A View from the Publishers

by Carol Risher

From the Editor: Carol Risher is Vice President for Copyright and New Technology at the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

I recognize the importance of this conference, and I am very glad to present the views of the publishers. My remarks fit very well with those of the previous two speakers in this session. AAP publishers represent different markets. When you think of books, it is important to know that our members publish elementary and high school text books for a particular market; college text books; professional and scholarly books; and what we call trade, the consumer fiction and non-fiction. All of our members publish books in order to get information to the public, including those who have print-accessibility problems. We have been working with the NFB, the American Printing House for the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, RFB&D, and the National Library Service for many years to improve accessibility.

We are now looking together at technology initiatives. Technology is an opportunity, but it's important that everyone realizes that for publishers it is also a threat. Right now, today, my office, which is copyright and new technology, gets reports that college students go into college book stores and buy text books; they then take them to self-service machines and copy the entire book and bring the book back to the book store for full credit. This is happening across the country. We also have won lawsuits about course packs, where people copy a chapter of this, a chapter of that, a chapter of the other thing. People are buying course packs and photocopying them.

Now, with the advent of scanning technology, it is possible with a hand-held scanner to take an entire text book and put it up on the Internet. So we are fighting the threat of technology, and those of you who don't follow the law may not realize that there is also now a provision in a recent Supreme Court decision that states are immune from cash damages for copyright infringement. So the publishing industry is aquiver with fear that state boards will start reproducing text books for all the students without paying any attention to copyright and payment until they are sued, and then the only thing that we can do is to stop the copying.

We're under threat, and the piracy is real to us. So we approach the challenge of accessibility on two levels: how can we use digitization and electronic files and technology to improve accessibility; but how can we insure that only the intended recipient obtains access to the content? Some of the areas that we look forward to working with all of the organizations represented in this room on are encryption, certification, software and hardware solutions, and access controls so that copies which are intended, which are distributed over the Internet or distributed in an unencrypted, digital format to blind people do not somehow find their way into commerce, not only in the United States, but around the world, totally destroying the market for books. We hope to work with our partners in this project on various approaches to achieve these goals.

Technology poses other challenges as George Kerscher mentioned very well--the different formats, the cost of conversion. There is also a question right now over who holds the rights to electronic editions, and when you talk about legacy materials, there are lawsuits now which have proven that, although a publisher may have published the print version, it is the author who holds the electronic rights. So one of the concerns that we are looking at is how to make sure that for older materials we can get the necessary rights to convert a book to electronic formats.

For creating electronic files there are two separate projects right now that AAP is working on. Maybe Tuck Tinsley can tell you more about the one at the El-High level to create a central repository of digital files. The school publishers are finding that each state has a different requirement for providing electronic files to provide versions for the blind. So an elementary-high school text book publisher is doing one thing for Texas, one thing for California, one thing for New York, one thing for Florida; and the hope is that, if there can be a central repository, you're not converting your book again and again and again in different formats at a tremendous expense. That is one project that we think is very important and AAP is working on.

The other is the one that George mentioned, the OEB [Open E-Book]. The pilot project that we are working on now is taking new books and putting them in the Open E-Book format. The theory is that publishers will want to do this for commercial reasons, as George mentioned, but no one has ever yet converted a book to OEB. And it isn't the publishers who do the conversion. Publishers have other people handle their output. So the folks from R. R. Donnelly and Son, one of the largest printers in the United States--I think they are a five-billion-dollar business--and they print catalogs, magazines, newspapers, and books. R.R. Donnelly has trained its staff to do conversions to OEB. They had three weeks of training. From the time the specification was adopted on September 21 until now, they've been training staff to convert to OEB. We have identified two books that have some complicated materials in them. Not math and science, but we do have some sidebars, some graphs, some tables, and a lot of text. We are taking Quark files--as George mentioned, 70 percent of the books are in Quark--taking Quark files and converting them to OEB. I called the folks at Donnelly and said, "How is it going?"

They said, "You know, in creating an electronic file for a book, what happens is that publishers and authors like to work in small, bite-sized pieces; so, if a book has ten chapters, they actually work on it as though it were ten separate books, ten separate files." So the Quark file is separate. In order to run a conversion, you'd like just to put it in a machine and say, "Now everything that looks like this, change to that." Unfortunately, they're finding that they have to convert each chapter as a separate project. They also found that for the tables and the charts and the graphs they need incredible manual operation because OEB is not easy to use to automate the process.

We think this is a very useful project because we are learning the difficulties. We're learning ways that we can recommend things be modified to make it easier in the first place, but understand, we're going first from the Quark to the OEB. Then we're taking the OEB files and, by file-transfer protocol (FTP), we are delivering them to the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped at the Library of Congress. They're going to take the OEB files and convert them to the DAISY-NISO standard. Then the DAISY-NISO files are going to be delivered to Duxbury to put them into Braille. Each step along the way will be a learning process.

What we think will come out of this pilot (and it's in a very tight time frame) is specific identification of things that should go into OEB Version 2 to make the files more compatible with DAISY-NISO and a rule set and a style sheet for how to prepare manuscripts. The concept that George mentioned about dual publishing is not yet there with publishers. As he said, "Book publishers are not on the cutting edge of technology." They are afraid of E-Books right now. There is a concern: will the E-Book cannibalize the market for the print book? How will the two work together? If you identify a wonderful author and, in order to promote the new book by the new author, do all the publicity and the marketing to get this author on the "Today Show" and the "Tonight Show," and every radio show and build a big market for it, we don't want somebody to undercut and totally take those print sales with some electronic format, where you're not even getting the proceeds.

The business models are not yet there in the E-Book area. It's something that's evolving. The relationship between E-Book and print books is evolving. The relationship between authors and publishers in the E-Book realm is evolving. The agents announced in some kind of broadside that they want separate advances for the E-Book version and the print version. The publishers are saying that this is an untested market; we don't know what's going to happen. The agents are saying on behalf of their authors, "We want a hundred thousand dollars for this and a hundred thousand dollars for that, and, if you sell more print than you thought, it doesn't weigh against the other. We are just at the beginning, and I think it's important for everyone to understand. I know my friend Jim Gashel loves to legislate, and he thinks that, if you just make it happen by law....

But making it happen by law doesn't make it happen, because the problem is the relationships, the markets, the technology, the rights--all of these very broad and complicated issues have to be addressed and they're better addressed not in the public forum of legislation, but with us working together, sitting around the table and saying, "We want to work with you," which the publishers do. "We want to provide you electronic files," which the publishers do. "But we want to do it in a way that works for all of us and doesn't destroy either the market or the incentive or the protection of the intellectual property product."

My closing remarks are that we're excited about the potential. I identified just some of the obvious concerns, but we think this opportunity to work together and work out the problems jointly will benefit everyone--book publishers and the blind community.