Bookbinders' Guild Members Gather to Discuss the Evolving Book
It was another meeting of book publishing industry minds, as members of the Bookbinders' Guild of New York gathered at Random House's Manhattan headquarters May 11 to discuss the rapidly transforming business of producing books. "Digital Horizons: The Evolving Book" featured presentations from Ken Brooks, senior vice president, global production and manufacturing services, Cengage Learning; Bob Stein, founder and co-director of the Institute for the Future of the Book; and Michael Cader, founder of PublishersMarketplace.com and Publishers Lunch.
The Importance of XML
Brooks addressed the increasing need for incorporating XML into book production processes as the numbers of formats used and the re-use of content increases. "As [they] continue to grow, the pressure [to adopt an XML workflow] is not going to let off," he said.
Brooks also discussed the necessary culture shift within production departments when adopting XML, and the resistance companies many times face from their production staff. "There are difficulties in turning production managers into technologists," he said. One tactic Brooks suggested to production managers to overcome these difficulties was to better acquaint staff members with newer technologies, such as using a wiki to record staff meeting notes.
In his presentation, Cader also stressed the importance of XML, noting that Brooks had initially introduced him to the process. He suggested focusing on what problems XML can solve for your organization. "It's not about the technology; it's about what the technology can do for you," he said.
"[XML] is magical," Cader continued, "but no one ever says it's magical. We should celebrate and embrace the fact that it's magical."
The Evolution of Social Reading
Stein noted the shift of reading and writing from traditionally solitary activities to ones that now are capable of having a social component, such as through social networking. As an example, he noted The Golden Notebook Project, an experiment in which HarperCollins allowed "The Golden Notebook" to be published on a website and seven women read the book and conducted a conversation around it in the margins.
When asked by an audience member how publishers can take advantage of repurposing their content in a manner similar to The Golden Notebook Project and derive revenue from it, Stein responded that this is a "real problem" for publishers. "No one has built a transactional platform yet that will allow you to charge for this," he said.
While the new social networking capabilities of the Amazon Kindle were noted, Stein believes this use of social networking in regards to books—"throwing out text and letting anyone comment"—is not effective. In order for it to be effective, he said, the author must be present or the discussion must take place within a "closed" group of people, such as among members of a classroom or a reading group.
"Social reading means having confidence in the people in the margins," said Stein.