David R. Guenette

David R GuenetteI have enjoyed a long involvement with publishing, as editor, writer, researcher, analyst, and consultant.  My special focus is on the editorial interface in electronic publishing, by which I mean how value and structure is added to content in ways relevant to and desirable in digital forms. This has gotten me involved in such things as SGML (believe it or not, I actually wrote a textbook on this back in 1990, for Xyvision, for their use in training customers), taxonomies, digital rights management, social media, multimedia, multi-channel commerce, multiple-partner supply chains, and multitudinous value chains.

I think that electronic publishing is, in many ways, only now becoming really interesting. One important factor is that publishers (and I mean some segments more than others) are finally getting directly involved. One of my long-running frustrations has been the resistance publishing (again, more or less, depending on the segment) has shown in terms of direct involvement with the technology of electronic publishing, as if the industry culture simply couldn’t imagine such activity was within their collective abilities, in what I call the “black box” mentality: publishers have had the tendency to hand off electronic projects to the technologists, only to stand back and wait for the all-too-frequent disappointing results.  Technology is a necessary element, of course, but not, as my Medieval Philosophy professor might have put it, a sufficient element.  Editorial—content shaping and improvement—is essential.

Indeed, metadata is essential: taxonomies and semantic mark-up, content schemas, one-source/multi-output, content management, content discoverability, transactional support, and so much more have matured to the point of wide application, to make digital content active and useful across the world, in many forms.

Yes, electronic publishing has become really interesting. For more detail about highlighted assignments done by DRG Publications, click here.

Early Professional Biography (i.e., How I Got Here)

I could claim that I’ve been involved in publishing since the ninth grade, when I founded an alternative student newspaper called The Student Voice.  Alas (i.e., thank goodness), few traces remain. By the time I was applying to college, I was interested in pursing a fine arts degree, but this hard-headed practical plan fell victim to my interest in writing, literature, and, as it turned out, publishing, and some time later I had a B.A. in English, with a minor in Philosophy, and several publications under my belt, namely the annual arts and literary Temper, of Southeastern Massachusetts University (SMU—now the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth), and a student fund-sponsored bi-monthly of arts and writing for the south coast, called Issue, not to mention some production credit for a series of poetry chapbooks published by Patmos Press, founded by no other than John Landry, currently Poet Laureate of New Bedford, Massachusetts.

After college, I managed to get a job involving books and related things, up yonder in Cambridge, through the tried and true technique of knowing a guy who knew a guy, and, as luck would have it, this was a terrific job, with the improbable title of “Publication Specialist,” for a Title VII bilingual education textbook and ancillary materials publisher.  I did almost everything, from writing, editing, and layout to production control and press inspections.  The publishing and production department was all of three people, and over the course of a couple of years we produced over two hundred titles ranging from textbooks and professional resource titles, a quarterly journal, and marketing material, to a two-thousand flashcard Portuguese language assessment test kit, which also included test forms, teacher guide, and a miscellany of other material, all of which needed to be put together in a presentation box by way of an ad hoc assembly line.

Then Reagan and the myth of private sector efficiency hit. I was young and happy enough to get laid off as the federal bilingual education budget got cut deep, so it is not from spite that I report, decades down the road, that I’ve never seen a more productive result than that very first professional job. Ever.

I set out my first freelance shingle for a while, doing the sort of things a young editorial worker does—indexing, proofreading, copy-editing, layout—but my “The Lord Loves a Fool” luck continued, and I landed a job at a “real” book publisher, when I joined Butterworth Publishers’ Focal Press imprint as a developmental editor.  Some months into this, and having somehow managed to pull the backlog of signed titles into decent shape and through to production, I got the chance to add acquisitions duties in the areas of photography, cinematography, videography, and multimedia (think slides and soundtracks).  I remain quite proud of the many titles that I signed, but book publishing was well into its merger and acquisitions phase, and margins were increasingly pressed, and I was increasingly torn between the business goals of the imprint and the shortfall in the means of marketing our growing list of titles and the reasonable expectations of our authors that we sell those very same titles; I learned the definition of “cognitive dissonance.”

Fortunately, I also learned about CD-ROM through following the trades, and found myself quite captivated by the editorial and publishing potential of this electronic medium, right along with the emergence of PCs and desktop publishing.  I resigned my acquisition editorship, and set out to learn more about the promise of computationally-based publishing. I connected with the Boston Computer Society—at the time, approaching its greatest strength in both membership numbers and industry clout—and in short order found myself learning desktop publishing for what became a leading newsletter/journal hybrid covering CD-ROM and new media, called New Media News (NMN). We had sponsorship from the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Dataware, Lotus, and SilverPlatter, to name only some of the luminaries of the day. I kept at editing, writing,  and producing NMN for several years, even as I built up my editorial services practice, but eventually commercially viable trade periodicals emerged to overshadow our amateur efforts.

Meckler Corporation was one such publisher, and I took on the editorship of, first, the trade newsletter, Multimedia Publisher, and then, the trade monthly, CD-ROM World, but eventually going over to a competitor, CD-ROM Professional, which later, under my full-time tenure, became EMedia Professional. The magazine enjoyed a lot of growth and gains in reputation—one of my fondest coups was our scooping the industry about the specifications of the DVD format.  The magazine was hard work, and good work, but still only print work. I found myself increasingly at odds with the publisher: it struck me that publishing on CD-ROM and the Internet as well made special sense for us, since this was our very topic, yet the publisher chose not to.  I chose, after a while, to seek actual electronic publishing work.

I had, before taking on the EMedia Professional position of Editor-in-Chief, worked on a number of new media contracts, including multimedia titles and SGML projects, along with the sort of market research and writing that makes up a lot of the opportunities in emerging technically-oriented markets. I set up shop again, and I’m still going. See “Selected Clients”  posts for more detail about some of my favorite clients post-Emedia Professional.