Electronic publishing for Editors

by Tom Worthington FACS HLM

For the Canberra Society of Editors, 6 pm, Wednesday 25 October 2006, National Library of Australia, Canberra


  1. Introduction
  2. About the speaker
  3. Publishing as an IT Problem
  4. Australian Government Open Access
  5. Advertising For Government
  6. Open Journal Systems

    See Also

  7. Quality e-Publishing
  8. Other Information Technology
  9. Home


Free and low cost computer tools and services can be used by to research, produce, publish, distribute and sell books on-line. Technology under development for scholarly publishing is also set to revolutionize commercial publishing, radio and TV. Here are some examples books I have published and the new electronic publishing system under development by the Australian Computer Society.

About the speaker

Tom Worthington is an independent IT consultant and occasional travel author. He is Chair of Scholarly Publishing for the Australian Computer Society, looking after the ACS's Jounral and Conference Poceedings. Tom is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, where he teaches electronic publishing technology. In 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy in Australia. His book Net Traveller is available free on-line (and makes money).

Publishing as an IT Problem

To an IT professional a publication is an application to be developed. Following good practice in IT, you should make sure the text for the publication (the data) is of good quality when it is entered into the system. The data should be stored in a stable format suitable for long term retention, which can be converted to as many formats as needed for the readers.

An exploded view of a modern personal computer

How computers work, Wikipedia, 2006

This may sound a naive view of the complexities of publishing, but this model is built into many computer based tools available today, including the World Wide Web. In many cases the benefits of this approach to publishing are not being realised. Resources are wasted manually modifying content in computer systems, when that content could have been entered once and the software transformed it to the required format. Free and powerful tools built by computer scientists to do this for their own publishing but are not well known outside the discipline.

One point difficult for non-computer people to grasp is that all data is treated essentially the same in the computer. The latest XML web based tools can be used for handling digital audio and video as well as text and images. As a result publishing can be blended with broadcasting using the same tools.

Make Australian Government Publications Open Access

Licensing restrictions carried over from print publications are hampering the distribution of information on-line. This is holding back the distribution of electronic publications by the Australian Government and Australian Universities. These organisations are producing world class publications but are then stopping most of the potential users of those publications with restrictive licence conditions.

The Australian Government, state governments and universities provide many well researched reports in electronic format. However, the resources put into these reports are largely wasted due to the restrictive licensing put on distribution. The lack of a machine readable version of the notice prevents search engines from finding material which could be used.

As an example a few small changes to the current Australian government copyright notice would allow much wider use. The simplest change would be to remove the words: "your personal" and "or use within your organisation" would lift the restriction on redistribution:

This material is copyright © Commonwealth of Australia, except where otherwise indicated. You may download, store in cache, display, print and reproduce the material in unaltered form only (retaining this notice, or links to it where they appear) for your personal, non-commercial use or use within your organisation. You may not deal with the material in a manner that might mislead or deceive any person.

Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, all other rights are reserved. Requests for further authorisation should be directed to:

From: Copyright, Australian Government Information Management Office (emphasis added)

Adding a licence encoded in XML would allow search engines, such as Google's Usage Rights Search, to check the licence conditions automatically. The simplest way to do this would be to adopt the Australian version of the Creative Commons Licence (developed by the QUT Law School and Blake Dawson Waldron Lawyers), with the options for "Attribution", "Non-Commercial" and "No Derivative Works:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

The full notice would then be:

This material is copyright © Commonwealth of Australia, except where otherwise indicated. You may download, store in cache, display, print and reproduce the material in unaltered form only (retaining this notice, or links to it where they appear) for non-commercial use. You may not deal with the material in a manner that might mislead or deceive any person.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, all other rights are reserved. Requests for further authorisation should be directed to:

Creative Commons License

Creative commons provides an internationally standardized way to give open access rights to publications. Search systems, such as Google index publications based on their Usage Rights. It is therefore possible to search for open access material.

A Google search shows there are only 8 gov.uk, 249 gov and 603 gov.au web pages with an open source licence. Of the 603 Australian pages, 600 are from the City of Sydney, one from the Victorian Government, two NSW (none federal).

8 gov.uk

Gov: "free to use or share"

Better PDF and Beyond

The common approach to providing a government report on-line is to create a PDF version of the printed report. More e-literate agencies, such as AGIMO, produce a HTML web based versions of publications in addition to the PDF. These make the document easier to find using a web search engine and easier to download one specific part.

PDF documents have a number of inherent limitations and others suffer from poor formatting choices by the editor. In many cases only a few hundred or a few thousand printed copies of reports will be produced, whereas there are millions of potential on-line readers. More of the effort in producing a useful document should therefore go into the on-line version.

For PDF documents:

Web Advertising For Governments and Universities

Non-profit and commercial publishers need to consider web advertising as a way to generate revenue. While it may seem odd to suggest non-profit organisations consider advertising, they still need to generate income to carry out their mission. Print publications from government organisations have carried paid advertising, as have those from universities, professional societies and other organisations not normally considered profit making. However, these organisations are reluctant to include advertising in the on-line versions of their publications. Careful selection and placement of web advertising can bring in revenue while not lowering the tone of the publication (or even enhancing it for readers who are used to it).

For-profit publishers who sell print or electronic publications need to consider if it would be useful to "give away" a version of the publication with advertising. One workable strategy is to sell the print and PDF versions of the publication with the web version free with advertising. As an example my own web site has Google ads and the Australian e-journal On Line Opinion, has banner ads.

The UK Government experimented with advertising in 2002. From the report prepared it does not appear to have been a happy experience. However, the technology used, the readership and the user expectations have changed since then and it should be reconsidered.

The Contractor overestimated both the numbers of readers who would click on the banners and the demand for advertising.

Their original estimate of income over the three years was, in order of year

These estimates were accepted in good faith by CCTA who at the time had no experience of on-line advertising.

The contract was extended for a fourth year. During this last year, space for 23 advertising campaigns was sold. The income based on number of clicks on the ads is estimated to be about £20,000.This income then had to be split among all parties.

From: Case study of advertising on a government website, Office of the e-Envoy, UK Cabinet Office, February 2002

Open Journal Systems

General web publishing tools are not set up for traditional publishing. However, some tools, such as the Open Journal Systems (OJS) support a traditional publication workflow.

OJS assists with every stage of the refereed publishing process, from submissions through to online publication and indexing. Through its management systems, its finely grained indexing of research, and the context it provides for research, OJS seeks to improve both the scholarly and public quality of referred research.

OJS is open source software made freely available to journals worldwide for the purpose of making open access publishing a viable option for more journals, as open access can increase a journal's readership as well as its contribution to the public good on a global scale (see PKP Publications).

From: Open Journal Systems

OJS is specifically designed for publishing academic journals, but could be adapted to other publishing processes. OJS allows audio and video files to be uploaded, as well as text, so that it can be used for multimedia publishing. As an example the formal text of a scientific paper can be accompanied by the slides and video of the presentation and data files.

electronic Journal of Health Informatics

An Australian example of the use of OJS is the new electronic Journal of Health Informatics. By using the technology effectively, this new journal has become high profile on-line very quickly:

The electronic Journal of Health Informatics is an international journal committed to scholarly excellence and dedicated to the advancement of Health Informatics and information technology in healthcare. It is a journal for all health professions and informaticians of all levels.

eJHI is a truly open access journal - it provides open access both for authors (i.e. no publication fee or page charges) and for readers (i.e. free access to all papers). ...

From: electronic Journal of Health Informatics, 2006

eJHI is only a few weeks old, but is already very visible on the web. The people producing it are distributed across Australia and around the world, but are able to efficiently undertake the editorial, reviewing and production process using the tools in OJS. One aspect is the accountability of the scholarly publishing process. OJS has an option to log all steps in the process. If there is a question later as to when a paper was submitted, reviewed or published, this can be reported by the system.


To get the discussion from the hypothetical, to the practical, here are two books I did using open source free tools:

Before getting too high-tech, it is worth keeping in mind that the old system still works well for publishing. If you are producing a book which has a local audience, then it makes sense to publish and distribute it locally yourself. You can prepare the book use the software described below and then have it printed locally. Note that I said printed, not published (publishers cost more because they provide more services). You can distribute the books your self, taking payment in cash and by post with payment by cheque (or bank deposit). Even if you are seeking wider sales through on-line channels, it might be worth doing a local edition. You can also take payments via the Internet with or without a web site using services like Paypal.


Net Traveller was done as an exercise in publishing. The Introduction includes a description of how it was done:

Apart from this introduction, each chapter is an edited version of an on-line document, usually a web page. ... laser-print in small quantities ... royalties from the first edition are being donated to a charity, Technical Aid to the Disabled.

The printed book was typeset using free-ware software. The text and images were first prepared as web pages, then converted from HTML to LaTeX ... PDF ... As well as being free, this text based, batch mode software proved more effective for typesetting a large document, than an interactive, graphical user interface program.

Note the last point. LaTeX is a relatively old fashioned batch mode tool. You can't easily change the formatting for one line with LaTex. This turns out to be very useful for typesetting books with a consistent overall style.

Open Office

Universal Service used much the same process as for Net Traveller, but using content from an academic thesis in the form of a word processing document. The free Open Office word processor was used to edit the source text (originally prepared in Microsoft Word). This was then typeset using LaTeX.

Conversion of a thesis into book form may seem a complex process. Some shortcuts can be taken, such as globally changing all references to "thesis" to "work":

This work analyses the development of telecommunications universal service in relation to people with disabilities and national policy making in Australia from 1975 to the end of 1997. This is done to gain an understanding of how different political, scientific and social contexts have influenced policy. Changing technological, economic and legislative environments, have created favorable conditions for either charity or 'rights' models of disability, and have dominated related policy arenas at various times.

From: Universal Service? Telecommunications Policy In Australia and People with Disabilities, By Michael J Bourk (Edited by Tom Worthington), 2000

The sections of the thesis were rearranged, placing supporting, material in appendices. Some paragraphs and sentences were made smaller (some eliminated). The text was then saved as HTML, the HTML cleaned with HTML Tidy, then converted to Latex, and PDF.


There are now many tools designed to work with web formats, particularly HTML. These can be used even if you are not producing web pages. Tidy is a small tool which corrects errors in HTML. It is also useful for removing excessive formatting inserted by word processors.

... Tidy can now perform wonders on HTML saved from Microsoft Word 2000! Word bulks out HTML files with stuff for round-tripping presentation between HTML and Word. If you are more concerned about using HTML on the Web, check out Tidy's "Word-2000" config option! Of course Tidy does a good job on Word'97 files as well!

From: Clean up your Web pages with HTML TIDY, By Dave Raggett, 2003

You can save a document from a word processor in HTML, run it through Tidy and to remove the formatting rubbish and then reload the cleaned up document into another typesetting tool.


Both Net Traveller and Universal Service were cataloged by the National Library of Australia's free Cataloguing in Publication service. To do this I simply provided them with the electronic draft of the books. The bibliographic record they provided was included in the book. This has the advantage that libraries across Australia see the book in the catalog.

Cataloguing in Publication (CiP) is a free service offered to publishers by the National Library of Australia to provide a bibliographic record for a book before it is published. When the book is published the CiP data is printed on the reverse side of the title page. The CiP data is also included in the Australian National Bibliographic Database (ANBD) available on Libraries Australia, Australia's Library Network. If there is an online version of the book available, NLA will include a valuable link from their catalog.

From: Cataloguing in Publication, NLA

The NLA provide free web terminals in their reading room. So it would be possible to use the web based tools discussed here to prepare a book in the reading room and have it published without leaving the building.

On Demand Publishers

You can have a book printed simply by emailing the content to a company which does printing. For Net Traveller I used a local printer in Canberra which was only a few km away. It was simple enough to email them the content then collect the completed books. This works well for ten to one hundred copies. The books are printed on a high speed laser printer. The covers are printed separately and manually attached. This equipment is typically used for producing government reports.

Top sell the book, I created a simple on-line order web form, using the interface supplied by my web provider. The customer entered their details into a database, the ACS office was e-mailed advising them of the order and they then logged in to collect the details. The order was then processed manually.

For Universal Service I printed some copies locally and sold them to libraries and other institutions via James Bennett. I mailed them the books with a paper invoice and then deposited the money directly in my company's bank account.

But also I had the book published in the USA by a print on demand publisher (POD), Authorhouse. Much as with local printing, you send the content to the publisher and they produce books. Unlike the printer, they also provide the ISBN for the book, do their own online sales and have it entered in systems, such as Amazon.

The catch with PODs has been the up front cost of having the publication prepared. However, the recent trend has been to provide a stripped down service, with additional services costing extra. As an example lulu.com have no setup fees. You can have book prepared for POD and available for sale in LuLu's bookstore at minimal cost (you have to buy one proof copy of the book). LuLu then charge extra for services, such as distribution via Amazon.

  1. Info Enter information about your book so your customers can find it easily ...
  2. Upload & ConvertUpload your manuscript or book interior as a PDF file or word processing document ...
  3. Binding & Colors Choose the binding for your book and pick the interior printing: black & white or color pages ...
  4. Cover Art Upload your own cover file or select one of our free cover images ...
  5. Price & Finish Set the final price of your book including your royalty. Set a copyright license. ...

From: The 5 Steps of Publishing on Lulu, Lulu Inc., 2006

Wikis and Blogs

There are numerous free tools for on-line publishing, such as Wikis and Blogs.

  1. Wiki for the Deployment of Disaster Management Systems for Jogjakarta Earthquake
  2. Blog for the ACT Office of Film, Television and Digital Media

With these tools you just add your content to the system. If hosting the system on your own web site yourself you can add ads for income. If using someone else's web site, you usually have to put up with their ads.

A Blog which includes audio or video content can be provided as a Podcast. This is an enhanced blog format which allows the content to be automatically loaded into an audio or video player.

Online Document Reviews

Systems such as OJS manage a formal review process for each document. The editor selects reviewers, the system sends a copy of the draft to them and monitors their progress. This process is used for peer reviewed academic papers but could also be used for commercial publishing and for government and private policy development organizations.

By offering to consult their constituents government agencies and policy think tanks get free input and review services. As an example I represent the ACS on the Australian Bureau of Statistics ICT Reference Group. The ABS sends drafts of documents for comment and collects replies by email.

The ABS established an ICT reference group in early 2004 involving government, industry, academic and community representatives. The aim of the reference group is to improve the usefulness of ICT statistics in Australia from a variety of sources. The reference group provides a high level forum for understanding, improving and developing ICT statistics, providing members with the opportunity to discuss and consider strategies to address ICT statistical issues ...

From: Innovation and Technology Update, ABS Bulletin No. 14, August 2006


OJS helps with the handling of documents for publication, but doesn't format the documents. The Integrated Content Environment (ICE) provides a way to convert word processing documents into web based and print content:

Use a word processor, with a helpful template:

To write course packages for:

From: Integrated Content Environment, Peter Sefton, University of Southern Queensland

ICE was designed for producing educational content for universities, and in particular on-line training materials, web based teaching and traditional printed course books. It includes a very powerful change management system, adapted from that used by computer programmers to keep track of versions of computer programs. This allows multiple distributed course developers to maintain materials.

Tools such as ICE are a little too specialized for preparing a simple article for a magazine. What is needed are some more general purpose and easier to use tools, as discussed by Ian Barnes in his Digital Scholar's Workbench.


  1. Electronic Publishing at the ACS

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