To amuse themselves, back in the early 1980s, the editors of Forbes would run the occasional article on an antiquated business model that had survived into that present age.
One piece dealt with publishers whose catalog consisted of a single title. Or maybe two. This title would be updated every few years and would sell out until the next press run. One example, IIRC, was a legal publisher. Debrett's and Burke's were others. Anyway, the title not only supported the author - where the author, editor or compiler was still alive - it supported an entire business.
I was thinking of this making my way through Pope's information in Eicher and Eicher's massive compendium Civil War High Commands. This book is going to need updating. It also needs lots of notes, of which it has not enough, to become more "transparent" in the finality of its rulings.
That Stanford U. Press is going to pay for revised and updated editions of Civil War High Commands seems preposterous. It's a miracle we have it at all. At the same time, the immense labor invested here must not be lost.
When you think of it, this book is most like Debrett's or Burke's peerages, and it suggests a similar (single publisher) publishing model. Now, this is important: "Burke's Peerage is casting off the shackles of costly print publishing and embracing the brave new world of the internet." That was in 2004.
Like the OR, Civil War High Commands is best when searchable. Like the peerages, it is not for browsing but for look-up. Burke's has figured that out. "Electronic" is the right model for big searchable books. It puts the money in editing and revising, not in production and distribution.