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Is XML heaven or hell?

XML - Heaven or Hell?

XML - Heaven or Hell?

Last week was eye-opening in several ways. I attended two conferences in London. The second one I attended was about online PR and reputation management. If you ever wonder or care about what people are saying about you, your company, your brand or your products, and how that affects the future of them all, then the lessons from this seminar are something about which you should learn.

On Wednesday, I went to the ‘StartWithXML‘ conference which might sound like a tedious affair but it was quite the contrary. This three letter acronym (XML) signifies how the publishing industry is changing from a printed world which has, to a large degree, an attitude of “We publish and sell books” to a digital publishing world whose attitude is “We are distributors of information”.

To quickly explain the benefits of XML, if a publisher starts the book publishing process when they receive a manuscript from an author in Microsoft Word or as an XML document, the ability for the publisher to efficiently turn that into not just a printed book but other products like an eBook, or an online reference tool (if it is guide, for example), is greatly increased. Not only that, the publisher can make the book searchable so that potential customers can find it and read about it in more detail before they buy it.

The benefits of starting the publishing process with a book in XML format are not only good for the publisher, they are good for the customers and the authors. Customers will buy more products and authors will get more royalties.

Most of the large publishing houses are fully aware of the benefits of XML to their businesses. They are in the process of getting their production teams skilled in XML and digital publishing. But it’s the smaller publishers that really need XML. By starting their publishing process with their manuscripts in XML, they can become extremely efficient and competitive in a crowded market.

For example, Snowbooks is a “feisty” publisher made up of three people. They produce all of their books using XML which are held on a database. Each book has all of the information about the title held in XML as well as the book in digital format so that, literally, at the click of a button, they can produce 48-page catalogues about their lists, feed their web site and make versions of each book in different formats. Anyone who has ever tried to put together a catalogue in a conventional way will know that it can take weeks and weeks to do this.

So, if you are in publishing and in production and you don’t know about XML, then you might be thinking it sounds like hell. But, if you do know about XML and its benefits then you could be about to secure your job. You role may well move from the production team into the IT team but, as they say, “if you don’t like change, then see how you feel about irrelevance”.

For more details from the StartwithXML conference, you can see the slide decks used by the speakers here.

Categories: business, publishing Tags: , ,
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  1. 09/09/2009 at 7:55 pm

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