On demand printing, a nomenclatural problem for botany

Joseph H. Kirkbride, Jr. jkirkbri at ASRR.ARSUSDA.GOV
Tue Apr 25 13:00:29 CDT 2000

All persons interested in botanical nomenclature or the ICBN should read
the following article in the Washington Post of 24 April 2000, "The End"
by Linton Weeks.  For the next two weeks, it is available at no cost from:
This is especially important for the members of the special committee on
electronic publication.

When I attended the Nomenclature Section of the International Botanical
Congress in St. Louis last year, I believed that it would be three to four
years before on-demend publishing would be ready.  According to the above
article, machines are NOW being sold and installed which can produce a
book in "five minutes".  The machine can "print", bind, put on a cover,
and print a colored dust jack and put it on the book.

There will no longer be a need to do a print run and store hundreds of
copies.  Each, individual copy is produced as it is sold.  Books are
"published" when they are ready for production by the machines!

I fear incredible problems with this system.  In my opinion, the books
produced by one of these machine is a printed book which has been
"published".  What is its status under the ICBN?  There is no stock of
similar copies which are all guarenteed to be exactly the same.  The
author and/or publisher could change/fix the computer files between the
"printing" of each copy!  Also, will this constitute "distribution of
printed matter (through sale, exchange, ot gift) to the general public"?
In my opinion, it does.

In St. Louis, the question of electronic publication was returned to the
special committee for the next botancial congress.  By the time we get to
the next botanical congress, this situation is going to be very serious.
On-demand publication is going to sweep the publishing world!  Minimal
upfront investment is required.  The computer files are prepared, but no
printing is done until a volume is sold.  The overhead storage costs are
eliminated.  All organizations doing low volume publishing will use this
system, especially those doing scientific publication.  The ICBN is not
ready to deal with this situation.

Joseph H. Kirkbride, Jr.
USDA, Agricultural Research Service
Systematic Botany and Mycology Laboratory
Room 304, Building 011A, BARC-West
Beltsville, Maryland 20705-2350 USA
Voice telephone: 301-504-9447
FAX: 301-504-5810
Internet: jkirkbri at asrr.arsusda.gov

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