Cover Story: Hitting a Moving Target
Still, a year from now (or sooner), something may come along to rewrite the rules again. Eckler says the publisher's focus at this point, therefore, should be making content available in a raw format in a database—utilizing XML and metadata tagging to easily manipulate text, images, video and animation. Storing components in discrete chunks ensures that material is compatible with a range of platforms for quick conversion on the digital scale.
Book publishers, in other words, must learn the lesson magazine publishers have struggled to come to grips with as their market has transformed in recent years—the idea of conceptualizing content as divorced from any one particular medium.
"What we preach and what our technology is all about is taking away the concept of the book," Eckler says. "What I'm doing is I'm producing high-value content that I want to sell. The fact that I want to sell it as ink on paper in this or that size, or as an e-book or subscription on the Web, that should not enter into the equation up front. You should be device-agnostic.
"That is also a philosophical thought change for publishers," he adds, "bec- ause from top to bottom it [has been] all about the design, the look and feel, the tactile approach. Yes, the fonts need to look good, but at the end of the day, people are not saying, 'Wow, what a good use of Helvetica bold in that book.' No, it is: 'That was a great story line.'"
Balancing Short- and
For book publishers, this idea can be a tough sell—especially as so much of the business still is wrapped up in print sales. But nothing in this conceptualization precludes the importance of print in the mix, Eckler says. It is simply the case that publishers must think of print as one in a suite of options available to them as consumer habits and market conditions shift.