A Day in the Life
Frank Romano isn't shy. In fact, Rochester Institute of Technology's chairman of the School of Printing has never been hesitant about putting speeches where his beliefs are. And at BookTech's 2002 conference and expo, he was true to form.
During the show's keynote address, Romano argued the provocative case between Random House and RosettaBooks, first as a signal that digital content is becoming increasingly popular, and second, as a way to compare print with e-media.
"What's the difference between an e-book and an e-magazine?" Romano asked. "They're both packaged information delivered in some form to you. A Web site is just as much an e-book as anything else."
With an allegiance to print, Romano barked about the benefits of bolstering print with the power of "e," especially since book printing accounts for less than 10 percent of printed material in general. He equated the art of digital investments to that of dinosaurs and lemmings—sluggish publishers are in danger of becoming extinct, whereas others leap without looking. As a result, he advocated the importance of honing technology that will inevitably suit the needs of its modern users.
"Is it the death of text?" he asked. Hardly. In fact, according to Romano, "e-books will not replace printed books." Instead, he predicted that if used effectively, digitization of text can fuel the print market by using Web sites to successfully sell books via print-on-demand (POD)—paper and all.
ROI in the house
But what should a publisher do once it is in possession of digital content? John Jebens, solutions team manager for WAM!NET (www.wam!net.com), made the case for digital asset management. He explained that while outsourcing may work in many publishing environments, it's not a solution for everyone. Instead, Jebens explained that managing content in-house can save money, especially in the case of second and third editions of textbooks that require redesigns.
Don Findlay, practice director for DeepBridge Content Solutions (www.deepbridge.com) said understanding content destination is integral to ROI, especially for traditional publishers.
"Today the printing industry is undergoing significant changes as the effects of technology and the digital age require companies to invest more and more of their capital resources in equipment and technology," reports Consolidated Graphics (www.consolidatedgraphics.com). As a result, content management is also becoming an issue about how to maintain sufficient workflow when deadlines are looming. The economy was also on everyone's mind. Jebens noted that there are definitely electronic alternatives for better workflow efficiency, ROI and cost savings for traditional publishers looking to the Internet to exchange files.
Ask what your paper can do for you
Manufacturing was the next step. And according to Janet McCarthy, vice president of Lindenmeyr (www.lindenmeyr), paper is the backbone of the book industry.
"Groundwood paper is an economical way to get your message across," she admitted, "because chances are most flyers and newspapers will be thrown out." But in the book publishing industry, paper choices become more complicated. Light and wear contribute significantly to how a paper type is chosen. And where there's longevity, said McCarthy, there's cost.
She explained that for the last few years, a multi-billion dollar project has been under way to reverse the damage to Library of Congress books. For years, books had not used acid-free papers, which has led to damage of these archived publications. "The pages have yellowed," described McCarthy. She said that in today's market, paper buying must come down to this additional issue: How will a book survive? And can a publisher afford to supply that guarantee?
McCarthy thinks the answer is yes: "Fiber, furnish and finish—use these to determine your paper type."
She also noted that the key differentiating factor of an uncoated free sheet is opacity. She said that sometimes supplementing a heavier text stock for a cover stock can save money and lessen the weight for distribution, but it only works domestically. International printers and publishers have other concerns. Referring to European standards, McCarthy acknowledged, "They value surface and brightness so much that they'll jeopardize opacity." She explained that by paging through a European-printed publication, images are visible from the opposite pages because the sheets are significantly opaque. "If you're doing a job here and decide to send it overseas, you'll have to go up one basis weight to get the same opacity," she warned. "And when you come back, you can go down one basis weight."
To "e" is human
As an alternative to traditional book production, others argued that e-books are promising. "All an e-book is—it's a PDF with rights assigned," claimed James Alexander, director of e-books at Adobe (www.adobe.com). Alexander, along with Texterity CEO Martin Hensel and Richard Nash, also with Texterity, addressed the fate of e-book hype.
"E-book is the poster child for networked publishing," explained Alexander. "By mid-September, there were books about September 11 that were only available as e-books. Nothing else can work so quickly." He said that by using the immediacy of e-publishing tools, users and manufacturers of e-content have the opportunity to harness the benefits of print-on-demand. It also causes traditional publishers to sit up, take notice and negotiate how to reconcile print deadlines to meet new expectations.
Particularly, educational publishers such as Oxford University Press are already utilizing e-book technology to repurpose content into multiple formats via Adobe PDF e-books. "If you're doing e-textbooks," Nash said, "having a desktop solution is very important. Otherwise, it's very expensive to produce a textbook and spit it out in various formats."
Nash insisted that reference publishers are making money producing e-content right now in an industry that has been second-guessing the success rate of e-books in general. "Instead of trying to read tea leaves," added Nash, "it's best to look at e-publishing from the supply side." In other words, conversion control, PDF archiving and secure content distribution are important issues already being addressed by technology providers and printers as a way to digitize and supplement print.
Hensel explained that St. Martin's Press (www.stmartins.com) set up a Web site, wherein users can download sample chapters from e-books either to supplement review galley books or to preview a potential print book to buy. "So much of publishing is to build buzz," said Hensel. "E-books are a great way because you have no variable cost."
He said that St. Martins experienced much higher increase in reads by supplementing print copies with e-books in the short-term.
But does this mean print copies will become obsolete?
Alexander agreed that as technology evolves, "content that's popular will sell in any format—print or electronic." He said that the sheer ability to print from e-format makes books popular for e-download or to manufacture on-demand.
X marks the content
Gurvinder Batra, executive vice president and CTO of TechBooks (www.techbooks.com), further unwound the XML conundrum. He said that XML is one of the most fruitive means toward using content in multiple formats. "Vendors should absorb the technical transition," suggested Batra, saying that by initiating the more mainstream use of the cross-media publishing format, publishers will be more apt to implement it from the IT point of view.
"It requires minimal in-house changes in the production process, moving more tasks to the front-end of the process, like revisions of text," he explained. By developing an XML repository, Batra was confident that elements for repurposing will be readied for launch regardless of the destination—e-books, Web and print.
Over the rainbow
If print is the destination, then Nick Patrissi is the leader to the land of color control. As director of market relations and print at Creo (www.creo.com), Patrissi stated that cross-media opportunities have opened up new revenue streams for book publishers. But the trick is maintaining quality control while producing content across a variety of mediums.
He explained that by using color calibration tools, book publishers working in digital workflow will improve color quality by matching what's on screen with the final product. And since many printers are offering publishers the opportunity to send their files via FTP sites more often than ever before, ensuring that proofs are accurate can mean a huge difference in quality.
For specialty projects using foils, case-binding and vivid colors, control is even more important. According to Brigitte Cutshall, regional manager of southeast sales for C.J. Krehbiel (www.cjkrehbiel.com), independent publishers are finding novel ways to create books using speciality designs and materials. This is creating a new market niche, wherein these smaller publishers compete with larger ones. Realistically, Cutshall said that specialty production costs money, but that depending on the project—is the goal to create a vintage cover effect?—it may be worth the investment.
Publishers like Running Press (www.runningpress.com) have successfully implemented unique designs and materials into their projects without breaking the bank. Michael Washburn, a Running Press editor, acknowledged that by maximizing workflow, more intensive projects become much less an undertaking than imagined. "It's about efficiency," he said. "I've found that when everyone is working from the same page, the process is much smoother—especially for designers."
It was a theme for the show: finding ways of satisfying digital technology with long-time practices among book publishers. Distinctions between publishing cultures were less noticeable, especially when it came to e-book and print proponents. Instead, it was a lesson in compromise about everything except the end results. The printed page, explained Patrissi, is the life blood. And without a good understanding of how paper, ink and digital workflow will interact, experts agreed that production dilemmas are inevitable.
Though the e-book and print cultures may have seemed more likely bedfellows than ever, Chuck Koscher, solutions architect at TechSight (www.techsight.com), described the show best. "The hype era is over," he said. At BookTech 2002, professionals, instead, got down to business.
-Natalie Hope McDonald