A system can not understand itself. The transformation requires a view from outside.

W. Edwards Deming

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, winner of Japan's Second Order Medal of the Sacred Treasure, may have proven the aphorism that a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country. Deming spent most of his career teaching the Japanese his business philosophy. He is widely credited for bringing about the Japanese Industrial Miracle, the one in which Japanese companies started producing some of the best products in the world.

Electronic publishing is not manufacturing, but many of Deming's teachings may be applicable here in the digital universe. For instance, one of Deming's ideas is just-in-time delivery — the concept that a well-run factory doesn't need large stores of raw materials (or the room to warehouse them and the people to manage them). Instead, knowing the production schedule, and having dependable suppliers, manufacturers can keep only a few day's materials on hand and order more as needed. That concept may have gained its strongest foothold with two major advances: computer communications and Federal Express. Few of us have not ordered from a mail-order catalog or off the Web at 11 p.m. A day or two later the item arrives, just in time for us to wear, eat, use, or display it.

The Journal of Electronic Publishing is a just-in-time supplier. Take the case studies in this issue. You might read them eagerly, finding in someone else's experience the answers you need today. Or you might just skim them, knowing that when you need them, they are here for your study — just in time to answer your questions and help solve your problems. Other Deming lessons are equally applicable, and we've applied them to the articles in this issue (Deming's quotes are in bold):

The transformation is everybody's job.

Just-in-time delivery requires that the material be available and ready to use. In publishing, we call that preparation "archiving." Two articles in this issue look at archiving in the electronic environment, focusing on different segments of the industry. They outline the sticky archiving problems, and explore everyone's responsibilities as we manage the transformation to digital.

  • Margaret Phillips, manager of the electronic unit of the National Library of Australia, tired of waiting for others to do the job, tells how her library has taken the first steps toward electronic archiving in "Ensuring Long-Term Access to Online Publications."
  • In "The Unsettled State of Archiving," Linda Beebe and Barbara Meyers, publishing consultants with a total of 55 years of experience in the field, conclude that despite efforts such as that described by Phillips, more players have to get involved.

Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.

Three of JEP's authors present case studies of how publishers, challenged by the electronic medium, decided to make it work for them. Their decisions may surprise you.

  • Claudia Loebbecke, a professor of electronic commerce at Copenhagen Business School, weighs in with "KRAK: A Case Study at the Reference Frontier." She reviews how the Danish directory publisher created an online service that promises to eclipse the print business even though the information is free to all visitors. Many publishers will find her analysis instructive.
  • In "National Academy Press: A Case Study," director Barbara Kline Pope tells the story of how they decided to give away their content over the Web while staying in business.
  • Bernard Rous, director of the ACM Publications Board, describes the business plan behind the ACM's decision to sell the electronic versions of its publications, and reveals the progress to date in "ACM: A Case Study."

Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.

In his article, "The Go Between: A Subscription Agent's Role in Electronic Publishing," Andrew Knibbe, who works for an Australian subscription agent, says pretty much the same thing. Subscription agents are working on keeping the long-term loyalty and trust they have built by adapting their services to the new digital environment — where intermediaries like them are said to be obsolete.

Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.

Peter Krasilovsky, a cyberpundit and consultant in interactive media, has much the same message as Deming. "Forget Fast Revenue Streams: Use Your Web Presence to Build Your Franchise" addresses the often-ignored advantage of the Web as a marketing rather than a sales tool. He goes so far as to dismiss the "millions of dollars" the National Football League makes from its Web site from advertising and sponsorship deals; he says the money is secondary to the brand enhancement. Publishers might keep that in mind.

Help people to pull away from their current practice and beliefs and move into the new philosophy without a feeling of guilt about the past.

In Publishers' Rights and Wrongs in the Cyberage, intellectual-property profesor Tom Field helps both publishers and authors pull away from their old notions about copyright towards a philosophy that benefits both groups.

We are in a new economic age. [M]anagement must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.

Contributing Editor Thom Lieb says in Content + Commerce = Conflict that publishers need to make clear the difference between editorial and advertising sections of their sites if they want to retain reader loyalty and trust.

Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.

Andrew Odlyzko of AT & T labs, whose work on the economics of electronic publishing is well known, writes in "Competition and Cooperation: The Transition to Electronic Scholarly Journals" that scholarly journals will have to use the Net to improve quality and productivity, and slow down those rising costs.

Institute training on the job.

In our effort to help you with on-the-job training, we bring you "A Primer on Public-Key Cryptography," by Jessica Polito, who teaches mathematics at Tufts University. It will help you to understand one of the systems used to keep your information secure.

A leader of transformation, and managers involved, need to learn the psychology of individuals, the psychology of a group, the psychology of society, and the psychology of change.

Just before we went to press (or whatever the electronic equivalent is), The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a feature story exploring electronic-only journals, trying to understand why some fail and some succeed. We have republished "Why Do Some Electronic-Only Journals Struggle, While Others Flourish?" for your edification.

Other Matters

JEP has a new feature this month, one that will evolve as we learn how to take advantage of it. It's the Potpourri section — our combination of Letters to the Editor, a discussion list, and addendum, reflection — whatever you want it to be.

We haven't decided whether to link it to our quarterly issues, or to let it grow on its own, either temporally (should we add items only when we publish a new JEP, or as they arrive?) or geographically (should it be archived with each issue, or should it have its own section like our list of articles by title that continues to grow?) If you have suggestions, share them. We're interested in your reactions to Potpourri, to the fine articles in this issue, or anything else that intrigues you. And thanks to reader Jose A. Mari Mutt, editor of the Caribbean Journal of Science, http://mayaweb.upr.clu.edu/artssciences/cjs/ for suggesting it.

We welcome your contributions to Potpourri. Please send them to jep-potpourri@umich.edu, or you may send them directly to me. My e-mail address is below.

—Judith Axler Turner

For more about W. Edwards Deming, visit The W. Edwards Deming Institute at http://www.deming.org/.

Judith Axler Turner may be reached by e-mail at judith@turner.net.