Re: Distinguishing the Essentials from the Optional Add-Ons

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Thu, 8 May 2003 13:12:28 +0100

On Thu, 8 May 2003, Lee Miller wrote:

> I can only claim 20 years of editing, but it left me with the conviction
> that copy editing is essential, for correcting errors and for improving
> clarity. So is proofing, if anything changes during copy-editing, but that
> is nearly cost-free when it's done electronically. When you bundle those
> procedures with paper and PDF, you are conflating essentials with
> non-essentials.

Good point (and I like the fact that Lee is hoisting me with my own
customary petard of crying "conflation"!).

I agree completely that copy-editing and proofing are not to be
conflated with paper and PDF (and also that computational aids and
online processing make things like spell-checking, reference-checking,
and proofing much cheaper and more automatic).

But in suggesting that peer-review is surely part of the essentials,
whereas editing/copy-editing needs to be tested on the market by being
unbundled and sold as a separate added-value, I don't think I am
conflating essentials and inessentials (whereas wrapping them into
PDF and papers certainly would be conflating). The real conflation
is between reader-institution-based *products* (paper, PDF) and
author-institution-based *services* (peer-review, copyediting). It is
the candidate services that need to be unbundled from products, so the
author-institution can decide what it does and does not find worth paying
for (and how much).

One could have said the very same thing about unbundling word-processing
a decade ago from among the values the publisher adds. It *has* been
unbundled, and offloaded on the author, and that has been a good thing.
The rest of the unbundling is part of that same process.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Thu May 08 2003 - 13:12:28 BST

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