With regard to Elizabeth Mehren's discussion in "Book Trade" (The Book Review, Dec. 7) on the need for standard manufacturing conventions in the book trade: One of the problems has been that every computer and typesetting system has machine-specific conventions for formatting documents. An important step to overcome this incompatibility was the development and 1986 publication by the Assn. of American Publishers of a standard which provides a set of codes and rules for their use, which will enable authors and publishers to mark up manuscripts with formatting codes and exchange them freely despite computer incompatibility. This standard is called the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). Now that the standard exists, it needs to be used. The standard and guides for its use can be obtained from the Assn. of American Publishers, 2005 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.
Incidentally, I am a free-lance indexer who transmits indexes (sometimes formatted) to publishers via modem. I have yet to be asked to use this standard. I am waiting.