Computer Usefulness, 1969 and Now

In 1969 a publishing executive wryly tallied up whether and how computers had helped his industry:

Pitfalls to Computer Use in Publishing and Communication,” Daniel Melcher, Journal of Business Communication, vol. 6, no. 2, Winter 1969, pp. 47-51. The author, chairman of the R.R. Bowker Company, says:

Most large publishers now have computers; many small ones use computers. Yet very few report net savings resulting from conversion to computer, and most went through agonies in the conversion process. All hope for tangible economies in the future. But the $5 million companies seem to expect economies when they reach $10 million — and the $10 million companies when they reach $20 million, and so on. [continued below the image]

Also, the economies of typesetting have benefited but modestly from computerization so far. Recently, for example, some systems analysts wrote that they had found a way to cut the cost of typesetting by 80 percent. Upon reading the small type it was revealed that the promised composition savings depended on getting the author to do the work of the compositor — and on getting him not to make corrections on proof. Any publisher who can achieve those things can make spectacular savings, with or without a computer.