Earlier this month I posted the question, “Where are the Electronic Numismatic Books?” That post garnered the most responses I have seen in quite some time—although many were in the form of personal notes rather than blog comments. Most of the comments were overwhelmingly positive agreeing with my assertion that there should be more electronic numismatic books.
Some of the comments, including Dennis Tucker, Publisher at Whitman Publishing, corrected me in saying that the Whitman Encyclopedia of U.S. Paper Money by Q. David Bowers is available on DVD. Tucker also said that the the Guide Book of United States Coins, Professional Edition was also available on DVD but I did not see it listed on Whitman’s website.
After receiving the note from Tucker, I asked him about Whitman’s e-book plans. He responded as follows:
Whitman Publishing does plan to distribute more books in electronic format. PDFs have certain strengths that our readers find appealing: they can be distributed on DVDs; they’re searchable; they have internal links; they’re PC and Mac compatible. Paper-money collectors love Q. David Bowers’s Whitman Encyclopedia of U.S. Paper Money — a massive 900-page reference book — and they also love having an electronic version available on a conveniently portable DVD.
Retail pricing, distribution models, and other details of future electronic projects aren’t ready to go public yet. But I can say that nothing is off the table as we explore the best ways to bring numismatic content to our readers — PDFs, downloads, apps, online content are all possibilities. Currently we have two web sites, WhitmanReview.com and WhitmanCoinCollecting.com, that aren’t “books” or “magazines” as such, but that broadcast show reports, book reviews, numismatic interviews and commentary, auction news, and other hobby information.
Remember in the early and mid-1990s, when “CONTENT IS KING” became the mantra of every Internet consultant and Web design agency from coast to coast? It’s still a very important concept in numismatic publishing. Whitman is strongly devoted to supporting fresh, ongoing, original numismatic research and authorship. This of course includes updated retail and wholesale pricing (as found in the Red Book and the Blue Book), updated auction records, updated certified coin populations, and the like. Those kinds of market data are very important to collectors, dealers, and investors. But Whitman Publishing has a commitment to the hobby community that goes beyond just reporting on market trends. We’ve nurtured a booming renaissance in numismatic publishing over the past ten years or so in particular. That investment, that energy, that explosion of talent has created the CONTENT; without good content, distribution models (whether ink-on-paper or electronic) are irrelevant to the hobbyist. If the content is factually wrong, or if it’s incomplete or misleading, or if it’s just a stale rehashing of old previously published information, it won’t matter if it’s published in books or online — collectors won’t find it valuable. Neither the publisher nor the consumer will find true, lasting value in that formula.
Whitman Publishing has the best numismatic authors and researchers working today. Kenneth Bressett, Q. David Bowers, Jeff Garrett, Dick Doty, Roger W. Burdette, David W. Lange, Rick Snow, Mike Moran, Bill Fivaz, J.T. Stanton, Katherine Jaeger, Rick Tomaska, Nicholas Brown, David Camire, Fred Weinberg, David Sundman, Harlan J. Berk, Clifford Mishler, Jim Haxby, Art Friedberg, Ron Guth, John Dannreuther, Hugh Shull, George Tremmel, Robert Azpiazu, Ira and Larry Goldberg, Eric P. Newman, Paul Rynearson, David MacDonald, Don Bailey, Scott Schechter, Saul Teichman, Fred Reed, Adam Crum, Selby Ungar, Jeff Oxman, Frank Colletti, Bob Leonard, Len Augsburger, Joel Orosz — that constellation of numismatic stars shows Whitman’s commitment to content. How we deliver that fresh, original content will continue to evolve. And it won’t end with the current generation of numismatic superstars. Last year Whitman teamed up with the American Numismatic Association to revamp and endow three new literary awards for Young Numismatists. They’ll be the ones digging in Treasury archives, unearthing primary documents, analyzing data, making brilliant connections, and writing about their findings after we all retire.
Is the traditional paper book obsolete? No. Are distribution models changing? Yes. Will Whitman Publishing continue to bring its best to collectors and serve their needs? Yes indeed!
Interestingly, I never questioned the quality of the content of Whitman Books. On the contrary, it is because that their content is so worthwhile that I am interested in e-books that Whitman would publish. However, I believe that the those of us who are interested in technology and those who grew up in the 1990s will be more interested in e-books than dead-tree editions. In other words, I think Whitman, Krause, Zyrus Press, and any other numismatic publisher should be entrenched in electronic publishing within the next five years.