Recent advances in printing technology have made the production of books simpler and faster. With computer-aided designs and sophisticated software, the process of production has become comparatively hassle-free, provided trained manpower is available.
However, does the availability of more books lead to better editorial quality in terms of language, style and content? Has the number game taken over as the criteria for excellence in publishing, as it is commonly seen in the case of other consumer products? Has the development in technology reduced the importance of human factor in editing? Is it the logic of market forces that dictates the need for more and more new books?
One should first take a look at the positive side of this changed scenario. Due to the advent of new technology the actual effort that earlier went into production — after the detailed editorial examination — has been practically halved. Now, the editors can directly make changes while reading the copy on the screen. As the authors are now expected to submit their work on electronic files, the whole process of composing by publishers has been eliminated.
Moreover, the cost of composing, which is around 20 per cent of the total cost of production have been absorbed in the editorial examination. This effectively means that after the in-house editorial work has been completed, the copy is ready to be printed. The cumbersome work of revisions and re-revisions have been done away with.
Technical manuscripts that make use of heavy artwork pose several problems. But, with the use of scanners, the illustrations can be integrated with the body of the text before printing. However, the widespread application of technology in editing means that the editors once associated with a blue pencil and an eraser, have to be trained in computer applications.
The rampant use of technology in printing gives rise to a few questions. Does computerization make the process of editing redundant? Does the editor still have a role to play? Contrary to the existing notion that machines loaded with upgraded softwares can do the job, the human touch is still vital. In fact,due to surfeit of information cutting a copy has become an even more important task because no one today wants to read more than one is required to. The new technologies are here to stay and will be strengthened in the coming years. However, one should remember what the Swiss-German playwright, Max Frisch said, “Technology is the knack of so arranging the world that that we do not experience it.” But without “experience”, books will lose touch with the world — which would mean the end of the book.