.
  The National Library, founded in 1956 and having a collection of 76,000 titles is in the process of introducing micro-filming of classics. However, more and more Nepalese websites are coming up to serve various clientele interests. The Yomuri Inc. has introduced nepalhomepage.com which is one of the very extensive search engines about Nepal. It is claimed that about 180,000 clients from 40 countries the world over use this site every week.
  Adoption of advanced technology has high appeal in Nepal and there are enterpreneurs who can afford to pay for it. But they lack access to relevant information and skills to make full use of the advantages of digital technology. As yet, Nepal does not have a school of printing technology.
  Sub-standard computers in the market retard the efficacy of the machines and their products. Other problems are: poor level of technical knowledge in tools repair and maintenance, non-availability of spare parts in time, lack of access to advanced computers usable for publishing activities and lack of training in software management and application.

Rep. of Korea

The Korean government is promoting the digital contents industry. Accordingly, a number of projects for the development of the new industry are being carried with vigour. In the Korean publishing industry, use of digital technology and digitization is ultimately inevitable.
  E-books are cost-effective and can be distributed over the Internet. Despite their advantages, e-books are still not available to the public and are stirring controversies over the issue of copyright protection and technical measures. High prices of e-book devices are one of the major obstacles to popularization of e-books. Piracy and illegal dissemination of e-books over the Internet are also key problems.
 DTP is quite common in Korea. Small sized publishers depend on DTP.
 On-demand publishing was expected to be hailed by the public in the beginning because it would enable users to get books which cannot be published on the basis of a large circulation. A Korean company has developed software for on-demand publishing, but its popularization is still a long way to go.
  Korean publishers have been using computers in publishing for a few decades. For them, publishing without using computers is unthinkable. High prices of computers and publishing-related software are the biggest problem for them.


At present, most publishers in Thailand use microcomputer-based desktop publishing technology in the pre-press process because the price of microcomputers is not so high and software is being developed to meet the needs of users such as providing various applications and enabling users to operate them easily. However, higher digital technology such as Printing on Demand (POD) equipment is used only in large-sized publishing firms due to its high price. The present economic downturn makes most publishing firms feel that purchasing of expensive equipment is a risk investment while they can still work with their present equipment. In addition, the publishing power of Thailand is now in excess of the market demand.
  In the case of e-books, most newspapers are on-line. However, there are a few publishers who invested in Internet-base workstations. Most websites were giving information of company profiles and advertising their products. Some of them are offering books online, enabling buyers to order books, offering online book purchasing service and payment functions through credit card. However, service over the web is not common among Thais and most publishers are not yet reengineering their management to meet the challenges of e-commerce.
  In the future, some large-sized publishing houses with a lot of circulating capital and their own certain markets will be willing to develop their production processes by installing high technology system such as the Portable Document Format (PDF) and Cooperation for Integration of Pre-press, Press and Post-press (CIP3) system which will combine all the publishing processes, while medium and small-sized publishing houses have no plans to do that. Due to the present economic crisis, most entrepreneurs will carefully invest according to the market needs.
  Concerning e-books, websites giving information and advertising of new books, offering online book service, ordering books via Internet service and reading promotion activities will be in the increase because entrepreneurs sense optimism over e-commerce application growth and expect higher competition in the business.
  The problems of using high and modern technology are the lack of knowledge and skill of people who are operating them, so it is necessary to train personnel in the publishing process in order to make them understand and acquire the knowledge and skills to use such equipment. Furthermore, problems due to the rapid change of technology would necessitate choosing well-known, established companies that can maintain every part of the equipment even if they cease producing those models.
  Using modern digital technology in the publishing process is now helping to facilitate the production of publishing as well as cutting expenses, because we can employ a sole source of information to make various media such as CD-ROM, Internet, broadcast or publication. However, the development of administration and the preparation of human resources are also important considerations.
(Mr. Boonchai Waleetorncheepsawat, Assistant Director of Printing Business Department, Kurusapa Business Organization)