Digital Media and the Future of Philatelic Publishing – Part 1

Richard Drews

The pervasiveness of connectivity today has resulted in a revolution in publishing more profound than the introduction of moveable type by Gutenberg. Digital books already outsell hardbound books and will surpass sales of paperbacks in the next few quarters even though the growth rate has slowed and is plateauing. Our hobby faces the challenge of harnessing this technology or losing touch with generations of potential collectors. Philatelic exhibitors are already putting QR (Quick Response) Codes on their title pages so viewers can be directed to websites with additional information. To have a future our publications must reach tech savvy collectors in ways we have not done in the past.

The printed word is, by its very nature, static. Digital media and the Internet are dynamic and interactive. In some instances they have already replaced printed periodicals and catalogs. Most colleges are already turning their bookstores into souvenir shops. Students are renting texts digitally and book bags are being redesigned to hold fewer books and more digital items. In nearly all cases digital media can easily be used to supplement printed philatelic publications. As judges, authors, editors, publishers and readers we can follow some simple steps to learn to create, encourage, utilize and judge digital media in a relatively short period of time.

We can reword the Manual of Philatelic Judging from: “CD: Utilization of CD features unique to electronic media. Searchability, ease of navigation, logic of flow.” to: “Digital Media: – Utilization and optimization of features unique to digital media.” We then need to create teaching aids to help judges understand and authors to use digital media to their full advantage. A CD or DVD is wasted when it only provides a cheap method of including more information at a lower cost. All files can be made searchable on any key word. Whenever a variety or type is mentioned there can be a link that immediately displays an image that can be studied and then closed, returning the reader to the text. Links can also connect the reader directly to pages on websites with additional information on the subject, census data in spreadsheet or data base format, membership pages for specialist societies, local clubs and so forth.

Digital media can also supplement periodicals. A quarterly periodical is handicapped in providing timely member services compared to monthly publications. A supportive website, linked to the periodical by a published URL (Universal Resource Locator, ie or QR Code, could provide access to the most recently posted member exhibits, upcoming meetings and programs at local, regional and national shows, reports of member activities in exhibiting, judging, writing and awards, auctions of specialized materials, publications available from the society, reviews of recent publications etc. Both editors and judges need to be aware of, use and encourage all the ways in which digital media can expand the utility of the printed word.

Major handbooks are often the result of a lifetime of work and may not be updated and republished for decades, if ever. The inclusion of a DVD containing scans of one or more exhibits on the subject, tables of rates, scans of source documents, census data on covers, multiples, shades, varieties and rarities all improve the book, but do not extend the life. The next step is support the publication with a website that can regularly update the contents based on the most current research. An input form can be created so all census information can be supplemented by reports from readers, including scans, and then be vetted and added to the census. Corrections to the original publication can be posted on the site and an ongoing blog or a message board can encourage interaction between specialists.

Judges face even more challenges in evaluating digital media. A highly specialized handbook maintained by Malaria Philatelists International recently won a vermeil medal at Chicagopex. It is available in more than 400 separate PDF downloads. While it was copied on to DVDs for the judges, it is only available online as series of free downloads. This is the way more and more philatelic information will be published in the future. The USPCS has scanned the entire contents of the Chronicle, which is available at no charge to members from their website and are in the process of scanning all their titles into searchable PDF format. They will be freely available to everyone. The Royal Philatelic Society of London sells the entire run of the London Philatelist on DVDs. The next step is for authors to scan columns and articles and enter them on DVDs. We are not currently permitted to judge individual columns or articles, but are allowed to judge bound entries of a series of them. A very strong argument has been made that this form of submission constitutes binding, since as a verb it means “to form a cohesive mass” (, which is the purpose of integrating knowledge into a handbook. End of article marker.

To be Continued…

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Posted in digital philately, dps study, education, literature

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