Here’s an old joke of mine I’ve unearthed from the olden times when I was first a developmental editor and then an acquisitions editor at a professional resource and textbook publisher.  

If you don’t think the joke is funny, you’re right.  The feeling among those in publishing of being pressed to absurd extent is a very common one, what a good friend of mine calls “running around with your hair on fire.”  Let’s face it: the practice of publishing, with its tight margins, immovable deadlines, and wide scope of responsibilities is fraught with demands on time.  The Gilbane Publishing Practices group certainly sees this.

One of our ongoing efforts is the upcoming report, A Blueprint for Book Publishing Transformation: Seven Essential Systems to Re-Invent Publishing, where we’re defining the many systems common across many different kinds of publishing, and describe the technological and process barriers still facing almost every publisher as it moves toward building a successful digital publishing operation.  And, yes, the demands already in place upon the various line-of-business departments are exhausting even to survey.  Add the demands placed upon publishing organizations to create processes that make digital publishing a reasonably good profit center, and it can feel that there is barely time to breathe.  Running around with hair on fire, indeed.

The Gilbane Group means content management, and the long-standing argument that the business of enterprises goes better when content is findable, retrievable, and usable has long been proved by the practices of innumerable enterprises.  With the catchphrase “Every enterprise’s second business is publishing,” it is not surprising that Gilbane has a lot of clients not only in the CMS technology vendor space, but also in the publishing end-user/implementer space.

While there are many similarities between publishers and other enterprises that have a lot of content they need to manage, there are unique aspects too.  Here are a couple examples of the differences: managing royalties and dealing with rights.

Yes, tracking royalties is a sort of accounting issue, and many enterprises—especially those dealing with a lot of rich media—need to take care with rights.  But in publishing, royalties and rights are central to the business.  How does a publisher integrate these key elements of the business with the technology platforms used in other parts of the business process?

Our upcoming report will be quite specific about the real state of opportunity in digital publishing, which means that we’ll need to answer many questions, including the ones about royalty and rights handling.  So it is our turn to run around with our hair on fire, but we promise to still have time to read your comments and inquires about our latest efforts.

Of course, it goes without saying that if one doesn’t have time to read, one probably will be hard-pressed to take a survey: nonetheless, that is exactly what we’ll soon be asking publishers to do.  The survey will be from the book publishers’ perspective and their experiences and concerns about expanding or starting digital publishing programs.  Stay tuned for more specific information on this and for the survey kick-off.

For more information about our Publishing Practices consulting services and our multi-client-sponsored studies, contact Ralph Marto.

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