From our new study, A Blueprint for Book Publishing Transformation: Seven Essential Processes to Re-Invent Publishing:
[Today’s] publishing processes are replete with spreadsheets and ad hoc databases (many built in FileMaker and Microsoft Access). These are used for tasks as various as tracking and calculating royalties, managing contracts, tracking digital assets, and managing editorial and production schedules.
Mergers, acquisitions, and divestments have an impact on both processes and their associated systems and tools. A large publisher that acquires a smaller one might move quickly to have the new group adopt processes and systems used by the larger company. Or, seeing that the new group has unique needs and requirements, the publisher might leave their processes and systems intact.
Of the process areas we looked at, planning is one where investments in technology range widely. In regard to editorial and production processes, some publishers have gone so far as to specifically redesign this process with an eye toward “digital first”—the idea being to have digital products ready first—or sometimes “media neutral”—with the idea being print and digital products are developed in concert. Aptara, one of the sponsors of Blueprint, sees a lot of their recent business with publishers helping the publishers do just this. (Blueprint is also available from the Aptara site.)
While the desktop war has largely seen QuarkXPress cede more ground to Adobe’s Creative Suite in a lopsided two-horse race, the broader market for editorial and production systems is wide open, with a long list of small- and medium-sized vendors carving out corners of the marketplace.
Despite these many editorial and production tools and systems, the Blueprint survey results does shed light on some trends we have seen in practice at publishing companies. These trends include:
- Even print books have digital workflow and digital underpinnings.
- XML is gaining in usage, and being seen further upstream in the editorial process.
- Book publishers are taking more control of their assets.
- Outsourcing is the rule and not the exception in editorial and production.
We see this penetration of XML as highly significant, especially in a survey where trade and educational publishers account for two-thirds of the respondents and STM, Professional, and Legal accounts for only 22%. These latter segments, after all, represent the early adopters for XML usage upstream in the workflow (and SGML before that), and trade and educational publishers have traditionally lagged. It suggests to us that market forces are driving publishers to work hard at creating the kind of multi-channel publishing XML is best at driving.
Another of Blueprint’s sponsors is Really Strategies (you can download Blueprint from them, too), which offers R/Suite, a publishing-focused content management system that incorporates Mark Logic’s XML repository platform. There is a lot more for publishers to do to integrate their various publishing processes, but getting control of source files is the best first step.
Let us know what you think of the Blueprint study, and stay tuned for news of upcoming studies from The Gilbane Group Publishing Practice.