Ērān ud Anērān
Other scholars will fulfill the task of introducing Marshak's Festschrift, a collection of articles on Central Asian art, linguistics and archaeology, presented to B. I. Marshak in ocassion of his 70th Birthday. Meanwhile, I will try to present the experience of preparing the Electronic Version of Ērān ud Anērān.
When my good friend Matteo Compareti first told me about his purpose of preparing a collection of articles for Prof. Marshak's Festschrift, and I offered some help, we didn't know how it would come out. Nor do we know now, a few days before the release.
At that moment, we talked about using the web to allow the Authors to proofread and correct their papers before printing. I suggested to publish an online version of Marshak's Festschrift as a Special Issue of Transoxiana, and we coined the term Webfestschrift, which was the subject used in the unfathomable number of mails we exchanged since then.
Except for a big envelope containing hardcopies and some CDs sent via postal mail, we have been able to make almost the whole work electronically. As soon as Matteo received the papers from scholars from different parts of the World, in many different formats, he sent them to me to be formated in HTML language. Then, I uploaded the HTML versions to a website for the Authors to proofread. We did the same with the images. And despite some delays due to mailbox overloadings, we have been able to exchange data in a fast and reliable manner. Needless to say that we had almost no expenses (other than hosting and internet conection).
Besides e-mail, instant messaging has been a very helpful tool. And I want to thank Dr. Mehmet Tezcan from Turkey, for the helpful corrections and proofreading of some of the articles. With him, we were able to work in real time despite the fact of being far away from each other, thanks to chat and email.
So I will try to sum up the experiences of this enterprise:
The main difficulties were (and still are) related to the need of encoding in a standard way the many special characters and phonemes, and even different scripts, without depending on special fonts and operative systems. Some of those difficulties still need to be solved. The next step should be migrating to Unicode (ISO10646), a standard computer-readable character set intended to represent almost any written language. The solution is at the tip of our fingers, and I hope that time will come when all scripts will be represented. Fortunately, as we can implement those solutions, we will be able to correct the online version as many times as needed, something unthinkable in printed media.
Another -related- difficulty arose from the many formats in which the manuscripts were submitted, and the need to convert all of them to a format available to any reader, in any computer, with any browser, any OS, in any part of the world. Strict conformance to standard HTML, clean from any proprietary extensions, provided a good starting point. Utmost care has been taken to create interoperable web pages, validating them against the applicable W3C standards. Therefore, all encoding mistakes are my sole fault, and fonts not properly displayed... your browsers'. But, please, let us know :)
Availability: to access this collection of articles you only need a web conection, or a willing friend and a floppy disk. No need to depend on interlibrary loans or library budgets, specially difficult outside the major university campuses.
Paper saving format: in a world where paper is becoming more and more expensive and scarce, electronic publishing is at the same time cheap, tree-saving, space-in-deck saving, and (last but not least) moth-avoiding.
Many people around the world has collaborated to make this work possible. I am grateful to all of them. Special mention to:
Prof. Scarcia and Cand. Dr. Matteo Compareti for their kind generosity, leaving us to share the honour of presenting such an outstanding collection of articles. And I hope they will be funded accordingly to the value of this unique work.
Mr. Enrique Chaparro, for his technical and editorial advice, and the many hours of hard work that he offered for free (well, not for free... Matteo promissed a couple of bottles of wine, and he will find himself in real trouble to deliver them to Argentina).
The authors who submitted their papers and images and allowed us to present them to you in electronic format. Some authors prefered to be absent of this Webfestschrift, and you will find their full texts in the print version (forthcomming).
Prof. B. I. Marshak, for his lifetime work and for inspiring such a
spirit of collaboration among scholars. To him is presented this work.
С днём рождения!
Paola E. Raffetta
Buenos Aires, October 2003