PTS style Tipitaka CD-ROM ...$150

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at
Sat May 18 15:43:30 EDT 1996

On Fri, 17 May 1996, L.S.Cousins wrote:

> One needs to remember that these are mostly volunteer projects and there
> may be limits as to what they are capable of doing initially.

The incredible achievements of the Kyoto scholars in creating MRFs
(machine readable files) of the Ramayana, Mbh, and many dharma and jyotisa
texts, as well as the fact that there are *three* MRF versions of the
Tripitaka suggest to me that it is easy to underestimate what dedicated
people are prepared to do in this arena.

> The PTS obviously has a right to seek to protect its market (particularly
> that to libraries). I suspect myself that they are worrying unnecessarily
> but it is certainly important to be able to continue to produce new Pali
> texts and translations.

I think that the PTS is using a model of marketing/publicity which has
been rendered obsolete by computing technology and communications.  The
PTS will not succeed in protecting either its texts or its library market
by charging for the MRF, whatever its costs in producing it.   In what way
will a handful of sales at $150 offer any real support to the

In the current situation there are two ways the PTS can benefit from the
MRF of the Tripitaka.  The first and most important is to use it to
deliver publicity and generate goodwill (in the commercial sense).  The
PTS should give away the MRF of the texts for the cost of the media, and
possibly make it freely available on the Internet.  But it should add
substantial packaging and high-profile publicity material to the MRFs
saying what a marvellous organization the PTS is, how much people have to
gain by becoming members, what a *good* idea it is to learn Pali, and how
much *more* the PTS could do if people made donations to the society, and
how anyone the slightest bit interested in Buddhism simply *has* to
subscribe to the PTS journal, and how the printed versions of the texts
are also worth buying in order to pursue certain kinds of further study,
and for convenience when travelling, for those with partial eyesight, etc,
etc.  Let the MRFs be the sugared pill on which this message is delivered.

There is *absolutely* no point in charging for a product which, despite
the various possible demerits of the other versions, is available free
elsewhere.  All that will happen is that everyone will use the free
version, and the PTS version will be completely marginalized.

Take as an example of this kind of marginalization the British Library
catalogues.  The BL has been trying for years to work out a way of making
money out of its OPAC.  Now, with the Library of Congress, Cambridge,
Oxford, and many hundreds of other OPACs freely available, nobody even
notices that the BL catalogues are not available.  They have marginalized
themselves.  Nobody can make money out of a resource which is available
free elsewhere! (In spite of differences in matters of detail.)

What the BL should have done as soon as the Internet boomed two or three
years ago was to throw open its catalogues and *use* the opportunity of
people's logins to deliver messages about itself and drum up voluntary
support.  The model I would advocate is closer to that of shareware: give
the product away, but appeal to the consumers' better nature for financial
recompense. This approach should be especially appealing to a organization
promoting Buddhist scholarship.  And above all, use the opportunity to
create a surge of goodwill towards the PTS, which will in time create its
own crop of unforseen rewards.  And it will be promoting its own aims: the
furtherence of Pali scholarship.

The second way the PTS can benefit is to use the MRFs as the basis of an
all-singing, all-dancing multimedia presentation of Pali/Buddhist culture
and history.  Look at what the Perseus project has achieved; this is
marketed through Yale Univ. Press.  It is this "added value" that makes a
marketable commodity, not just the texts.

Dominik Wujastyk

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