Oxford Electronic Shakespeare defended (80)

Tue, 7 Mar 89 19:20:16 EST

Humanist Mailing List, Vol. 2, No. 684. Tuesday, 7 Mar 1989.

Date: Tue, 7 MAR 89 09:49:02 GMT
Subject: Shakespeare: Complete Works, OUP

The first question I ask myself is whether or not Sebastian
Rahtz is living in the real world? His ill-informed little contribution
does the quality of the HUMANIST and the respect I have had for
people contributing to it no good at all. I am sure that if Sebastian
had to pay for his email (some of us have to go through BTGold and pay
REAL money), he would think twice about clogging up the post
with rubbish of the "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells" variety.
Simply because some readers keep quiet doesn't mean that they
are not monitoring what is going on .. time is money in some

The level of cheap jibe in SR's communication doesn't really
deserve addressing, but I would not want other readers to go
away with the wrong impression about the production of
electronic texts, or OUP's attitude in general.

1. Cost
Does anyone else reading HUMANIST really think that publishing
an electronic edition of anything -- let alone something as
extensive as the new Oxford Shakespeare -- is simply a matter
of pressing a button and replicating a few floppy disks?
Clearly SR has not seen the publication, otherwise he might just
begin to appreciate what the unit cost could be. For the record,
this publication took over one year to prepare from compacted
and complex typesetting tapes to the 'clean' ASCII text that finally
emerged. This cost a great deal of money -- much of it in
in programmers' time.

To suggest that this publication be priced in line with Borland is
a nonsense. Borland sell to a vast consumer market in such
numbers as to make possible their prices; bear in mind also
the nature of their products. The academic market into
which OUP sells is by contrast minuscule, and the scope of
what we publish infinitely more specialist. If SR is
keen on dissuading publishers from marketing electronic
products in the academic community, he is going the
right way about encouraging their complete withdrawal. The
only losers would, good humanities computing friends, be you.

2. Format of the text
It is important to point out that these texts are not
exclusively readable by Micro-OCP. It was a prime consideration
not to lock the text into any one retrieval program -- hence why
the manual accompanying the publication goes into such detail
about the tagging scheme and layout of the files. Anyone who
chooses to write their own retrieval software is free to do so
(which they would not have been free to do had it been 'packaged ' with

3. Paper versus electronic publication
I thought this old chestnut had died some time ago, but clearly
there are still those who think that paper and electronic publications
are somehow in competition. They are not -- a book does some things
very well, an electronic publication others and
differently. It never crossed my mind that anyone would imagine
they were supposed to READ the electronic edition of Shakespeare
on the screen -- how bizarre! The publication is intended for those
who wish to analyse the text using a computer, and for ease of use
in teaching, preparing lecture notes on a word processor, or writing

If any readers would like a copy of the brochure, please let me
know and one will be sent to you via conventional mail (email can't
do colour yet).

Ruth Glynn, Editor, Oxford Electronic Publishing