Electronic publishing is, generally speaking, thought as being relevant only for contemporary documents, such as "electronic newspapers", "electronic technical manuals", and so on. The MINERS project is mainly (but not exclusively) concerned with the application of the modern technologies of electronic publishing to a different editorial area: the publishing of modern editions of ancient documents. The techniques developed, however, could be applied to modern documents as well.
Publishing a modern paper or electronic edition of an ancient document is expensive: the source is often not easily accessible and must be handled with great care (often in situ), and the publication is often required in several versions (such as a facsimile edition, a modern typeset version, a translation, an annotated version, etc). In addition, very often the material is not published alone but as part of a set or compendium.
The core idea of MINERS is the notion of an "editorial platform". An editorial platform contains all the background material extracted from a set of documents, organised in a sophisticated and highly structured fashion. An editorial platform cannot be read by end-users as such, but it can be used, by both authors and publishers, for further publishing tasks. A typical publishing task could be a traditional book about the ancient documents; another task might be an electronic hypertext in Italian; another, a French book, incorporating only a few sections of the ancient material available; a further task might be an online database of documents; and yet another, a CD-I (interactive CD). All these publishing efforts could be accomplished using the editorial platform (or more than one platform) without any need to physically access the original material. The editorial platform provides a number of advantages: greater availability of the ancient material (to authors and therefore to the public); reduction of the time required for new publishing (traditional or electronic); and reduction of costs. Another important factor to consider is that the investment required to create editorial platforms will pay dividends for a very long time, as the relevance of ancient documents is not subject to transient cultural fashions.
The MINERS project is developing the model and the tools required for developing an editorial platform and for using it to derive specific "publications" (in the broadest sense). Publishing houses, owners of ancient documents and hardware manufacturers are cooperating with software houses to ensure the project is firmly steered on pragmatic, market-driven guidelines. Technical standards for document organisation, either developed in ESPRIT or promulgated by international bodies, will be taken into proper consideration
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