Repeat after us: What happens to specific devices or formats, such as Kindle or the iPad, will not be a significant factor for book publishers.
The title of this blog is taken from a sub-section heading in out Industry Forecast chapter in our just published 277-page study, A Blueprint for Book Publishing Transformation: Seven Essential Processes to Re-Invent Publishing, as is the quote above.
We’ve been following ebook efforts for well over a decade, and for some of us, thinking back to CD-ROM or the Gutenberg Project , the timeline is deeper yet. I mention this perhaps to excuse some of our assumptions going into the work of the Blueprint study, which was that many book publishers remained nervous about participating in ebooks because of the uncertainty about ebook formats among their potential customers, themselves, and, indeed, the market at large. We were, largely, wrong.
For one thing, a good part of book publishers—even trade—are already working with XML. Here’s a quote from the new study:
There will remain plenty of help for book publishers to deal with the format flux, and, as book publishers move more completely into digital workflow—and especially grow in sophistication in regard to XML content format within editorial and production processes—the difficulties to meet specific output format demands will ease.
Overall, we have come to understand that the convergence of functionality supporting enhanced ebooks among general-purpose mobile communications and computing devices, along with emerging standards for display, sale, and distribution of ebook titles, will also make platform issues for digital publishers largely moot. Recent announcements of new tablet devices, such as those by Samsung, which projects 11 million unit sales in 2011, simply expand market numbers rather than confuse markets. That is, if, as a book publisher, you handle your content in a way that can be created once and used in many ways.
To be clear (as we hope the following quote from the study is):
…book publishers should involve XML formats as early in the publishing process as possible. We are convinced ebook formats will evolve and change, and new ones will emerge. XML stands today as the one standard format that will enable publishers to best create, manage, and curate content over time. Moreover, the future will expand how XML and metadata can support strong integration among the various publishing processes within the publisher’s own work.
As per our agreement with the sponsors of the Blueprint study, the sponsors have a 30-day exclusive distribution for the study, and Blueprint won’t be available through Gilbane.com for a few weeks yet. We’ll be posting announcements from the study sponsors , providing download links as we get them.