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Moreover, advertising-subsidized free content Web site has died together with Web advertising. Geocities - a community of free hosted, ad-supported, Web sites purchased by Yahoo! - is now selectively shutting down Web sites (when they exceed a certain level of traffic) to convince their owners to revert to a monthly hosting fee model. With Lycos in trouble in Europe, Tripod may well follow suit shortly. Earlier this year, Microsoft has shut down ListBot (a host of discussion lists). Suite101 has stopped paying its editors (content authors) effective January 15th. About.com fired hundreds of category editors. With ugly demise of Themestream, WebSeed is only content aggregator which tries to buck trend by relying (partly) on advertising revenue.
Paradoxically, e-publishing's main hope may lie with its ostensible adversary: library. Unbelievably, e-publishers actually tried to limit access of library patrons to e-books (i.e., lending of e-books to multiple patrons). But, libraries are not only repositories of knowledge and community centres. They are also dominant promoters of new knowledge technologies. They are already largest buyers of e-books. Together with schools and other educational institutions, libraries can serve as decisive socialization agents and introduce generations of pupils, students, and readers to possibilities and riches of e-publishing. Government use of e-books (e.g., by military) may have same beneficial effect.
As standards converge (Adobe's Portable Document Format and Microsoft's MS Reader LIT format are likely to be winners), as hardware improves and becomes ubiquitous (within multi-purpose devices or as standalone higher quality units), as content becomes more attractive (already many new titles are published in both print and electronic formats), as more versatile information taxonomies (like Digital Object Identifier) are introduced, as Internet becomes more gender-neutral, polyglot, and cosmopolitan - e-publishing is likely to recover and flourish.
This renaissance will probably be aided by gradual decline of print magazines and by a strengthening movement for free open source scholarly publishing. The publishing of periodical content and academic research (including, gradually, peer reviewed research) may be already shifting to Web. Non-fiction and textbooks will follow. Alternative models of pricing are already in evidence (author pays to publish, author pays to obtain peer review, publisher pays to publish, buy a physical product and gain access to enhanced online content, and so on). Web site rating agencies will help to discriminate between credible and in-credible. Publishing is moving - albeit kicking and screaming - online.
Sam Vaknin's eBookWeb.org articles: http://ebookweb.org.master.com/texis/master/search/?q=Vaknin Sam Vaknin's "InternetContent" Author Archive: http://www.internetcontent.net/AuthorProfile.asp?AuthorID=14