Publishing Mean and Lean
XML provides a common language that connects literally all points on the publishing workflow. We can get XML out of the Word files authors and editors worked on. We can get XML out of Star Office and other word processors, too.
The marketing department can continue to store data in whatever database it's now using. Standards such as ONIX and PRISM can extract the marketing database's metadata and provide it to others inside or outside the organization.
XMP, the Extensible Metadata Platform, even enables metadata to be embedded into graphic files produced by Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop (and soon, a host of other programs). As XMP becomes more widely implemented, it promises to dramatically streamline workflows.
With composition technology starting to become XML-savvy, life will become easier for compositors. It will also get easier recipients of those files, who will need to publish them on the Web, license them to others or archive them for untold future uses.
XML, and especially the DOI (Digital Object Identifier), enables virtually all document versions, whether print or electronic, to be found, linked to and purchased in a seamless, dynamic way that was science fiction just a few years back.
It's no longer a dream. It's happening today. I recently edited and produced an 800 page reference book, The Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing. It was typeset in hours, thanks to an XML workflow. Then it was published to print and online simultaneously, using exactly the same data. It's proof that XML workflows work!
The publishing industry couldn't do what it does today without desktop publishing software, PostScript, PDF, XML and the Web. But it's important to realize these technologies are fundamentally enabling technologies.
They don't do anything in and of themselves. It's how we publishers use them that matters. We can use them stupidly, and often do. We can continue to work in our silos with blinders on, ignoring the march of progress, and try to keep doing much as we have.