Saturday, September 10, 2011
BPN 1580 Dutch pioneer of electronic publishing passes away
Last Monday, 6 September 2011, Joost Kist passed away. In his last function he was a vice CEO of the Dutch legal and medical publisher Wolters Kluwer. Before that he was a member of the Board of the publishing company Wolters-Noordhoff Samsom. He played an important part in bringing Wolters Samsom and Kluwer together, when Elsevier made a hostile attempt to incorporate Kluwer. So he played a part in the consolidation of the Dutch publishing companies forming a third conglomerate after Reed Elsevier and VNU. He also was instrumental in the internationalisation of the Dutch publishing companies. One of the first acquisitions in which he was involved, was Aspen Publishers in USA, a pioneer in databasing, clearing houses and information management.
He was involved in setting up an international host organisation in the early nineteeneighties. Samsom was at that time printer and a publisher. Phototypesetting had already been introduced and tapes could be used to be entered into computer systems. Hat was the sign for Samsom Data Systems to start an international host system. From the start in 1981 SDS gave out 50 access codes. But they were not all paid accounts. By the autumn of 1982 there were 200 access codes, but the holders of these access codes were no heavy users. SDS costed 1 million Dutch florins (450.000 euro). To break even 100.000 connected hours should be made. But this goal was never reached. In December 1983 SDS crashed in a reorganisation. Mr Kist said that the service was temporarily closed. But the president of the Board, Mr C. van Brakel, said that the host adventure should have never been undertaken.
But besides being a smart executive, he showed a great passion for the changes in the publishing industry and especially for electronic publishing. As such he was one of the few executives in the publishing world taking a fundamental interest in studying the changes, the processes and the chain. In 1988 he published a book Electronic Publishing, looking for a blueprint. He attempted to define electronic publishing, mainly from the viewpoint of the process.
Having taken pension he started to work on his Ph.D. in information sciences, having already a degree in law. As a 67-years old he took his Ph.D. at the University of Amsterdam in 1996 with his thesis Bibliodynamica a book about the success and failure factors for innovation of informative systems, especially in publishing. In this thesis of no less than 386 pages, he focussed on the full process from creation to consumer. Besides setting up a theory, he made 11 case studies of Dutch and international companies, services and products. Looking back, he struggled with the introduction of internet.
Up to his death Joost Kist was active writing, delivering speeches and presentations, searching for roadmaps in the new landscape. I would have been eager to hear his reaction to my book.