Fewer paper copies of the Reports to the President and the MIT Bulletin's Summer Session issue will be printed this year, but the information will actually be more efficiently disseminated, thanks to advances in publishing technology.
In the past, there was a one-time printing of several hundred copies of the hefty Reports to the President-an annual 500-page compendium of news and accomplishments from the Institute's various administrative and academic departments. Now, the text is gathered and stored electronically by the printer, so fewer initial copies are produced and individual copies can be printed later as needed. This eliminates the potential waste of initially overestimating the required amount and printing too many copies.
Additionally, the Reports are on the Web as well as in print this year (see URL at end of article). Anyone with Web access who wants to read part of it and doesn't have a copy can quickly find it on line. The Communications Office expects that this on-line availability will reduce the later print-on-demand requirements, since most people don't need or want the full 538-page version. On the Web, they can read the part that interests them and print it out in their offices if necessary.
A survey sent by the Communications Office to recipients of the Reports to the President revealed that almost two-thirds wanted electronic access to the Reports. About the same proportion said they would use a printed version of just one report rather than the whole book if it were available.
Barrie Gleason, manager of the Communications Office, emphasized that the primary goal is increasing accessibility to information and that printed copies will still be distributed to administrative officers and authors of each of the reports. "We're not shutting any doors," she said. "We're providing as many options for our customers as we can."
The Reports to the President are coming out later than usual this year because of the adjustment to new methods of production. All reports were submitted electronically (usually on diskette), and the documents were also coded for the Web for the first time. This meant more work in preparing the text but assures uniformity of the document's look now and in the future. Since reports were formerly submitted only on paper, different fonts and other attributes resulted in visual inconsistencies in the final printed document, noted Ruth Davis, editor and production manager in the Communications Office.
The Summer Session catalogue is also being published for the first time on the Web. Information is tailored for four different audiences-MIT students, non-MIT students, professionals and high school students-not all of whom are eligible to take each subject listed. The Communications Office worked closely with the Registrar's Office to rethink this document and the needs of its audience.
"By putting this information on the Web, we're able to be more focused in this issue of the catalogue and point customers to the most relevant information for them," Ms. Davis said.
Publishing documents on the Web while simultaneously cutting back on full print versions is clearly a growing trend, said Suzana Lisanti, campus-wide information systems facilitator, who helped produce the Communciations Office Web documents. She predicted that more writers will use conversion programs (which transform word-processing files to HTML files for the Web) and will design documents from the start with both print and electronic publication in mind.