Archive for May, 2007

Publishers Seeking Tools of Change

Gilbane’s Steve Paxhia writes that many publishers are experiencing “Kodak Moments”.:

…changes in customer expectations that are easily as profound as those experienced by the Photography industry. They don’t just want their information to be more timely and less expensive, they also want their information to concisely answer their questions and seamlessly integrate with their work flows or learning styles.
Perhaps the most significant change is the redefinition of the EDU [Economic Delivery Unit]… In the digital world, authors and publishers are potentially freed from the strictures of printing economies. Therefore, information currently found in textbooks, references, magazines and journals can be rendered as as short information objects or more comprehensive content modules. Or publishers can produce information objects or content modules that are not anticipated to ever take book form. The objects can be delivered in many ways including search engines such as Google. These new EDUs can be purchased or licenses separately or mixed and matched to create a course of instruction or a personal reference work.

Drilling down, Steve notes a stumbling block:

To many publishers, the perfectly formatted page has become almost an art form. They consider those pages to have many of the same aesthetic values that Kodak attributed to images produced via their traditional film technologies… Because books and computer screens represent quite different form factors, the value of the perfect page can actually limit rather that enhance the effective presentation of information in digital formats. … Publishers that cling to the page metaphor are putting their futures in jeopardy.

In the digital world it’s clear that the “perfect page” (and its standard representation, PDF) will still have important roles to play. For many kinds of highly composed content – children’s books, elaborately inset textbooks, coffee table books – it doesn’t make much sense to think about “reflowing” to different sized displays, any more than it makes sense to chop up a perfect photograph. But for many types of content, it will pay off to “keep it liquid” for improved reusability, accessibility, and mobile readability. That’s why Adobe is promoting the new IDPF OPS reflow-centric XML format as a complement to PDF . We’re supporting OPS in our new Digital Editions client software and InDesign CS3 publishing tools.
Next month O’Reilly Conferences is holding a new conference on publishing technology: Tools of Change, June 18-20 in San Jose, California. This should be a great venue for exchanging ideas about these tremendous business and technology challenges facing the publishing industry – hosted by an organization that has been at the head of the pack on everything from eBooks to XML content repositories to Web 2.0. Adobe is one of the sponsors of TOC and our CEO Bruce Chizen is speaking. You can look forward to seeing some exciting new stuff from us (after all, it’s taking place in our back yard). So if you are involved in charting the future of publishing, as a publisher or vendor, I hope you will consider joining Tim O’Reilly and team at TOC. Early bird registration ends Monday 5/8, so “act now, operators are standing by“.