"There's always more to do," says Sara Lloyd, online publishing director at Holtzbrinck Online Publishing, describing her responsibilities on The New Grove II Online, the musical treasure trove which makes its eagerly awaited debut next month in conjunction with the greatly anticipated revision of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Second Edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. One current task, and a niggling one at that, Lloyd says, is to build an abbreviation search that will cause pop-up definitions to appear automatically when a mouse is rolled over one of the myriad abbreviations in the work. It's a challenge she is sure they will master-eventually-and be able to incorporate into The New Grove II Online.
Both print and online versions of the massive musical reference represent the first major update to the prized encyclopedia since the 1980 edition, itself a major overhaul of the original reference work, which was first published in 1878 by George Grove and has been a gold standard for music scholarship ever since. But these New Grove siblings may find that an inevitable rivalry lies in wait. Whereas the print and online versions will be close to identical when they are first made available to the public, by the end of the first year-after the initial round of updates, revisions, visual enhancements and expanded links are structured into the online version-there will be an 8-10% variation in their contents, and that figure will increase as quarterly updates to biographical data, works lists and career reevaluations appear, and as major new subject areas are added annually.
The changes between the two versions will be so substantial, and so functional, says Lloyd, she would almost (but not quite) wager her life that the print edition about to appear will be the last one ever produced by the company. "We will listen to the market," she says. "If there's strong demand, we'll do another print edition. But I'm doubtful that will happen." For reference books of this scale-29 hefty print volumes, 25 million words, 29,000 articles as of pub date, 20,000 biographies, 6,000 contributors-electronic delivery is ideal: faster, simpler, easier. By allowing for full text searches to retrieve information otherwise buried in individual entries, the online version opens up a world of information to nonspecialist users. "Yes, now there is a culture of books," Lloyd acknowledges, "but for reference books of this nature it is less important to have a print version; there is less a need."
Lloyd says that though the market for the print edition is still healthy, with roughly six times as many print orders as online subscriptions placed to date, she expects the demand for print to taper off over the next five to six years, while online subscriptions (available at annual, monthly and hourly rates) will increase. "The core market [libraries and academics] is excited about both versions, and good libraries are buying both," she says. "Better libraries see themselves in the role of archivist. They will have Grove going back to the 1870s. They see themselves as protectors of that history."
"That history" is something the online staff-anywhere from five to 10 full-time editorial people, plus Lloyd as dedicated publisher-has had to reckon with. "It's a constant challenge of how to present, maintain and protect the scholarly nature of Grove while moving into the fast-moving electronic area, with new material within months," Lloyd says. "We have to do things fast in the online world, but also with thought and with the right advice, the right writers and with the editing done properly. We have also had to figure out all the mechanisms for retrieving information from the huge database."
Mainly, though, it's the ongoing nature of online reference publishing that most impresses Lloyd. "When you release a book," she says, "you kiss it goodbye. When you're ready with your online product, you click a button and send it off to the world, but an hour later you can be sitting down planning improvements. It never actually ends. There is a huge wish list of what I want, but no regrets, because we can keep working to add and subtract. You have to be a balanced person for a project of this sort, otherwise you would go mad."