I have never had a reaction to anything I wrote as I have regarding electronic publishing. Not only have I heard from numismatic publishers, but on the E-Sylum newsletter from the Numismatic Bibliomania Society. The editor of the E-Sylum electronic newsletter has been posting excerpts from my postings regarding electronic publishing and responses from other readers.
One of the responders is David Lange, Research Director at Numismatic Guaranty Corporation and author of many excellent books. His latest book, Coin Collecting Boards of the 1930s & 1940s, opens the history of how coin boards changed the collecting habits of millions of collectors—a book I recommend. However, in response to my request for more electronic publication, Dave writes:
The problem I have with doing a book solely in electronic format is one which many numismatic authors and publishers may have encountered—ours is a hobby that caters mostly to older people. I know that the buyers of my current book and the subscribers to my price lists and newsletters are mostly my age and older.
Not to pick on Dave, but his response is an endemic problem with the hobby. Numismatics is dominated by many people over 50. If there is a second age group, it is younger than 18. Missing in the demographic are those from 18-50 who might have been a Young Numismatist but dropped out in college and did not return until after their children have grown. This situation is unacceptable if the hobby is to survive!
One question I have: where is the American Numismatic Association in this discussion?
Sure, the ANA now offers editions of The Numismatist online, but where is the rest of their outreach? Twitter and Facebook are only outreach tools, they are not delivery platforms. The ANA has wonderful programs for Young Numismatists to bring those under 18 into the hobby, but what programs do they have to keep them engaged? Even though the YN program extends to 22, keeping those in college or trying to start careers interested as they mature into their lives is severely lacking.
The ANA can offer better outreach to this connected demographic by the appropriate use of technology. This does not have to cost a lot of money. It takes a little imagination to figure out where these potential members congregate online and deliver new content.
For example, hometown coin clubs may not be accessible to collectors at college. What about virtual coin clubs? The ANA can create “Numismatic Counsellors” to hold periodic meetings that members could access from anywhere. Presentations can be given online by anyone or the meeting can consist of videos, show and tell, and discussion amongst members. And for an average cost of $4,000-5,000 per year, it could be the least expensive outreach the ANA could do.
Has the ANA ever thought to using this service to bring the Coins in the Classroom program on line? When teachers register for the seminar, Education Department could send the materials via regular mail. When the seminar is held teachers can login to the online classroom to support this program. It would reduce travel, lodging, and room rental costs for those taking the online seminar. And the ANA can hold more of these seminars to further the outreach to a new audience.
I have many more examples of how the ANA could reach out to more people—like using a streaming video service during the ANA conventions. However, the last time I wrote to the ANA Board to discuss a previous post, I was disappointed with the response. I volunteered my services as someone with over 30 years in the computing industry and have not heard back from anyone mentioned in various email notes. DISCLAIMER: Shortly after writing my note my work assignment changed limiting my time, but I could help in smaller ways.
However, if something happened to limit my time, an organization should never ignore a member who is volunteering to help. Not only do I have experience in this area, you never know when my situation will change that will allow me to participate further.
I think the hobby is losing a lot of potential members by not using technology to keep members interested after they are YNs. Especially over the last ten years, as YNs grow up and transition to young adults, they are very comfortable with technology. They are very heavy consumers of electronic content. If the ANA provides its outreach online where these potential members are, maybe the age demographic of the hobby will be more distributed than it is today.