Should You Offer CD-ROM Production Services?

By Howie Fenton

Should You Offer CD-ROM Production Services?

If you're like other service providers you probably spend hours considering what new services or products to offer. Unfortunatley the combination of unending new product releases and new technologies makes this a difficult and confusing process. Among the possibilities include: on- demand digital printing, large format color, color copies, high speed black and white copying, slide output services, high quality color and CD-ROM production.

For the last couple of years CD-ROM production has become a popular idea. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of this technology and the future implications.


There are several advantages of CD-ROM technology. The biggest advantage (pardon the pun) is storage capacity. CD-ROMs can store 650 Mb with out compression and 1.3 Gb with compression. This translates in to about 200,000 pages of text alone or 5 file cabinets of paper or 225 books or 2,000 images.

Is this an opportunity? Of course it is. First think about all your existing clients. Do they send you SyQuests, Bernoulli's or DAT tapes? Most likely they do. In fact they probably use this same media for back-up and archiving purposing. How do you know? Ask your output staff how many removable disks come in. Ask your sales or delivery staff if they see piles of disks on customers shelves.

A better way to determine the marketability of a product or service is with research. That means simply calling some of your clients ask them how many removable disks they own and if they would be interested in writing that data to a CD-ROM. The advantage to them, is that it would not only give them more compact storage but would also free up there removable disks for additional storage. Before you go and call your clients be prepared to answer some questions.

The first question will most likely involve cost. Among the factors to consider in pricing are: what is the competitive range; what is the device and media costs; how long does it take to perform the service; and is it automated or require manpower.

Competitive range is critically important and the best way to determine that is simple by calling your competition. The time and manpower required and device and media costs are straight forward. However also consider the product life cycle of the device. A conservative estimate would be 2 years and a liberal estimate would be 4 years.

Another potential client are Fortune 500 companies. These companies that can use the storage capacity to archive data and records or store and distribute technical data such as technical manuals, databases and directories.

In addition, CD-ROMs can serve as a good media to store multimedia presentations which could be made at board meetings or for training programs. According to the October issue of New Media magazine the two greatest useages of multimedia in corporations is presentations (66%) and training 63%


Storage is important but combining the ability to search and retrieve makes it much more powerful. This advantage is most clearly illustrated with reference materials such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, thersauri, etc. The reason reference materials are selling well on CD-ROMS is because you can search the entire encyclopedia in less then on minute.

Interestingly, in an test cosponsored by MicroPublishing Press and Compton's NewMedia comparing electronic searching to manual searching the importance of knowing what to search for was just as important as the method. As reported in the December issue Barbara Bibel, a librarian, outperformed others regardless of media.

A good example of a publication well suited to CD-ROM is called Computer Select. Computer select is CD-ROM publication from Ziff Communications that contains 75,000 articles from 160 publications about computer related articles. For this application the ability to perform keyword searches through articles from MacUser, MacWeek, PC Magazine, Seybold and other publications is a invaluable resource.

But building the searchability into a CD-ROM is a much more difficult task then simply writing the file. For example highly formatted text is typically coded in SGML (standard generalized markup language). On the other hand the search and retrieval functions on CD-ROMs are based on hypertext markup language (HTML) which is a subset of SGML. So don't plan to offer searchability as one of the first services you offer.

Therefore there are three possible problems in building the hypertext searchability. First there may be no SGML or HTML links in the existing document. Second there may be SGML coding which requires translation into HTML. Third although there is a consortium of academic users and developers trying to create a standard at this point in time the HTML standard is poorly defined.

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