View From a Leader: A Continuous Source of Knowledge

The following insight was shared from Bill Kasdorf.  He is Principal of Kasdorf & Associates, LLC, a publishing consultancy focusing on accessibility, XML/HTML/EPUB modeling, information infrastructure, and workflow. 

Kasdorf is active in the W3C Publishing Business Group, Publishing Working Group, and EPUB 3 Community Group; chairs the Content Structure Committee of the Book Industry Study Group and is co-editor of the BISG Guide to Accessible Publishing; and is Past President of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP). He is a recipient of SSP’s Distinguished Service Award, the IDEAlliance/DEER Luminaire Award, and the Book Industry Study Group’s Industry Champion Award.

He has written and spoken widely for organizations such as SSP, IPDF, BISG, DBW, IPTC, O’Reilly TOC, NISO, AAP, AAUP, ALPSP, and STM. General Editor of The Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing and Guest Editor of the January 2018 issue of the Learned Publishing journal devoted to accessibility, he is the author of the chapter on EPUB metadata and packaging for O’Reilly’s EPUB 3 Best Practices and the chapter on EPUB in the book The Critical Component: Standards in Information Distribution, published by the ALA in collaboration with NISO. He serves on the editorial boards of Learned Publishing and the Journal of Electronic Publishing.

billkasdorfI started with SSP at Annual Meeting number two. It has always bugged me that I can’t be considered a Charter Member!

SSP has been the single most important point of continuity for me throughout my long (and still ongoing!) career. From the small scholarly publisher I started with out of college, to becoming the owner of my own editorial and production services firm (Impressions), to selling that to a leading printer and becoming a VP of it (Edwards Brothers), to buying my company back because I wanted to be in the vanguard of SGML, to eventually selling it again (to Apex that time, becoming an Apex VP), to now having my own independent consultancy: through all of these transitions, SSP was not only always there but was always ESSENTIAL to what I was doing, and am still doing.

I tend to be known for staying on top of technology developments and helping other people understand them. How do you think I know all that stuff? Through involvement in industry organizations–and first among them is SSP. Let me list just a few of the things I first heard about at an SSP meeting

  • Structured markup: first GML, the precursor to SGML, in a presentation by Charles Goldfarb, who subsequently became the father of SGML (Craig Van Dyke, then at Springer, fired me up about SGML), which was the precursor to XML and HTML.
  • The Graphical User Interface (first from Xerox PARC and then the Apple Lisa).
  • Hyperlinking before the Web (Ted Nelson, Project Xanadu? that may be an imaginary memory).
  • Peer review systems (they started out as roll-your-own–I remember that as an ACS presentation).
  • Multipurposing content (a presentation by Columbia University Press about the Granger’s).
  • Wikipedia
  • The “information superhighway” (aka the Internet!) from Chet Grycz of the University of California Press.
  • Open Access
  • And the list goes on and on.

You can tell I remember them vividly (even those I may be making up). EVERY annual meeting has opened my eyes to something new–and something relevant to my work.

And all the fabulous people! Oh my god. Many of my SSP friends are among the longest continuous relationships I’ve had in my career. Case in point: I was at the CSUN accessibility conference in San Diego recently and had a great conversation with Rick Bowes, who also works in that space. I’ve known Rick for decades, thanks to SSP, through all of his transitions, starting, as I recall, at NEJM. Rick was the person who called me as I was driving my daughter back from her freshman year at NYU to tell me that I had just been elected SSP President–because he was Past President that year–an indelible memory (I had a “car phone”). I was SSP President in 2001–yep, for 9/11, which happened the day before a (cancelled) board meeting and the (cancelled) Top Management Roundtable. But that’s another story.

Come to the annual meeting and I’ll be happy to tell you about it!

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