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was released the second year of that contract The cost of storage was dropping (Remember our frame of reference was the Corvus 10MB hard disk that we bought for $4,500) Floppies were storing more, hard drives were storing more and there was this new storage technical being discussed that could store hundreds of megabytes We wanted to combine our passion for getting information to people at a reasonable cost with the promising distribution technology CD-ROM Bill had been the director of the ERIC Clearinghouse at Stanford University when Roger Summit said he wanted a Beta site for his idea of Dialog an online information service for librarians That means Bill had been involved with information delivery technology since the mid-1960s In the Spring of 1984, we went to Hawaii and left our programmers to nish the next release of College Explorer The staff always hated it when we went on vacation because we came back with lots of new ideas It was the only time we could get away from the daily deadlines to think about the future This time, while sitting on the balcony of our room, we got talking about the idea of putting all kinds of information initially on oppy disks and eventually on CD-ROM We talked about a search engine that could accept lots of different types of information elded, full-text, images so that our cost to develop products could be kept reasonably low We talked about changing the algorithm of the online information business that equated more use of information with more money We thought the of ine information business should create an opportunity that rewarded use of information the xed price CD-ROM meant that the more information was used, the less it cost We returned to Palo Alto and told our staff we had decided to start a new company: Knowledge Access We would move away from custom education products to business and professional information products that would use a single search engine In hindsight, we were blessed that we didn t have lot of venture capital although it made life much more dif cult at the time We had to do projects where we could make money because that was the only way we could meet the payroll and pay the rent This meant we sought customers who would pay us to create their electronic information products The well- nanced competitors had fancy booths, expensive promotion materials, delegations of salespeople, and the ability to do products for free in order to seed the marketplace Many of those companies folded or were taken over by others when the venture capitalists grew weary of trying to get their investment back In the meanwhile, we kept right on going Our customers were government agencies, commercial publishers, and corporations Initially we created the titles
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for them Eventually we were able to offer customers our OmniSearch Disk Publisher if they wanted to create their own titles or our OmniSearch Publishing Services if they wanted us to create their titles for them The business settled into about half of each We tried creating some titles of our own, but that less-than-successful experience caused us to stay narrowly focused on our original idea of creating products for others who already had customers for their information In 1994, one of our customers came to us and said they were interested in purchasing our company Believing Knowledge Access was a good match with our customer and recognizing that we would need additional resources to continue to stay up with the changing technologies, we sold the company Bill and I agreed to stay on for two years and continue to manage Knowledge Access Just about the time that our contracts were up, our parent company decided they would take our technology for inhouse use and close the rest of Knowledge Access Although Bill and I had other professional plans in mind, we didn t like the idea that our loyal publishing services customers would suddenly be without a solution So, in agreement with our parent company, we formed a new company that would continue to provide publishing services Thus, Knowledge Access Publishing was begun We publish about a dozen CD-ROMs per year OmniSearch enhancements are now made on the basis of speci c customer needs rather than for the general marketplace What will the future bring That s hard to say, but for now we nd ourselves in the happy position of working with customers we really enjoy and creating products that their customers want and use Do you think that the DVD-ROM will have a signi cant impact on publishing to optical media in the near term, or will it have a long, slow start-up period, much as CD-ROM publishing did Matilda: We used to say never over-estimate the success of a technology in its rst ve years and never under-estimate its success in the second ve years That certainly was true of CD-ROM However, there is an increasing rate of change and acceptance of change There are some differences between CD-ROM and DVD-ROM CD-ROM readers were expensive in the early days The rst reader Knowledge Access bought cost $2400 It operated at 1x DVD readers, even in the early days, were not very expensive CD-ROM had a hard time with distribution channels DVD has been able to secure distribution much earlier including drives built into PCs
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