I was speaking more to the point that many of these references are not
simply converted from electronic word processing an burned into a CD. I
really am not sure how Masterspec works, but I have worked closely with the
UBC on CD-Rom. In this case the major work comes from converting the
electronic formatted text into a proprietary format that can be turned into
a database reference - in other words, the use of a search feature that
allows more than simply a Find and Replace function.
Converting a document to Acrobate can be simple or very complex - depending
on how much usability you wish to provide the reader. You need to code which
words appear in the index or in the titles. You also need to find words that
you wish to cross-reference to other areas of the code (for example) so as
to allow the reader to follow the flow-chart of logic surrounding the Code.
In the case of the UBC if section 2312.3.4 is referenced in section
16.2.1(a) (this is made up so don't try looking) then each has to be
converted to a hyperlink and this can be labor intensive.
I don't know if MasterSpec offers this type of convenience which is
automatically available with paper texts as you become the manual hyperlink
engine, but it is more complicated in electronic text.
This is my point. If there were as many potential buyers of the electronic
version of the UBC as there are books, then the cost of the labor to convert
the documents will have a lower per software cost. However, less than 1% of
the profession at this time will use the resources and the cost to make the
change is spread over fewer potential buyers which simply skyrockets the
On the other hand, the easiest thing to accomplish in a Capitalist society
such as ours is something called "what the market will bear". This is a
catch-all for how much we want it. If a best seller such as the Jeep is to
Chrysler is also their greatest profitable automobile, should they lower the
price even if the demand is there or take the greater profits. This is meant
to be rhetorical as we would all agree that profit is the reason to be in
business. We can complain about high cost, but as long as there are others
willing to pay the price there is less chance than a snowball in the desert
that the price will drop. The more the people, the greater the complacency
and the more businesses will flourish. The only trick is that there has to
be a perceived value to the item or it won't sell for even the lowest price.
The fact is that while the price of technology hardware reduces, the cost of
information becomes more valuable. This is simply because there will always
be enough people who feel complacent (apathetic) enough to shell out the
bucks for overpriced information.
From: Roger Turk [mailto:73527.1356(--nospam--at)compuserve.com]
Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2001 3:41 PM
Subject: RE: HSS vs. TS Properties For Design (WA
The situation with MasterSpec is that the specs on CD-ROM are/were in
formats (Word, WordPerfect, and pure text) so that the user could modify the
specs for each project. I can't believe that ARCOM would input the specs
into a computer, output them to paper, have them printed, then have them
re-input into a computer and then burned onto a CD-ROM.
There are situations where I can see where information has to first be
output to paper, but MasterSpec is not one of them. (The most recent
experience was where I downloaded a .pdf file and could not convert it to
text. The .pdf file was a bulletin by a trade organization and they
explained that the document had been scanned as a .pdf file so that it
*couldn't* be converted to text and modified.)
A. Roger Turk, P.E.(Structural)
P.S. Renewal of the hardcopy version was about $500 a year; renewal of the
CD-ROM version is about $1,000 a year.
Dennis Wish wrote:
In "partial" defense of MasterSpec (as well as ICBO who charges more for
codes on CD-Rom) there is a cost to converting the paper documents into a
format that allows database conversions. One example that I am familiar with
and which I believe is the best of the bunch is the conversion to Adobe
Acrobat. While the actual sheet conversion is nothing more than printing to
an Acrobate file.
Acrobat requires the user to compile the PDF chapters and then to create the
index, annotations and hyperlinks - which is an additional cost to the
creation of the original text.
However, in support of your argument, the cost of re-creating the acrobat
version of a reference manual is typically amortized over a much smaller run
than is anticipated in the number of sales. Realistically, the desirability
of online reference materials has not yet caught on. Personally, I would
much rather access an online reference document than the paper version
simply because I can keep everything within one source - my laptop. No
matter where I travel or which room I am in, my reference materials are with
me. The important thing here is the ability to search, to bookmark and to
add annotations (personal notes) to specific sections - something that most
consider defacing books. I've worked with the ICBO UBC on CD-rom and don't
particularly like the search program they use. However, I have been told
that they are transferring over to Adobe Acrobat - my favorite e-document
Once the popularity of computers - especially laptops - start to catch on,
the demand for electronic reference materials will grow and the cost SHOULD
be more reasonable if the publisher or author does not take advantage and
absorb the additional profits when the actual costs drop.