This is the last issue of the 12th volume of the CSA Newsletter. Over the past 12 years we have published 45 issues of the Newsletter, something approaching 450 pages of articles and images. For the past 5 years we have also published the Newsletter on the Web, and the Web versions have been accessed regularly.
Each year we have asked for support for the Newsletter, and early support was quite encouraging. Over the last few years, ironically as the economy has been stronger and stronger, the support for the Newsletter has not kept pace. The Newsletter has cost CSA about twice the amount contributed each year, and that calculation does not include the cost of software and hardware needed only for the Newsletter. Of course, the time required to edit, layout, and produce each issue of the Newsletter is considerable, and that is not included in the calculation either.
In the early years of the Newsletter, there was an assumption that it should be free in order to assure distribution to the widest possible audience. That was considered important, because the technological issues were generally very new and needed broad distribution. Technophiles needed a forum; technophobes needed some encouragement to keep informed about those issues; those in the middle needed the chance to keep abreast. The aim was not simply to preach to the choir.
Not only was the Newsletter distributed at no charge, the mailing list was made as broad as possible to be sure that the technophobes and those who had not decided how to react to computers would see the Newsletter and be in better positions to judge the technology as it developed. That aim helped to justify the losses, but the obvious now seems inescapable: those who actually read and use the Newsletter are more likely to be those who are most actively using computers and who want to find out about new programs, projects, and processes to refine and expand their skills. Even new computer users, anecdotal evidence indicates, are more likely to re-invent the wheel than to use the knowledge and experience already gained by others. Thus, it seems ill-advised to continue to distribute the Newsletter in a fashion guaranteed to lose money.
Faced with the dilemma of a Newsletter that costs too much to produce, CSA had three choices. One, the Newsletter could be discontinued. Two, it could be changed into a subscription newsletter. Three, it could become available on the Web only.
Given the interest in scholarly computing, which is clearly growing, it seemed that discontinuing the Newsletter altogether was not a good idea. Making it a subscription newsletter would mean higher unit costs (lower volume) and much more bookkeeping. On the other hand, letting the Web be the only home of the Newsletter provides some true positives. Since people will more likely approach articles individually, it will be possible to publish articles that are more varied in terms of audience. There have always been articles meant for the general audience and others for more experienced readers, but jargon has been rejected generally, and the intent has been to have all articles remain as accessible as possible. Publishing on the Web will make it easier to treat each article as an independent item, one that can be aimed at a specific audience, whether computer expert or computer-phobic. Some articles will therefore be more technical than has been the norm, while others will be intended for truly non-technical readers. Each article will have a description with the title to indicate the intended audience.
Using the Web for the Newsletter will also permit longer articles, when required, and more illustrations can be used. In addition, all illustrations can be in color. (The move to the Web will also remove a variety of file format issues encountered as illustrations are prepared for both the printed version and the Web. It will also remove the uncertainty surrounding image quality, since the low-cost printing methods used sometimes yield poor results with images.)
Web access will be made as quick and easy as possible; indeed, suggestions for improvements are appreciated. (Please send your suggestions to CSA Director Harrison Eiteljorg, II, at email@example.com.) The URL of the basic Newsletter page will remain unchanged - csa.brynmawr.edu/web1/index.html - as will the URL of the Newsletter index page - csa.brynmawr.edu /web1/../nlxref.html. (The current URL of the Newsletter and index are www.csanet.org/newsletter and . . . nlxref.html - 11 July 2000.)
We will continue to need your support for the Newsletter. Real costs - in time and energy - will continue to be incurred. We hope that many of you will respond and continue to support the Newsletter with your contributions and the kind words that are often so heartening.
A distribution list has been established at Bryn Mawr for the Newsletter. If you wish to be notified of the publication of the next issue - and succeeding issues - of the Newsletter, you may join the list. The only messages to the list will be announcements of the availability of future issues of the CSA Newsletter, the new Internet-only version. Simply send the message "subscribe csanews" (no quotes) to firstname.lastname@example.org. [Note: As of 05 May 2009, the procedure has changed. Please visit this page to sign up. You will need only to enter your email address (name optional) to receive a message when a new issue of the CSA Newsletter has been posted.]
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Table of Contents for the Winter, 2000 issue of the CSA Newsletter (Vol. XII, no. 3)
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