Readers Sound Off on Electronic Publishing

In an editorial last December, I asked you to give us your views on the
kinds of technical information you felt should be delivered via the traditional
print version of this magazine versus new electronic vehicles, such as the
Internet and CD-ROM. We received a flurry of responses-most of it via E-mail,
but some by "snail mail." Not surprisingly, readers fell into two camps-print
lovers and online aficionados.

Those who favor print pointed out the ease of use, the portability, and the superior graphics of traditional magazines. In his E-mail message, Steven Ellis of Kathleen, GA, said: "I have recently been forced onto the "Net' as a result of a new job and am not overcome with joy using the thing. I have yet to find a way to dog-ear a page, highlight a sentence, or sit by a wood stove in a comfortable chair and read. Don't give up on the printed page."

Proponents of online information praised the way this medium allows them to select and target information they need and to interact easily with other engineers any time of the day or night. Typical was this observation from Greg Nieman of Philadelphia: "Click the online box for my vote, please. I find that surfing the Internet is a great method for finding sources of information and some application info. But I'm not ready to put the paper magazines in the museum cases yet. I find that technical illustrations are still too slow to load to permit me to browse new ideas effectively. What types of information would I like to see on line? Search capabilities for past articles and for technical information on products presented by your advertisers."

The reaction we got from readers certainly confirms that more and more engineers are using E-mail, commercial online services, and the Internet's bulletin boards, netnews, and technical news groups, such as sci.engr.mech. For many, these online services have become more convenient and effective substitutes for messages delivered via phone, fax, regular mail, company memos, or-heaven forbid-actual face-to-face conversation. As a magazine, we fully intend to participate in this online dialogue by urging you to respond to our editors electronically, as well as by giving you more information on how to tap into vendor E-mail and product data bases.

But when it comes to online delivery of lengthy magazine articles with detailed drawings, the jury is still out. Many people find it tedious to read long stories on a computer screen and are unhappy with the quality of graphics. Besides, who will pay for this service-you or advertisers, many of whom are still wedded to print?

There is a very attractive interim step in this move toward electronic publishing-CD-ROM, a medium that offers excellent graphics and allows users to easily select information from a huge storehouse of data. Design News recently pioneered the design field's first CD-ROM suppliers directory, which you can purchase by calling Gwen Zeh at: 800-334-2245. Meanwhile, our parent company-Cahners Publishing-has purchased Mead Data Central, which supports the Lexis and Nexis online services. So you can be sure that

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