January 3, 2008
The Kindle Digital Text Platform
I was rooting around on Amazon the other day, seeing what other kind of (non-book) content was available for the Kindle when I discovered the Digital Text Platform Amazon has made available for publishing content in Kindle format. "DTP" is listed as Beta, but I found it functional and easy to use. Basically you create all the metadata for the title, including pricing information, and then upload the content for conversion to the Kindle format. To test it, I created an eBook out of a series of articles I have written on content management and XML. They seem to want HTML ("The preferred format for uploading content is as a single HTML file"), but I got impatient when I then read you needed to assemble linked images in a zip file using special instructions. So I went with a single Word .doc file ("standard .doc files will often convert without a hitch"). For the most part, it did convert without a hitch, though it did a woefully bad job with a small number of very simple tables. To work around that, I simplified a couple of the tables and deleted the others. In fairness to Amazon, I worked quickly, and could have experimented with HTML tables.
If you're a Kindle owner and happen to buy the title, I would love to hear from you about the experience. Since I don't own a Kindle yet, I had to rely on the preview capability in DTP, which basically gives you an HTML view of the content.
From the introduction to the eBook:
The following articles, white papers, and blog entries were written between 2000 and 2006. They appeared in one of several publications: The Gilbane Report, eContent Magazine, E-DOC Magazine, or Transform Magazine. Some appeared in my blog, www.billtrippe.com, or its predecessor blog, Ideas in Technology and Publishing. I undertook this compilation as an experiment in working with the beta version of Amazon.com's Digital Text Platform for creating content for the Kindle eBook reader.
I only edited the material lightly, so the articles are showing their age in places. Some links are likely out of date, some product references may be to versions of products that have since been superseded, and at least one product, XMetaL, has changed corporate ownership at least once since first written about in one or more of these articles. However, I chose these articles from many, many others I could have chosen because the material is evergreen and still useful, I think. I stand by what has been written here, especially for the price!
Posted by Bill Trippe at 8:56 AM
December 4, 2007
Meanwhile, Over at Gilbane...
Tomorrow, I will be part of a webinar, What Every Publisher Needs to Know About Content Management. It's being put on by Book Business Magazine and sponsored by Follett Digital Resources. Matt Steinmetz, Special Projects Editor for Book Business will be moderating, and I will be joined on the virtual dais by Jabin White, Vice President for Product Management at Silverchair.
I'm going to be presenting a market overview, offer some definitions, and discuss some recent and emerging trends. I'm going to leave most of the heavy lifting to Jabin, though. He is truly one of the smart guys in the business and an excellent presenter, and I am looking forward to hearing what he has to say.
You can go right to the registration page here.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 8:40 PM
November 30, 2007
Kindle Still "Sold Out"
I keep seeing references to Kindle being sold out, but I have yet to find a number of how many sold. The main Kindle page at Amazon now says you won't get one by Christmas. This seems like a problem to me--missing Christmas sales and also not even promising a specific ship date.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 4:04 PM
November 28, 2007
Wall Street Hearts AMZN
It's been an up and down week or so in the market, but not so for Amazon. Wishful eBook fans might imagine it is all due to Kindle, but impressive online Christmas shopping numbers are the more likely booster.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:53 AM
So You Want to be an Author?
Chris Webb, executive editor at Wiley Publishing, has written and has now assembled some terrific advice on developing a book proposal. Chris has been writing these over time, and has now pulled them together. As he notes, Chris does work in technology publishing, so some of these will be specific to computer book publishing, but much of what he has written is useful for any type of non-fiction book.
Oh, did I mention Chris was the editor for an excellent book on Digital Rights Management?
Posted by Bill Trippe at 9:37 AM
November 19, 2007
Amazon debuted Kindle, its eBook reader, today. I haven't seen it yet, of course, but I'm impressed by the number of titles they have available at launch. And the pricepoints--NYT's bestsellers at a standard price of $9.99.
Lots of interesting details about the feature set as well as the complementary content, like Wikipedia, newspapers, blogs. Another detail, reported by CNET, caught my eye:
Kindle, which was manufactured by an undisclosed Chinese original equipment manufacturer, connects to its specialized Amazon store via an EV-DO (Evolution Data Optimized) cellular network through "Amazon Whispernet," built atop Sprint's EV-DO network. No data plan or monthly bill is required. "We pay for all of that behind the scenes so that you can just read," Bezos said, adding that he estimated that it would take "less than a minute" to download a book.
If it is really that easy to use and keep up to date, they are on to something.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:52 PM
November 13, 2007
Digital Text Community
Jon Noring of Digital Pulp Publishing has announced the start of "The Digital Text Community" (DTC), a public mailing list (on YahooGroups) devoted to serious discussion of digitizing "ink-on-paper" publications.
The full group charter is found at the group's home page.
DTC will be lightly moderated primarily to ensure civil discourse, and a separate archive of the discussion will be started and maintained (Jon notes that YahooGroup's default archive is poor, to say the least.)
Jon explained his rationale for starting the group:
The primary reason why I am starting DTC is that there is, surprisingly, no independent and dedicated forum to discuss the various, interrelated technical and non-technical issues of digitizing "ink-on-paper" publications, such as books, periodicals, etc.
Current discussion on digitizing paper publications is disjointly spread around in various nooks and crannies. For example, there are forums for particular digitization projects such as Project Gutenberg (e.g. "gutvol-d") and Distributed Proofreaders (which maintains a set of online-only forums.)
And then there are more generalized forums which touch upon various topics of relevance to text digitization, but which is not their main focus. Examples are Book People (which John Mark Ockerbloom is sadly closing the end of the month) and The eBook Community (another YahooGroup which I administer.)
The summary purpose of DTC is given in the last paragraph of the DTC group charter:
"This group is not affiliated with any particular project or organization, but rather is independent. It is hoped this group will be a bridge between the various text digitization projects, enabling information exchange for everyone’s benefit."
This sounds like a great new resource, and I have already subscribed. You can too, here.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 5:27 PM
November 2, 2007
Sentiment is for Girls
Not my sentiment, of course. Mark Twain's, as recently shown at a great new (and free!) repository launched by the University of California Press.
Damnation, (if you will allow the expression,) get up & take a turn around the block & let the sentiment blow off you. Sentiment is for girls—I mean the maudlin article, of course. Real sentiment is a very rare & godlike thing. You do not know anybody that has it; neither do I.The homepage for the repository is here.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 1:37 PM
October 26, 2007
The Discoverability Wars
Evan Schnittman of Oxford University Press has some thoughts about how discoverability and other publishing-oriented technologies have put book publishers in the catbird seat.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 4:52 PM
October 25, 2007
All the News that's Fit to Click?
eMarketer says that, "It’s wake-up time for the publishing industry. Like it or not, readers and advertisers are turning to the Internet, and print brands must follow." The numbers are compelling.
You can read some of the summary and purchase the report here.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:52 AM
October 24, 2007
"We're thrilled with the early results from customers"
Posted by Bill Trippe at 8:26 PM
A Billion Here, A Billion There
And sooner or later, you start talking about some serious revenue.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released the IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report covering the second quarter and the first six months of 2007. Internet advertising revenues (U.S.) for the first six months of 2007 were nearly $10 billion, setting yet another new record and representing a nearly 27 percent increase over the first half of 2006. Internet advertising revenue totaled nearly $5.1 billion for the second quarter of 2007, exceeding the $5 billion mark for the first time in a quarter, a 25.4 percent increase over the same period in 2006.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 8:06 PM
October 21, 2007
TimesSelectors and TimesRejectors
Over at Civilities, Jon Garfunkel continues his thoughtful analysis of what the changing media mix might mean for the Old Gray Lady.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 7:54 PM
October 13, 2007
Here and There
- Apparently, if it's online, it's trustworthy..
- MarketingSherpa has an interesting case study of how a newspaper tackled a redesign as it entered its 10th year online.
- Innondata Isogen offers a Post-Hype Playbook for the eBook marketplace.
- Imagine a whole evening of presentations on XForms.
- Adobe unveils "Thermo" and some other new technologies
- Quark users might be interested in a new resource site, Planet Quark.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:08 PM
October 12, 2007
A website called the Alternative Reel lists the top ten banned books of the 20th century, and I am proud to say I've read seven of them. Time to read the remaining three!
I like the cover art, and I recognize several of the bindings from my own library.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 2:02 PM
October 4, 2007
Meanwhile, Over at Gilbane...
The sessions that I have been organizing on enterprise publishing technology have been coming together. For the session on DITA and related standards like S1000D, we have Bob Doyle of the Boston DITA Group and Don Bridges of Data Conversion Labs. We have another speaker from industry who will be talking about S1000D, but he is still awaiting the go-ahead from his corporate communications folks.
For the session on multi-channel publishing, John Parsons, Editorial Director of The Seybold Report will be moderating, and two speakers are on board, again with a third likely to be joining soon. Rich Pasewark, a former colleague of mine from XyEnterprise and more recently with Quark, is working independently now on some very interesting projects. The second speaker is Mark Laroche, who is Director of Production for Digital Media at Random House. He is going to be talking about some very forward-thinking work they have been doing withe the Fodor's travel guides.
Finally, for the metadata session we have two speakers, with a third to be announced shortly. We were very happy to talk our client Richard Ferrie from Pearson into speaking. Rick is Senior Vice President, Publishing Operations and Content Management for all of Pearson, and has some top-level lessons learned on what works and what doesn't in bringing metadata into publishing workflows and systems. Gilbane analyst Bill Rosenblatt will also be speaking, bringing his perspective on metadata efforts at some of the largest publishers and media companies out there.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 9:05 AM
September 19, 2007
WSJ.com to go Free?
First Times Select, and now WSJ.com? WSJ.com is reporting that WSJ.com might drop its paid model in favor of an ad-supported one. And yes, the article is free, at least as of right now.
Meanwhile, ClickZ is reporting that mobile advertising is about to boom.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:40 PM
August 8, 2007
NY Times to Make TimesSelect Free
Barry Graubart weighs in on the decision at the New York Times to Make TimesSelect free.
The Times has decided to stop charging a fee for its TimesSelect product. TimesSelect, which includes the Times Columnists and OpEd pieces, is free to print subscribers and costs $95 per year for others. There are approximately 220,000 paid TimesSelect subscribers, representing roughly $21 million in annual revenue. It also provides a perceived benefit to print subscribers... While I don't know if the Times will recoup that revenue simply from serving ads on the OpEd pages, this is clearly the right thing to do. Putting a wall up around Times columnists simply resulted in reducing the influence of the Times editorial page. In addition to limiting access for direct browsers, it also dramatically reduced the "pass-along" potential of Times content. Once the walls are down, I'd expect their editorial columns to often be at the top of the "most emailed" lists and also receive numerous links from bloggers, Facebook pages and more.
All good thoughts from Barry, so do read his entire entry. I just want to know if the crossword puzzle will now be available free.
July 17, 2007
The Dramatic Unity of Huckleberry Finn
ResearchBuzz offers up a nice find: The Ohio State University Press Makes Dozens Of Books Free
The Ohio State University Press has announced that it will be making “certain books” available for free download from its site. (You’ll need a PDF reader.) The books are available at here . There are actually over 60 books here, from Daniel Aaron’s Cincinnati: Queen City of the West, 1819–1838 to John Harold Wilson’s Court Satires of the Restoration. Click on the book title for additional information about the book and PDF files of various chapters. The books I looked at were out of paper print but still had very assertive copyright reminders.What I did NOT see was any way to actually search the content, so here’s the Google query you want: keyword inurl:books site:ohiostatepress.org. Add intitle:book title to the search if you want to restrict your results to a specific text.
If you want to go right to the Huck Finn book referenced in the title, click here.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 11:10 PM
June 12, 2007
eBooks for Kids: BookFlix and More
This is interesting.
Two leading children's publishers, Scholastic, Inc., and Disney, will soon discover whether the laptop compares to the lap in the hearts of young readers.
Scholastic is officially launching BookFlix, an educational Web site pairing short films based on popular picture books along with nonfiction e-books that allow early readers to follow the text online.
Update: fixed the link.
June 7, 2007
Steal this Laptop!
June 1, 2007
Center for Future Civic Media
I get an excellent weekly news and analysis roundup, Outsell/EPS Insights (subscription required). This week they alerted me that the Knight Foundation had handed out its first News Challenge winners.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, top young computer programmers and bloggers, and MTV are among the 25 first-year winners of the Knight News Challenge, announced at the Editor & Publisher/Mediaweek Interactive Media Conference and Trade Show in Miami. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation funded the contest with $25 million over five years to help lead journalism into its digital future. The first-year winners all proposed innovative ideas for using digital news and information to build and bind community in specific geographic areas.
That led me to check out the folks at MIT who were awarded the biggest chunk, $5M to fund a new Center for Future Civic Media. The idea is intriguing to me, as it seems to go beyond the dreary notion of citizen journalists to instead, "helping to provide people with the necessary skills to process, evaluate, and act upon the knowledge in circulation, civic media ensures the diversity of inputs and mutual respect necessary for democratic deliberation."
They need to work on their "about page," though. Whatever "Future Civic Media" might become, I doubt it includes tar.gz files.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 2:32 PM
May 30, 2007
Excel and XML
Since so much metadata, and even editorial content, is often produced in Microsoft Excel, shouldn't publishers consider using SpreadsheetML for long-term uses of Microsoft Excel? A tutorial over at Brian Jones' blog got me thinking about it. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at SpreadsheetML, start here.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:25 AM
April 28, 2007
MathML 3.0 Working Draft Published
2007-04-27: The Math Working Group has published the First Public Working Draft of Mathematical Markup Language (MathML) Version 3.0. MathML is an XML application for describing mathematical notation and capturing both its structure and content. The goal of MathML is to enable mathematics to be served, received, and processed on the World Wide Web, just as HTML has enabled this functionality for text.
In related news, the W3C has also published a MathML for CSS profile.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 5:33 PM
April 24, 2007
Multichannel Workflows in the Offing?
Over at the Really Strategies blog, Ed Stevenson comments on some print-CMS partnerships.
Last week, Lisa Bos posted on the fragmentation between different types of CMS. Interestingly, this morning I stumbled upon two announcements on partnerships between companies in different CMS spaces:
Found on Gilbane, "Managing Editor Inc. (MEI) announced a joint development with Clickability to integrate the SoftCare K4 Publishing System with Clickability’s cmPublish." So here we have an editorial and production system (or print CMS) integrating with a WebCMS.
And CMS Wire announces that Alfresco and WoodWing Software formed a partnership between WoodWing’s Smart Connection Enterprise editorial workflow system and the Alfresco 2.0 open source enterprise content management system.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:12 PM
April 17, 2007
Pricing Trends for Scholarly Journals
Here’s an excerpt from the press release:
The research updates the previous findings on pricing for biomedical journals, and has also been extended to analyze pricing for social science titles. Findings within the report show little variation to the original data published in 2004: there are continued trends in price variance across publishers, including median price increases ranging from 42% to 104% for biomedical titles, and 47% to 120% for social science titles.
The entire report can be downloaded for free here (PDF, 718K).
Posted by Bill Trippe at 11:23 AM
April 12, 2007
Teleread Offers Kurt Vonnegut a Fond Goodbye
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., a sci-fi writer and satirist who wrote about heroics, vanities and greater sins, inspiring comparisons with Mark Twain, died yesterday at 84 with a full head of hair. You can read a Google News roundup and his New York Times obit along with a link-rich Wikipedia item.
Via Wowio, you can download free ad-supported copies of [a number of Vonnegut books].
I played around with Wowio, downloading Slaughter-House Five. Really, it is not much to write about--PDF files with ads stuffed in every so many pages. The ads are awkwardly placed--they look like full-page magazine ads--and in the default settings of the reader they are just disembodied page layouts. In Slaughter-House Five, it looked to me like the ads disrupted Vonnegut's intended pagination. In at least one place, an ad separates an illustration from Vonnegut's description. The effect is jarring, but if I were a starving college student again, I probably would put up with it in exchange for a free book.
Many, many publishing blogs weighed in on Vonnegut today, and for good reason. He was an oversized talent, and many people of my age and a little older read every Vonnegut book, often more than once. He will be missed.
April 11, 2007
Can Blogs Persist in the Way Scholarly Information Does?
Jon Udell interviews Geoffrey Builder, Director of Strategic Initiatives at CrossRef, and a veteran in the scholarly technology world. They discuss CrossRef's critical role in the scholarly information world, how Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) work, and what this kind of technology means for blogs and other content.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:16 PM
April 10, 2007
A Well Deserved Webby Nomination to PaidContent.org
Funny thing about awards: we diss them publicly all the time, but as soon we get nominated, we become an award whore (well, more specifically me). This time it is the Webby, so I think it is justified. The nominations were announced today, and we’re among the five in the Best Blog: Business category along with some other great names like TechDirt and Dealbook (by NYTimes.com).
Posted by Bill Trippe at 9:43 PM
April 9, 2007
A Tip of the Cap to...
... Project Gutenberg, for all its work, including a newly posted "eBook," The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 17, No. 100, February, 1866, which brings us, among other things, passages from Nathaniel Hawthorne's notebooks. Here, Hawthorne offers some thoughts about a trip along Maine's Kennebec River.
Saw by the river-side, late in the afternoon, one of the above-described boats going into the stream, with the water rippling at the prow, from the strength of the current and of the boat's motion. By-and-by comes down a raft, perhaps twenty yards long, guided by two men, one at each end,—the raft itself of boards sawed at Waterville, and laden with square bundles of shingles and round bundles of clapboards. "Friend," says one man, "how is the tide now?"—this being important to the onward progress. They make fast to a tree, in order to wait for the tide to rise a little higher. It would be pleasant enough to float down the Kennebec on one of these rafts, letting the[Pg 178] river conduct you onward at its own pace, leisurely displaying to you all the wild or ordered beauties along its banks, and perhaps running you aground in some peculiarly picturesque spot, for your longer enjoyment of it. Another object, perhaps, is a solitary man paddling himself down the river in a small canoe, the light, lonely touch of his paddle in the water making the silence seem deeper. Every few minutes a sturgeon leaps forth, sometimes behind you, so that you merely hear the splash, and, turning hastily around, see nothing but the disturbed water. Sometimes he darts straight on end out of a quiet black spot on which your eyes happen to be fixed, and, when even his tail is clear of the surface, he falls down on his side, and disappears.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 9:41 AM
April 6, 2007
eBooks No, But ePaper Yes?
"Electronic paper" has long been hyped as the future of newspapers and books, but products like e-books have been slow to take off. That may soon change, say executives involved in the pioneering technology. While Internet companies are scanning libraries of books and making them available online, E Ink Corp., which emerged out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a decade ago, is seeing a surge in orders for its portable, foldable displays that mimic conventional paper to carry such books. Nine different companies launched products last year based on the technology," said Russell Wilcox, E Ink president. "In the last nine months we've gone from manufacturing tens of thousands of parts to millions of parts."
April 4, 2007
Is Print Dying?
A small handful of publishers made recent announcements on their decisions to cease publishing in print and move to sole digital content delivery.
The most notable is, of course, InfoWorld's cessation of print this month.
We are merely embracing a more efficient delivery mechanism --the Web -- at InfoWorld.com. You can still get all the news coverage, reviews, analysis, opinion, and commentary that InfoWorld is known for. You'll just have to access it in a browser (or RSS reader) -- something more than a million of you already do every month.
We also heard Time's announcement that it will discontinue the LIFE newspaper supplement, but still look to build online product offerings under the LIFE brand.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 9:42 PM
April 3, 2007
Free New York Times Select for Students?
Maybe, Maybe Not.
This problem has been just around the corner since NYT.com first offered academic discounts on premium TimesSelect last year but it didn’t become a real issue until the move to free for students and educators. Prodded by librarians irked at spending large chunks of money to gain access to the whole NYT database through services like Lexis-Nexis, the NYT is changing the offer: only students at colleges that subscribe to the databases will have access to the full archives, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. The change is being made “out of respect and compliance with these agreements that we already have in place,” Vivian Schiller, VP/GM, NYtimes.com, told the Chronicle. One library director said database provider ProQuest was surprised by the paper’s decision to make the archives available to student subscribers for free. Barbara Fister of Gustavus Adolphus College was among those raising the issue online; she told the Chronicle she was torn between wanting all students to have access to the Times online and the fact that she just spent nearly $20,000 to provide archives access through ProQuest.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:38 PM
April 2, 2007
Philly XML User Group
Philadelphia has an active XML user group, with monthly meetings in Center City. The next meeting is next Wednesday, April 11 at 6:00 p.m., at a new location for the group, Wolters Kluwer Health, 520 Walnut Street (the Penn Mutual building).
This month's meeting will feature a presentation, "RSuite CMS: Native XML Content Management," from Michael Puscar of Really Strategies, Inc. RSuite is the CMS developed by Really that uses the MarkLogic Server XML repository. According to the announcement for the event.
Publishers struggle with the same problems as they embark on their XML-based content management solutions. Current CMS solutions don’t offer true native XML management and search. Some call themselves “native XML databases” but they really support XQuery compilation and execution inside an existing RDBMS. This approach does not harness the power of XQuery, limits the use of hierarchical queries, and contributes to major performance issues later when you need to reconstitute XML data scattered across the database into a document for export. So what’s an appropriate definition for “native XML database”? And what does “native” really mean? Let’s discuss this concept and take a look at Really Strategies' RSuite CMS, which offers features like node-level XML management, layered metadata, and true content reuse.
You can register for the event here; it's free!
Posted by Bill Trippe at 8:44 AM
March 28, 2007
Time Inc. Cancels Life Newspaper Insert; Will Focus On Digital
Just last night over drinks in Orlando a media executive, who knows I was associated with Life for many years but has not mag ties himself, asked me why Time Inc. didn’t just focus on Life’s photography and forget efforts like the weekly newspaper insert. The Life brand and legacy could be the draw for a photo-centric website, he argued, wondering why they had never managed to do just that. This morning brings news that Time Inc. is going to do just that—shutter the newspaper insert, which never came close—and wasn’t intended to—the Life weekly of days gone by, and will focus on various digital platforms as well as books.
Online plans already in progress call for a major portal to launch later this year; the plan is to get its entire collection of 10 million photos online. From the release: “The most important collection of imagery covering the events and the people of the 20th century will be made available to the public for personal use at no cost. More than 97 percent of this collection has never been seen by the public and contains the works of such master photographers as Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White and Gordon Parks, among others.”
Is it me, or is the shift from print to digital accelerating before our eyes? This announcement follows closely on the heels of IDG announcing that they are ending the print version of InfoWorld.
March 24, 2007
OUP on Google
OUP's blog today, in a response to the Financial Times article (subscription required) of a couple days ago, talks about what Google's digitization effort is doing for publishing - and how they are responding to it in-house.What we publishers have come to realize is that Google and friends have opened up the world to our content by showing us that discoverability and access leads to interest and opportunity. Every major media company is now thinking they need to figure out their share of the digital space.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:00 AM
March 19, 2007
The Power of the Pocketbook
Also known as MIT and DRM:
It seems like a small thing - MIT Libraries announced that they would not carry material by the Society of Automotive Engineers - but it has pretty big implications.
SAE's database of technical papers apparently comes girded with a layer of DRM. The library website states:SAE's DRM technology severely limits use of SAE papers and imposes unnecessary burdens on readers. With this technology, users must download a DRM plugin, Adobe's "FileOpen," in order to read SAE papers. This plugin limits use to on-screen viewing and making a single printed copy, and does not work on Linux or Unix platforms.Many of MIT's faculty are fellows of the Society, which does not pay its members for the papers it publishes...and yet which restricts access to these papers via that "severe" DRM technology and a subscription fee - in fact, it restricts the mention of these papers in other databases as well...
I should note that FileOpen is not an Adobe product, but a separate company that makes DRM technology.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 11:06 PM
March 17, 2007
Those eBook Widgets
I haven't hidden my low opinion of Google's book scanning efforts. So I am intrigued that some of the larger trade publishers are stepping up and attempting to do their own digitization--and, notably, establishing their own methods of providing access to the digitized books. The efforts from Random House and HarperCollins have received a lot of attention, mainly because the two companies are such dominant presences in trade publishing. But a lot of the attention has been on their eBook "widgets," the viewing applications they have begun sharing. However, the real story is behind the scenes. Both Random House and HarperCollins are much more interested in having platforms that control the access to the content--allowing models like "look inside the book" and other kinds of partial access. To understand these offerings, you need to look beyond the widgets themselves.
As far as I can tell so far, these are really for promoting the print books and not for selling eBooks per se. The Random House site says, “The Random House Digital Page Initiative is an on-going project to index, digitize, distribute and set the terms for using book content online. As part of that initiative, Random House has developed Insight, a service that gives search engines and online retailers access to digitized book content over the Web.”
Both offerings are addressed to balance the need for access and publisher’s concerns about control and insight into how the content is used. For example, Random House’s documentation says, “For the publisher, Insight is a tool to get the publisher's digital content onto the websites of retail partners, search engines, publicity outlets, authors, blogs, and readers … the publisher's digital book content remains in the hands of the publisher. It … implements business rules to guarantee that ownership and management of the digitized content remains with the publisher; and it manages access to the content from third-party websites.”
- Both allow third parties (including booksellers, bloggers, and others) to embed the widgets on their own sites.
- Both provide backend systems that handle warehousing, distribution, and digital rights management.
- Both would like to provide the suite of technologies as a service to other, smaller publishers.
In terms of differences:
The HarperCollins/LibreDigital widget is based on the NewsStand technology. According to Todd Eckler, VP of Sales at LibreDigital, the primary difference with the HarperCollins version over the NewsStand version is more functionality for DRM and reporting.
The Random House widget is a Flash client. It looks an awful lot like Adobe’s Digital Editions, but it does not seem to be the same technology.
To my best understanding at this point, they both display PDF files, though LibreDigital does accept other formats (including OEB), and the Random House widget accepts all kinds of image formats as page files (their specifications say at one point “JPG, PDF, indexed text, etc.” and “jpeg, gif, png, pdf” at another point.) So I think it is fair to say that the LibreDigital tool is more of a conventional eBook platform that looks to ingest whole eBook files and the Random House tool is more of a page-turning device that is happy to manage and display page files of several different formats. Having said this, I can’t imagine too many people handing over a bunch of, say, JPG files to Random House with some kind of page manifest, but I may be missing something.
Interestingly, the early reviews on the industry blogs really seemed to favor the Random House widget. Fran Toolan of Issues in Publishing wrote of Random House’s widget, “It also has multiple features not found in Harper's. Some of the features include, displaying multiple sizes, searching for text strings inside the widget (using a Google text search), and offering ways to buy the book.” And C. Max Magee at Millions Blog wrote, “At a glance, the Random House offering is much nicer to look at, faster to load pages, and offers additional functions like search. So, if you want to know who winds the first round of the “Widget Wars,” Random House does.”
I think the real question down the road is who wins the next few rounds of the digital access wars. Google fired the first shot, but the major publishers are firing back--and trying to bring the smaller publishers along as allies.
March 14, 2007
Oh, click on it so you can actually read the thing.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 11:31 AM
March 13, 2007
I have been swamped with work, so I have been slow to blog. There are a few items of note, though.
- MarketingSherpa has a very useful case study on how ESPN has managed to be successful with its premium content. Read it now, as the case study will only be free until March 16.
- Speaking of premium content, the New York Times' Times Select is now free for students and faculty with valid .edu addresses.
- Bondi Digital, the folks who did such a great job with The Complete New Yorker, are now working with Playboy magazine to create a similar digital archive. And it will have full-text search, for everyone who only reads Playboy for the articles.
Premium content does indeed seem to have a life. One of the interesting things about these three items is that two of them are top-shelf traditional publishers and the third is a top-shelf TV network. The lesson for me is that people will pay for premium content when the content is very good.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 5:56 PM
February 24, 2007
How About James Thurber Sponsored by Eukanuba®?
The New Yorker‘s famous cartoons can now be viewed as an animated, ad-supported video podcast on iTunes through RingTales, an online animation syndicator. As part of the deal with the Conde Nast publication (through its cartoon licensing arm, The Cartoon Bank), Santa Monica-based RingTales has the exclusive license to animate and distribute the New Yorker library of over 70,000 cartoons. Podcast subscribers will receive three new animations of The New Yorker “RingTales” each week. In addition to iTunes, which had 14 episodes 20-second episodes available as of Friday morning, the downloads will be available on the magazine’s site, newyorker.com, in March...
Posted by Bill Trippe at 11:31 AM
February 18, 2007
But How Does Dear Author Really Feel About It?
I have, often, derided the Adobe Acrobat format for ebooks. I have told people on this blog, in emails, on message boards, that this is my least favorite format and that you should only buy this format when there is NO OTHER OPTION. Buying an Adobe ebook, particularly one that requires authentication to read it, is akin to shaving your head when you are one of the most recognizable people in the world and, at one time, one of the most beautiful people in the world.
You’ve come out with a great new software called Adobe Digital Editions, for those people who love ebooks...
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:24 AM
January 28, 2007
File this Under "Not Exactly News"
In 2004, Google announced its plan to scan every book printed. They began working with university libraries such as Harvard, University of Michigan, and Oxford. This caused the publishing industry some great consternation because an author’s work …
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:56 PM
January 18, 2007
eBooks in the K-12 Classroom?
TeleRead offers some thoughts on a WiFied eInk machine and perhaps a K-12 push for the Sony eReader.
Spurred by the threat of the rumored Kindle E Ink machine from Amazon, Sony is considering a WiFi-enhanced successor to the Sony Reader, as well as a push to get E Ink machines into the classroom.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 1:02 PM
January 6, 2007
Someone is Bullish about eReaders
In one of the biggest venture capital rounds ever in Europe, UK electronic paper display technology company Plastic Logic has received $100 million in venture funding. The new round was led by Oak Investment Partners and Tudor Investment Corporation.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:06 AM
December 29, 2006
IT WAS a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.
December 26, 2006
Two New IDPF Draft Specifications Available
Nick Bogarty of the Interational Digital Publishing Forum reports that two new specifications are available in working draft form and are ready for comment.The IDPF's Open eBook Publication Structure (OEBPS) Working Group has released two working draft specifications, the Open Publication Structure (OPS) 2.0 (internal working draft v0.7) and the Open Packaging Format (OPF) 2.0 (internal working draft v0.7) for public distribution and review as IDPF informational documents.
The IDPF strongly encourages feedback from potential users, developers and others, whether IDPF members or not, for the sake of improving interoperability and quality of IDPF work. The Working Group requests that comments to the specifications be made before Wednesday, January 31st in order to facilitate revision of the specifications. The specifications are available here (OPS 2.0) and here (OPF 2.0).
The OPS 2.0 and OPF 2.0 specifications are successors to OEBPS 1.2 which was released as an official IDPF specification in August 2002. The OPS specification describes a standard for representing the content of electronic publications. The OPF specification defines the mechanism by which the various components of an OPS publication are tied together and provides additional structure and semantics to the electronic publication. OPS/OPF will increase the viability and adoption of the previous OEBPS standard as both a cross-reading system interchange and production format as well as a final publication delivery format.
Both OPF and OPS are aligned with the OEBPS Container Format (OCF) specification which defines the standard mechanism by which all components of an electronic publication may be packaged together into a single archive for transmission, delivery and archival purposes. The OCF specification was released as an official IDPF specification on October 27th, 2006.
The OPS/OCF documents were submitted to the IDPF Board of Directors as an Informational Document as defined by the IDPF’s Policies and Procedures, section 4.6.1. While Informational Documents do not have an official specification status in the organization, the Working Group felt it important that IDPF members and the public have the opportunity to review the draft specification in order to obtain feedback on the current state of the proposal as well as to alert IDPF members that a proposal is forthcoming in order to allocate appropriate resources for a proper review. The document is expected to be submitted to the official IDPF output process in Q1 2007 which consists of Board of Director, public, intellectual property and membership review and a final membership vote.
This document was approved for submission by the Working Group on Thursday, December 14th and approved for release by the IDPF Board of Directors as an Informational Document on Friday, December 22nd.
The following documents may prove useful for introduction: the Working Group Charter, Specification Requirements, and IDPF member presentations on OPS, OPF & OCF.
Document Output Procedure
The OPS/OPF 2.0 documents are currently informational documents. All public comments made on the specification will be considered by the Working Group and, if appropriate, edits to the working drafts will be made. The Working Group expects to submit a final draft specification to the IDPF official output process in Q1 2007.
December 19, 2006
Interview: How Taunton Press Built ROI, Customer Loyalty With Video, Slideshow for Sub Site
The Taunton Press' magazines, such as Fine Cooking, Fine Woodworking and Fine Gardening, have had an online presence for a number of years, with articles of past issues archived and for sale. And, they have an online store with more than 500 SKUs.
But in the last few years, company execs realized they had "a large body of great content that our subscribers and customers will consume in a lot of different media," says Interactive Marketing Director Michelle Rutkowski.
One way to offer readers more value while increasing Taunton’s revenues would be to create online paid products -- sites that offered some free content but that required subscriptions to access the rest.
The company created such a site with FineWoodworking.com, which rolled out in November 2005. "We built a big model and projected where we thought we would be, and we're pleased that we're where we think we should be in terms of a business," Rutkowski says.
An interesting case study, and I played a part in the development of FineWoodworking.com, working with Really Strategies and the Taunton folks to develop the requirements, write the RFP, and help choose the vendor, Ektron.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 1:31 PM
December 17, 2006
Another Sign of Life for eBooks?
Simon and Schuster plans to have 12,000+ books from its backlist digitized by the end of ‘07, according to Publishers’ Marketplace. Download sales tripled this year, and DearAuthor credibly believes that “competitive pricing” helped…
December 11, 2006
More on Microsoft Book Search
Again, as I mentioned in another entry, I have not looked too closely at it yet, but Microsoft Book Search has nice behaviour in the basic interface, and the image in this page was clearly digitized with some care.
Borges Manuscripts Lost, Thought Stolen, Then Found
According to an article in the Boston Globe, two handwritten manuscripts by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges owned by a Harvard Square bookstore were found after being lost and presumed stolen. Store owner John W. Wronoski found the manuscripts Monday afternoon, stuck behind a photograph "just by weird chance," he said. "I am inordinately relieved."
The manuscripts included that of a favorite story of mine, "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote."
December 7, 2006
Microsoft Book Search
Microsoft has launched its book search product. My initial reaction is mixed, though I haven't spent much time with it yet. On the one hand, it doesn't seem to work in Firefox (get used to seeing the word "Loading..." if you try to launch it) and it is really slow to start, even in Internet Explorer 6 (I haven't tried it in Explorer 7 yet). On the other hand, the interface for browsing a found book is much more attractive than Google Book Search and the scanning, at a quick glance, seems to be of a signficantly better quality than that on Google Books. Of course, beating Google Books on scanning quality is not exactly difficult.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 8:50 PM
Download a Good Book Lately?
Late in the last millennium I went to grad school, getting my MA in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College. Recently, a writer from the alumni office, Christopher Hennessey, interviewed me about the eBook business, and he ended up writing an excellent article. You can download a PDF of the entire magazine here (about 2.7 MB). I also took the liberty of creating a PDF with just the article itself, which is about 500K.
A hat tip to Christopher for writing an excellent survey of the value of eBooks to date.
Get Your Multimedia House in Order
“Do opportunities exist to call for more digital offerings, and are you prepared to spend wisely toward them? Looking back five years or so, some publishers put the cart before the horse, burning holes in their pockets for expansive digital publishing before the market was really clear.
“For instance, publishers that think they would benefit most from e-books need to know that a market exists, but it is not as big [as they might think] and there are plenty of third-parties who could easily handle production and hosting. On the other hand, medical and legal publishers with enormous electronic potential absolutely need to make a commitment to a digital presence and they need to adjust staff to handle it."
Sound like good advice? I hope it is. I gave it.
December 2, 2006
The State Of Magazine Websites
PaidContent.org points to some research, The State Of Magazine Websites.
(via Buzzmachine) The Bivings Group, which earlier this year did a comprehensive review of newspaper websites, has done it again with magazine websites: it researched the websites of the top 50 most circulated magazines in the U.S. and evaluated them.
Among the findings:
-- RSS feeds: 48 per cent of magazine websites.
-- Message boards/forums: 46 per cent
-- 38 per cent require registration to view all of the site’s content.
-- 38 per cent of the magazines offer at least one reporter blog.
-- Video is an offering on 34 per cent of websites.
-- Just 14 per cent of websites use podcasts and bookmarking; eight percent allow comments on articles; and six per cent use tags.
I want to know about the 52% of websites who have not implemeneted RSS yet. Hello, McFly!
Posted by Bill Trippe at 3:03 PM
Just What is a "Publication"?
From if:book, on today's publications
On November 27 the Pulitzer Prize Board announced that "newspapers may now submit a full array of online material-such as databases, interactive graphics, and streaming video-in nearly all of its journalism categories
November 30, 2006
DOIs for Books Gain Ground
Digital Koans alerts us to the news that DOIs for books are gaining ground.
According to CrossRef, the official DOI registration agency, over a half-million DOIs have been assigned to books or book chapters, and twenty of its members are using DOIs in this fashion. What’s a DOI? Here’s a short description from …
November 22, 2006
Mixing MathML and SGML
Do you have any experience, or know of any instances, of mixing MathML within an SGML document instance? I have a client who is beginning the process of converting an extensive collection of SGML documents, and would like to go ahead and convert the equations first, into MathML, and then insert the equations back into the SGML document instances. One of their services providers is concerned about this. They are citing the SGML character entities in the current document instances versus the need--as they see it--to use Unicode in the MathML. However, as I read the MathML specification, you can still use SGML character entity references as long as you are using the MathML DTD and not the MathML XML Schema (see this section of the MathML recommendation).
Am I reading this correctly? Any experience with this?
I realize there are likely some other issues too, but this one came up in the first discussion...
November 10, 2006
Digitization at HarperCollins
If you are curious what HarperCollins is doing in terms of digitizing its content, this presentation (PDF) from the Frankfurt Book Fair spells it out some. HarperCollins is being aggressive with this. They cited the costs of digitization as an element in their recent disappointing quarterly profit, and clearly are committed to the efforts.
In addition to lower sales, [HarperCollins CEO Jane] Friedman attributed the drop in profits to continued investment in digital and global projects. HC has now digitized 12,000 titles as part of its digital warehouse, and during the quarter it converted 125 books to its new Browse Inside feature, which enables consumers to search HC books from the company's Web site. Friedman estimated HC will be adding 200 to 500 titles a week to the Browse feature. The company's Digital Media Café also launched in the period. "I remain excited by the digital world," Friedman said. HC's China initiatives also ate into profits in the period.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 2:33 PM
November 6, 2006
Perhaps another reason Wikipedia should consider an authentication process for authors.
This is likely a solvable problem, though hackers are determined folks. But the more I think about Wikipedia authoring, the more I think it makes sense for authors to be authenticated.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 3:15 PM
October 27, 2006
Revisiting Amazon aStore
I noticed recently some sales from my Andre Dubus Amazon aStore, so I spent some time today updating it and adding a couple of new features. Check it out, and shop early and often!
Posted by Bill Trippe at 11:38 AM
October 24, 2006
Adobe Digital Editions
Adobe announced Digital Editions today (press release here). Digital Editions is billed as a rich internet application for digital publishing, enabling users to acquire, read, and manage a variety of digital content. There is an obvious match here for eBooks, but the platform also has significance for digital editions of magazines, for example, and other content that would benefit from digital rights management (DRM) support.
Ryan Stewart already has a close look at ZDNet, and considers it "extremely compelling for both content providers and users on a number of fronts." Alan Safford has some more thoughts at PC World. David Utter of Webpronews.com discusses some of the hosting and distribution issues, and highlights that Digital Editions is the first Adobe product based on Flex 2 (a point Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch also mentioned this morning).
UPDATE: Publishers Weekly has more, focusing on the reader interface.
I saw it today, and it looked good. It is a Beta, but the interface is attractive and the performance is terrific. I didn't dig in too much, but what I saw was a set of books with an attractive point-and-click navigation and very quick retrieval and display of the titles in Acrobat and in XHTML. You can download it here. I did, and it installs very quickly and easily.
FURTHER UPDATE: Don Fluckinger has a great overview at PDFZone.com.
AND YET ONE MORE: Bill Rosenblatt has some thoughts on the DRM implications of the new offering.
Blogging Has Been Light
I have been heads down with some project work and writing, so blogging has been light. I am at Adobe Max for a couple of days, and just saw a very cool demo of more integrated Web publishing beginning in Photoshop and extending through Fireworks and Dreamweaver. It was a "future," but I will find out more in a press briefing later today with Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch.
UPDATE: There is a beta program for Fireworks 9 if you are interested in applying.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:40 PM
October 12, 2006
Simon & Schuster’s eBook Blog
Posted by Bill Trippe at 11:58 PM
October 3, 2006
I remember when I first heard about Digital Object Identifiers DOIs and thinking, "great idea... needs critical mass." Well, according to the latest CrossRef Indicators, they have long since passed critical mass.
CROSSREF INDICATORS (September 29, 2006)
Total no. participating publishers & societies 1,683
% of non-profit publishers 64%
Total no. participating libraries 1,107
No. journals covered 15,215
No. DOIs registered to date 22,584,497
No. DOIs deposited in previous month 294,257
No. DOIs retrieved (matched references) in previous month 4,503,094
DOI resolutions (end-user clicks) in previous month 11,007,980
The 11 million plus DOI resolutions is staggering really. That is 11 million clicks on specialized, authoritative content in one month.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:57 PM
September 29, 2006
So Much for the Death of Print
I roll my eyes (well, not really, but figuratively) when I hear people crow too much about the death of print publishing. Clearly, a great deal of publishing is transitioning to electronic distribution, and--just as clearly--publishers are finding slower growth in print products, faster growth in electronic, and improving margins in electronic. But this headline, among others, reminds us that print is not dead.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 9:40 AM
September 27, 2006
Sony Reader Roundup
TeleRead has a good roundup of reviews on the Sony eReader.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 1:24 PM
September 26, 2006
Sony eReader Available
The Sony Portable Reader System PRS-500 is now available. TeleRead has a very thoughtful article about some of the challenges Sony faces. Meanwhile, I keep offering to review the thing, but no word from Sony.
More here from paidContent.org.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 7:54 PM
September 21, 2006
Welcome Back, Peter Gammons
Peter Gammons returned to action for ESPN last night. Gammons, the Hall of Fame baseball writer, had a brain aneurysm in June, and the baseball season hasn't been the same without him. Gammons was the baseball beat writer for the Boston Globe when I was a kid and up through the time I flirted with the idea of being a sportswriter. I covered sports for my college newspaper and was a stringer for the New Bedford Standard-Times during a time when the Globe had an amazing array of sportswriting talent, including Gammons, Bob Ryan, Leigh Montville, and Ray Fitzgerald. Even among them, Gammons was in a class by himself. He created a feature that is now a staple of many sports pages, a weekend "notebook" of short items that runs a full page in the broadside Globe to this day (now written by the Globe's current beat writer, Gordon Edes). I can draw a line from that kind of short-form collection to today's blog. Gammons' blog (for ESPN Insider subscribers unfortunately) has been dormant since his illness, but he does have a new column up (and it's free!).
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:21 AM
September 19, 2006
Russian Math Professor Bypasses Establishment Publishing to Share Breakthrough
Meanwhile, TeleRead shares some news about why hundreds-year old societies may not be the sole arbiter of scientific breakthroughs anymore.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:37 PM
September 13, 2006
Britannica v Wikipedia
Which reminds me of the journal Nature's article on the accuracy of the two works when it comes to science.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:26 PM
September 8, 2006
Note to Google Books
When you scan a page that has an illustration with an overlay, lift the overlay up so the illustration is actually visible. Oh, and make the book square on the scanner bed so the page is not crooked. Oh yeah, and decide whether to scan the whole book in color or in black and white. Of course, you should also be sure there isn't some bizarre problem with the scanner first. And, needless to say, if the scan you end up with is completely nonsensical, you might not want to include it.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:40 PM
September 2, 2006
Google Books Allowing Downloads: Blah, Blah, Blah
There was quite a buzz about Google allowing people to download PDFs of public domain books as of this week. Almost everything I read was incomplete, or wrong, and there was plenty of irrational exuberance. To me, any discussion of downloadable public domain books has to include Project Gutenberg, but few of the articles mentioned it. So much of the coverage is fawning, which means the project is doomed. It really is the dot.bomb era all over again. I suggest the cheerleaders start here and see how shoddy and incompetent the work is.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:18 PM
September 1, 2006
Does learning change when kids use electronic dictionaries instead of paper ones? TeleRead highlights some recent research.
“We can be very optimistic of the potential of these students proving that there will be no detriment to learning using eBooks. This optimism obviously begs continuing research.” - Prof. Richard Ballaver and Nicole Adams, Ball State University
Posted by Bill Trippe at 8:07 PM
August 27, 2006
‘The Complete New Yorker Solves the DVD-swapping Problem
Posted by Bill Trippe at 2:42 PM
August 26, 2006
Google Books Stupid Page of the Day
I don't know, but maybe they were going for an aerial view here? Every page I looked at in this book is badly done. Is this what some of the top libraries in the world want done with books that are nearly 200 years old? And when Willis A. Boughton donated this book to the Harvard libraries in 1933, did he expect the book to be manhandled this way? I go back to an earlier post I wrote, reflecting on how the president of the University of Michigan gushed about the role of Google Books in historic preservation. Did it ever occur to anyone that Google might know how to build a search engine, but they might not have a clue about how to handle and digitize books?
August 20, 2006
Google Books Stupid Page of the Day
But, hey, they've got hyperlinks!
Posted by Bill Trippe at 2:06 PM
August 13, 2006
Dear Sony: Please listen to Jane...
If you have a keen interest in eBook markets and technology, you really should follow the TeleRead blog. This weekend it has a number of fine entries, including Dear Sony: Please listen to Jane about your eBabel problem—if you want to woo romance readers. The advice applies to all kinds of readers, including romance readers.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 6:38 PM
August 12, 2006
Google Books Stupid Page of the Day
Check this out. And then the frontispiece photo, where they apparently failed to notice--or failed to do anything about--an overlay over the page. Once again, Project Gutenberg does it much, much better.
UPDATE: It also occurs to me that Google Books does nothing for the visually impaired, but other eBook efforts do.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 11:37 AM
August 11, 2006
Google Books Stupid Page of the Day
Oy vey. Start here, and keep paging forward. Maybe the person scanning this book was drinking.
August 10, 2006
Wise advice to Amazon
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:15 PM
August 6, 2006
Google Books Stupid Page of the Day
Posted by Bill Trippe at 1:22 PM
Improving eBook Reading
Jon Udell has a practical suggestion for improving the reading experience with eBooks.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:00 PM
July 27, 2006
What is RDF?
Over at XML.com, Joshua Tauberer has updated a very useful article, "What is RDF."
Posted by Bill Trippe at 8:27 PM
July 26, 2006
IDPF OCF 1.0 Updated
According to an email I received today:
An updated version of the Open eBook Publication Structure Container Format (OCF) 1.0 specification has been posted on the IDPF website. The updates to the specification were made based on IDPF member and public comments received to date during the current IDPF Member and Public Review. The review period will end on Friday, August 4th. The IDPF strongly encourages feedback from potential users, developers and others, whether IDPF members or not, for the sake of improving the interoperability and quality of IDPF work. Feedback on the draft specification can be provided here.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 9:55 PM
July 25, 2006
Sony Breaks Its Silence
Sony has been very quiet about their new eBook reader since an initial spate of publicity. But just today I received an email with a few details (not many really). I am reproducing the email here.
I continue to be underwhelmed by their marketing efforts. I contacted their PR folks after the initial announcements last December, and again a month or two ago. Still no word from them.
PICK A NICE SPOT FOR YOUR LIBRARY.
Thank you for your patience and for requesting updates on the
Sony(R) Reader, coming this fall, in time for the holidays.
It holds about 80 electronic books, is as easy to carry as a slim paperback and thanks to electronic paper, just as easy to read. Just load it up with tons of great electronic books from CONNECT(TM) eBooks, and you'll never read the same way again.
Explore the portable reader here.
Breakthrough technology provides clarity that's almost paper- like. View from nearly any angle and adjust text size to your
It's lightweight, thin, and holds about 80 books. More with optional memory cards. So take your own mini-library wherever
LONG BATTERY LIFE
The rechargeable battery allows you to turn up to 7,500
continuous pages on a single charge (when not providing audio).
Designed with variety in mind, CONNECT eBooks will have over 10,000 titles online. You'll find many of the latest bestsellers and a deep catalog including more than 15 categories and over 100 subcategories. From mystery to history, sci-fi to self-help
and more, you're sure to find something to fit your taste.
- Sample titles that will be available at launch.
by Patricia Cornwell from Putnam.
Number 9 on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction best seller list.*
by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner from PerfectBound and Harper Collins.
Number 2 on the New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction best seller list.
The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown from Anchor and Random House.
Number 7 on the New York Times Paperback Fiction best seller list.
Digging to America
by Anne Tyler from Knopf Publishing.
Number 23 on the New York Times Hardcover Fiction best seller list.
- Categories that will be available.
Fiction and Literature
Health, Mind and Body
Mystery and Thrillers
Politics and Government
Resources and Reference
Self Help and Improvement
Posted by Bill Trippe at 3:22 PM
July 17, 2006
eBooks Done Well
Posted by Bill Trippe at 11:00 PM
Google Books Stupid Page of the Day
I subscribe to an RSS feed from Project Gutenberg, which tells me about titles that have been added to their library. One caught my eye today, Fairies and Folk Tales of Ireland, by William Henry Frost. Check out the Frontispiece art, which is just below the fold when you open the eBook. Now check out the same image on Google Books. Heck of a job, Google!
July 7, 2006
Amateur Hour at Google
The more I look at Google Books, the more dismayed I am. Check out the following book about Nathaniel Hawthorne, An Analytical Index to the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne: With a Sketch of His Life. Start here, and then scroll back a page. Why don't they just throw up on the scanner and reproduce that instead?
June 29, 2006
Someone Has a Birthday Today
They say he is 75, but I don't think he looks a day over 47.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 3:34 PM
June 24, 2006
If You Had 20,000 Image Files...
One of my clients is interested in converting 20,000 or so images that are in perpetual use. They get published in very long-living documents that are under continuous review and get republished every few years on average. Currently, the documents are distributed in print and PDF only, so the client has been content to maintain the images as bitmaps--high-resolution TIFFs. This works fine for print, though it is cumbersome for ongoing review and changes, as most of the images are line art.
So now they are thinking about distributing the documents in other formats besides print and PDF. Candidate formats include HTML, various wireless formats, XML, and so on. This has led some of us to think about converting the line drawings images to SVG. But here is where I pause, despite my interest in SVG. SVG makes a lot of sense--it is standards-based, rich enough for their drawings, convertible to other necessary formats, and displayable directly on many devices. Still, I fret about the lack of overall adoption and momentum. These drawings will be used for years--decades in many cases. Does SVG have those kinds of legs?
More Progress on Digital Publishing Standards
I've discovered a blog, written by Bill McCoy, who is General Manager, ePublishing Business, at Adobe, and therefore keenly interested in the eBook business. He weighs in on some recent announcements from the IDPF.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 11:48 AM
June 15, 2006
Google Hacks Together a Shakespeare Site
The eWeek headline was actually Google Launches Shakespeare Site, but like so many of Google's efforts, this is thrown together. I had heard a presentation recently about the flaws in Google's scanning processes. It was done by Lofti Belkhir, whose company, Kirtas Technologies, has amazing book scanning equipment that Google does not use. (Watch the video here, if you have never seen this kind of technology at work. It is very cool.)
Belkhir showed some woefully bad examples of scanned pages at Google Books. I have written about this before, but Belkhir's arguments were really good and his examples were hilarious--especially the visible thumbs on scanned pages. So I decided to take a quick look at the Shakespeare titles in the Google site, and the work is very poor. See the following examples, found in only a few minutes of browsing:
-- Check out the smeared type at the bottom of this page, where the book was clearly not placed on the scanner properly.
-- Look at the faint type in several points on this page. You can find hundreds of pages like this, as they clearly have no method of ensuring consistent quality in the scanning. Note the smeared type at the bottom of this page as well.
-- In fact, just keep advancing through that book, and pretty much all the pages have the same problems.
-- Then you get about ten more pages into it and you have this page, which is much more grey than black and white, as if they made a one-time adjustment in the darkness setting and then went back to the setting where the type is barely legible in places.
-- Check out this page, also with the darkness setting set to high, where you can also see the outline of the text from the opposite side of the page.
-- Flip through Othello starting about here and notice the switch back and forth on brightness controls.
-- What is at the bottom of this page? Fingers?
-- I like this page. What kind of QA process allows that to slip through?
-- Look at the right-hand margin of this page, and, yes, I think that is a finger at the bottom.
-- Ouch. Keep browsing forward; it's bad.
Lots of people do far better work than Google at this kind of thing.
June 8, 2006
Keeping Ratings Trustworthy
Barry Graubart asks some good questions about the value of user ratings such as those at Amazon. His thoughts are similar to ones I offered at my NFAIS presentation last week, but he does a better job of explaining it than I did.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 5:53 PM
June 7, 2006
Publishing to iTunes
Via PaidContent.org, news of PDF Magazine Downloads in iTunes. I have been hearing rumblings about publishing books and magazines to iTunes and, by extension, iPods. Obviously the screen size is an issue right now, but perhaps this suggests some future directions for iPods and other, similar, devices.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 5:32 PM
May 25, 2006
The Changing Face of Content
I will be speaking next Friday, June 2, at an NFAIS event, The Changing Face of Content: Creating Innovative Information Services for the 21st Century. My topic will be user-contributed content. Per the abstract:
A broad range of content is now being created by individuals as a result of readily accessible web tools. While this class of published information is not usually held to the more strict traditional publication process associated with books and journals, it nevertheless often constitutes material worthy of distribution and preservation. This session will focus on the challenges in enhancing the visibility of this new form of content and how such content can be incorporated into digital collections, products and services.
It's a day-long event, right in center city Philadelphia, and registration is still open.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 3:44 PM
May 24, 2006
Quark 7.0 is Out, But Does Anyone Care?
Over at the Gilbane blog, I ask and answer the question, Quark 7.0 is Out, But Does Anyone Care?
UPDATE: Thad McIlroy thinks you should.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 5:52 PM
May 22, 2006
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:05 AM
AP reporter Hillel Italie gives us a view into angst at Book Expo America. As much as I love the technology of publishing, one phrase caught my eye--"the shrinkage of reading time." That is something we should all worry about, if true. But are people reading less, or are they reading differently?
Posted by Bill Trippe at 9:45 AM
May 20, 2006
Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 has a great piece on irrational exuberance over MySpace.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:40 AM
May 15, 2006
7500 Words and Nothing's On
What happens when you write 7500 words about digitizing books without mentioning the words "markup" or "XML"? You get a breathless conclusion that, "the technology of search will transform isolated books into the universal library of all human knowledge."
Why do so many people who discuss this issue ignore the fact that there are better ways to develop digital text, and that the approach of Google, et al, could reasonably be judged to be mediocre at best? All you have to do is look at the average journal publisher today to see much better, more flexible, and more powerful ways to do this job.
April 29, 2006
Microsoft Gets Into eNews Business
Via Dave Winer, I learn that Microsoft is getting into the newspaper facsimile business. This is a space now occupied by folks like Zinio and Newsstand. Zinio and Newsstand have had modest success. Will Microsoft enjoy more simply because they are Microsoft? The reader being built right into Vista helps of course, but the functionality will have to be attractive and useful. I wonder if a demo is available out there...
UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis is unimpressed. I left a comment over there.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:12 PM
April 27, 2006
HarperCollins First Looks
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:06 PM
April 16, 2006
More Poetry Podcasts
So I remarked briefly on the poetry podcasts that Houghton Mifflin will be hosting, but of course they are not the first in the pool. I found a great poetry podcast site at the University of Chicago, which includes a favorite, C. D. Wright. Favorite line, "If I were a felon, I would be home now."
Posted by Bill Trippe at 1:06 PM
April 11, 2006
Sony Reader: Borders Yes, B&N No
The news about Sony Reader continues to be mixed. Borders will stock it, but Barnes & Noble won't.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 8:38 AM
April 9, 2006
A Few Changes
I added a few more categories, and am going through the process now of re-tagging some old entries. I now have separate categories for publishing, baseball, and poetry. They only go back a few months right now, but that will grow as I have more time to re-tag older entries. I also have a nascent category on RSS, as I expect to write more about that in the future.
UPDATE: Oops. I failed to mention an obvious thing. I have disabled trackback pings, and have decided to default to "no comments" on entries, though I will open up some entries to comments. I have been dealing with too much comment and trackback spam (and some other related abuse, such as referral spam), so I had to take a few corrective actions.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:35 PM
April 8, 2006
Folio Magazine has listed their Folio 40, "the oldest and most prestigious list honoring publishers who’ve had a significant impact on their own products and the magazine industry in general." It honors individuals, and this year included Jon Udell. Jon is always worth reading, Folio is to be commended for recognizing Jon's leadership among technology writers, and Jon offered a gracious acknowledgment. But I couldn't help but be struck by the irony that Folio, a magazine about the magazine industry, is smart enough to recognize Jon but does not have an obvious RSS feed.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:47 AM
April 6, 2006
UPDATE: The site seems to be up now and lists upcoming podcasts from Ron Slate, Natasha Trethewey, Michael Collier, David Tucker, and, a favorite of mine, Galway Kinnell.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 2:05 PM
April 4, 2006
Publishers Weekly: Borders to Sell Sony eBook Reader
According to Publishers Weekly, Sony has signed a deal with Borders for that retailer to sell the Sony Reader at 200 stores when the e-book device comes out this summer. This sounds like a good retail channel for the reader itself, but the article also says the content will all be sold through Sony Connect, which is not a very strong portal.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 4:21 PM
April 3, 2006
Safari Books Online Announces Executive Hires
Posted by Bill Trippe at 1:44 PM
March 30, 2006
Publishing Strategy and Technology
The Gilbane San Francisco Conference is coming up, and Frank has announced a new special pass for people interested in attending just the Automated Publishing Track. The pass sells for $495 and allows you to attend all the automated publishing sessions April 24th & April 25th, sit in on our opening keynote, visit the exhibits, and join us for the sponsor reception on Tuesday April 25th. For more information on the track, click here.
The sessions with the AP prefix, AP-1, AP-2, etc., make up the Automated Publishing track.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:30 PM
March 18, 2006
Google and Amazon
John Battelle suggests Amazon and Google are on a collision course. I get his point, especially given the example he cites. But Amazon has built perhaps the best eCommerce engine in the world, and Google has coughed up dross like this.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 9:54 AM
February 28, 2006
The Long Tail, Redux
Gerry McGovern has some contrarian ideas on The Long Tail.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 8:05 AM
February 21, 2006
More Thoughts on eBook Market
Burt Helm, who does a solid job of covering electronic publishing at Business Week, has a new article on the potential for the eBook market. He discusses the Sony device again, and also speculates on what Apple might be up to. (Which reminds me that I havent heard from the Sony PR person yet.)
As I have said in a couple of places (here and here), having a good device is one thing, but you also need excellent foolproof sites for marketing the content and supporting the customers. I had a bear of a time with my older son's Napster installation this past weekend. A hiccup in his membership led to several hours of troubleshooting, and eventually led me to reinstall the firmware on his MP3 player. I have to say the Napster tech support was mediocre at best--and this after 20 minutes on hold. The Creative Labs folks (maker of his Zen Micro MP3 player) were excellent. They knew eactly what steps to walk me through, and were very systematic about it. So good device, and good technical support on the device, but the site definitely let him down.
February 16, 2006
I am downloading and will be looking at the vitalsource bookshelf, an eBook reader and manager that one of my clients is interested in. So far, I like what I see. The installation went smoothly, and I went through their bookstore and selected a few free titles and a demo title (a seven-day license to the first four chapters of an introductory calculus text).
The downloading has a nice feature where you can immediately open a book as it finishes downloading, even when you have a number of other books in queue.
I have begun looking at some of the eBooks. The reader has a very simple interface (a good thing in my "book"), but I haven't quite grasped the basic navigation ideas yet. The basic rendering looks excellent, though the calculus book is a workbook, so it is hard to judge if the math is dumbed down or if the original typsetting of the book was as simple as the eBook seems to be.
I will be digging a little deeper.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 1:13 PM
Sony eBook Device Again
Over at DRM Watch, Bill Rosenblatt has some thoughts about whether the new Sony eBook Device will have an impact on the moribund eBook market. Bill focuses, naturally, on some of the DRM aspects of the device, and sees their execution on this product as a good test of their new DRM strategy. I agree with Bill, especially since Sony stumbled so badly recently with their music DRM. But I also think the success of the eBook device also depends on Sony Connect, which is, well, er, ummm, lame.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:37 PM
February 10, 2006
International Conference of the Book
I received an invitation to propose a paper for the 4th annual International Conference of the Book. Turns out it is put on by my former graduate program in Writing, Literature and Publishing at Emerson College.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 4:02 PM
Journal of Electronic Publishing
Via DigitalKoans, I learned that UMichigan's Journal of Electronic Publishing has relaunched. Among the articles in the new edition: Joseph Esposito on, "What if Wal-Mart Ran a Library?" and Geoffrey Bilder on, "In Google We Trust?"
Posted by Bill Trippe at 2:12 PM
February 7, 2006
UMichigan Stands up for Google Print
I am not a fan of Google Print, but some people are. Via John Battelle's SearchBlog, here is a speech (PDF) by Mary Sue Coleman, President of the University of Michigan. She addressed the Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers yesterday and explained the university's enthusiastic participation in the program. She makes some great points--and is very eloquent. I share her enthusiasm for digital preservation, but I still don't get why it's Google's job, especially when they are doing a mediocre job of it. If I were President Coleman, I would contain my enthusiasm until better partners--and better processes--come along.
UPDATE: I am clearly in the minority on this one. Peter Morville at findability.org was also very impressed with President Coleman's remarks.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 11:33 AM
January 23, 2006
Safari's Rough Cuts
Via Joe Wikert, I learned about a new offering from O'Reilly's Safari service, where readers can get an advanced look at manuscripts in process. According to the press release, "Readers who buy a Rough Cuts title get immediate access to an evolving manuscript. They can read the book online or download and print a PDF version. The initial version of a Rough Cuts book will not be fully edited, subjected to final technical review, or completely formatted." Joe likes the idea, but wonders whether enough early adopters will want to pay for it.
I think it is a great way for O'Reilly to get people to pay for the privilege of editing their books. Also noted in the press release, "Using the Rough Cuts service’s built-in Notes feature, readers can send feedback, suggestions, bug fixes, and comments directly to the author and editor."
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:56 AM
January 17, 2006
Open Content Alliance
The Open Content Alliance has posted its work plan for 2006. It certainly looks like a lot of work.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 9:40 PM
January 16, 2006
That Sony eBook Device
I mentioned some speculation about a new Sony eBook reader that was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. There are some details out on the Sony Web site, but apparently it will not be available until Spring. I sent a note to the Sony PR person to inquire about a review copy.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:07 PM
A British Take on eBooks
You can find some very bullish views about eBooks in this article.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 9:56 PM
January 12, 2006
So who said print was dead? TV Guide redesigns their magazine and increases newsstand sales by 38%. I've never been a subscriber, so I don't know what the redesign does for their existing readers, but clearly there is some appeal to the newly designed product. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of the death of print were greatly exaggerated. Indeed, the equations of print vs online are more complicated than merely "print will shrink as online grows."
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:03 PM
January 10, 2006
Google Books: The Other Shoe Drops?
This article seems to suggest yes and, um, no. If they do go into the online bookstore business, they need to do a better job than they have with Google Video. And, once again, a major company manages to misstep on DRM.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 5:22 PM
January 8, 2006
The Long Tail
OK, I'm slow sometimes. I finally got around to reading Chris Anderson's article, "The Long Tail," some fifteen months after it first appeared and 10 months after Frank Gilbane commented on its relevence to enterprise software. It had caught on enough that I understood the basic idea, but the article is definitely worth reading, as is Anderson's blog. I find myself agreeing with the overall premise and a lot of his ideas, but he is enamored of some things that I am not terribly impressed with. Google Print comes up again and again, and all I can conclude about Google Print is that the search is only decent, the navigation frustrating, and the page rendering is often abysmal (see here, here, and here for examples I found in a couple of minutes of random searching, and I have seen worse). I look at Google Print as a potential model that can exploit the long tail, but a crude and early attempt at something that will be done much better in the future--either by a later version of this product or an entirely different product. Of course, Yahoo and others are in the game too, and publishers such as Random House and Harper Collins seem to want to take things into their own hands. And while the details of these books-on-demand models get worked out, I am sure Anderson will be most directly pleased if you simply buy his upcoming book.
Apart from my nitpicks about some of Anderson's examples, the ideas are important--and I think very important for publishers. Anderson says it best himself in the original article (bolded emphasis mine):
What's really amazing about the Long Tail is the sheer size of it. Combine enough nonhits on the Long Tail and you've got a market bigger than the hits. Take books: The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are (see "Anatomy of the Long Tail"). In other words, the potential book market may be twice as big as it appears to be, if only we can get over the economics of scarcity. Venture capitalist and former music industry consultant Kevin Laws puts it this way: "The biggest money is in the smallest sales."
I hear this in different ways all the time from publishers who are ahead of the curve in electronic distribution of their content. Journal publishers who provide sales of single articles have found customers who would never have bought an entire subscription. Speciality publishers who have digitized old manuscripts and back issues of publications are finding small but whole new audiences for their content. The examples--and Anderson's ideas--are compelling and instructive.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 6:00 PM
January 5, 2006
Scanning my log files, I tracked down a blog that was new to me: Joe Wikert's Book Publisher Blog, with the subtitle Book Writing, Publishing and Technology Perspectives. It looks like Joe is an editor at Wiley, and his blog is full of great material on the publishing business. The author's tips alone are worth it, but he also has some valuable posts on the various roles in a publishing company. Small world department: Joe's blog led me to another publishing blog, that of Chris Webb, who edited the DRM book that I helped write.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 7:27 PM
January 4, 2006
eBook Fare: Bestsellers, SciFi, Reference, and More
The International Digital Publishing Forum has announced their eBook best seller list for 2005. It's an interesting mix, including traditional bestsellers (Dan Brown dominates the list), SciFi and Fantasy (Star Wars Episode III topped the charts), and staples like bibles and dictionaries. Here's the top ten, with their retail price.
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith by George Lucas (Del Rey, $7.99)
- The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (Doubleday, $14.95)
- Angels & Demons by Dan Brown (Pocket Books, $6.99)
- State of Fear by Michael Crichton (HarperCollins, $7.99)
- Digital Fortress by Dan Brown (St. Martin's Press, $5.99)
- Embers Falling on Dry Grass by Robert Jordan (Simon & Schuster, Inc., $3.50)
- Deception Point by Dan Brown (Pocket Books, $6.99)
- Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (Merriam-Webster, $25.95)
- Holy Bible, New International Version (Zondervan, $14.99)
- The Narrows by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, $5.95)
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:22 AM
December 30, 2005
The iPod of eBook Readers?
Burt Helm, who covers digital publishing for Business Week, has a new article speculating on a new eBook device from Sony. Sony hasn't said much about it yet, but details will be announced at the Consumer Electronics Show on January 4. Helm is reporting that Random House, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster will be offering content on the new device.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 4:27 PM
November 21, 2005
Random House Pushes Back
(For some background, the blog, DigitalKoans, has a useful bibliography.)
I called Random House, but they wouldn't comment on the details of any relationship, so what I am about to say is purely speculation. But it seems to me that Random House is saying the digitization and control of their books is their job, and not Google's, and I wonder if this might play out in a certain way.
1. They opt out of the Google program and do their own digitization.
2. They post their digital files on a public web site for wide searching but controlled distribution.
3. They make their own arrangement with Google Book Search, offering limited rights to their own digitized files--or not. They would already be in organic Google results, and Google wouldn't shut them out because they're Random House and represent too much of the book business.
That seems to the kind of control Random House is aiming at. This gives them organic search results in Google, with the specific Book Search results as well, if they want them. It also has the effect of calling Google's bluff. I mean, if Google is only doing this for altruistic reasons, why not let the publishers do their own digitization?
This makes a lot of sense to me. And, Random House aside, I would certainly take this approach if I were a publisher. Publishers have compelling reasons to digitize anyway—for marketing purposes alone, even if eBooks continue to yield small revenues. And the options for digitizing seem to be getting cheaper by the minute. If I'm a publisher, why should I cede the business to Google?
Posted by Bill Trippe at 4:32 PM
December 13, 2004
Is QuarkXPress Giving Way to InDesign?
I have an article in the new Seybold Report that asks and attempts to answer this question. At this writing, the article is available to subscribers only, but if they put it on the free portion of the Web site, I will let you know. The following is from the introduction to the article.
A tip of the hat to friend and colleague Kate Binder of Prospect Hill Publishing Services who had some great ideas for the article and offered the best quotes.
Since the early 1990s, QuarkXpress has been the leading desktop publishing tool. Many products have tried but failed to knock QuarkXPress from its perch over the years. Some of us are even old enough to remember one-time products such as Manhattan Graphics' ReadySetGo!, and many industry followers rooted in vain for challengers such as Aldus PageMaker (the product eventually acquired by Adobe).
Indeed, despite the overwhelming leadership of its flagship product, Quark Inc. as a company seemed determined to breathe life into its competitors by infuriating its customer base with half-hearted customer support and onerous licensing terms. Year after year, however, QuarkXPress maintained its dominant market position.
In this desktop publishing war, all eyes have been on Adobe since it introduced InDesign in 1999. Publishers and creative professionals have watched the development of Adobe InDesign closely, and many of them evaluated the earliest releases. While a critical mass of new users was not ready to switch to InDesign 1.0 and 2.0 releases, users were clearly tuned into the emerging product and returned to evaluate it with each new release.
September 3, 2004
Is InDesign Gaining Traction?
For an upcoming Seybold Report article, I am looking at InDesign and where it seems to be gaining traction against QuarkXpress. This was definitely a theme at the Seybold conference, where I spoke to several large book and magazine publishers who are in the middle of making the switch.
I will be interviewing some folks from Adobe next week, and have put together the following list of questions so far. Any others you would like to see asked?
First, what is it about the CS release of InDesign that has convinced companies that this is the version to trust for production? Is this a matter of CS having the right feature list? Stability? Performance? Platform support? Integration with other tools (InCopy, Illustrator, PhotoShop)?
Second, how does InDesign compare with QuarkXpress in terms of core composition and pagination features? Is it fair to say that InDesign CS is competitive with QuarkXpress on a feature-by-feature basis? If I were to create a matrix of composition and pagination features (or examine ones from Adove and Quark), how would the two products stack up? Where does Quark still lead the way? Where does InDesign lead the way?
Coming at InDesign more from the editorial side, two things seem to be attractive about it: support for XML and ability to integrate InDesign in a workflow where text needs to be "roundtripped" through a lot of editorial iterations. Can you comment on these things? Specifically:
-- How does InDesign support XML? Does it maintain XML throughout the process? If so, does it handle any XML schema? Only a single one? Same questions for InCopy.
-- What are some of the workflows involving XML? Are customers using XML in the editorial process and then publishing through InDesign where InDesign is kind of a black box? Are they using XML in the editorial process and then publishing through InDesign in a more iterative process where there is a lot of export in and out of InDesign back to XML?
EDITORIAL WORKFLOW--INDESIGN AND INCOPY
-- What about InDesign and InCopy? Precisely how do the products support iterative design and editorial work where both tools are used? What underlying data structure is maintained for the text and other elements while all of this editorial work is going on?
-- What about the combination of InDesign and InCopy with third-party content management platforms, such as those from Managing Editor? Do some of these questions of workflow and XML maintenance and support get answered by the third-party tools?
INDESIGN AND MULTICHANNEL PUBLISHING
-- The above questions go to the point of InDesign/InCopy as a "hub" for multichannel publishing. Publishers who have iterative and design-centric workflows have been "locked in" to tools such as QuarkXpress, where the "master" version of the content is locked into a complex, design-heavy, and proprietary format. In such a workflow, only the print can be most efficiently done, and the other formats--HTML, wireless, syndication format--lag in the process. For some types of publishers, these other formats have proven to be expensive and cumbersome to produce, even as they become increasingly important to the business (or, worse, not! where they are "must have" additional formats that do not neceassrily bring additional revenue).
(long windup to the question...)
-- So does InDesign solve this problem? Can it be a better "hub" for multichannel publishing? Why?
PLATFORM SUPPORT, INTEGRATION
-- What about platform support? Mac vs Windows? What impact is this having?
-- What about integration with the rest of the Adobe creative suite? Does this differ materially from what people can do with Quark?
-- What about the programmability of InDesign? I hear from developers that InDesign has better support for programmers who want to automate steps in the workflow? I even heard at one point that InDesign's APIs are designed in a modular fashion, allowing developers to address individual elements of the InDesign functionality? Is this true? In general, how does the programmability of InDesign compare with QuarkXpress?
-- What about performance, support for humongous files, creating PostScript/PDF, other areas that heavy production users would worry about?
May 18, 2004
Steady Growth Ahead for Book Publishers
According to the Book Industry Study Group, book publishers will see modest growth over the next several years, with the educational segments of the market promising the healthiest expansion:
Annual consumer expenditures for books will reach $44 billion by 2008, according to Book Industry TRENDS 2004. Trade, mass-market and professional publishing revenues will rise roughly 10 percent between now and then. Revenue growth will be higher still for university press and college publishers, but the most significant growth will be in the elhi and standardized-test segments of the industry, with respective increases of more than 20 and 45 percent.
This larger trend seems to track with my own observation that educational publishers are in a spending mode on technology. This is good. As they experience growth, the technology investment can help them maintain and perhaps even improve on profitability amidst the growth.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 11:15 PM
April 27, 2004
DRM for Electronic Editions
One of the more interesting DRM and electronic publishing applications I have seen recently is the combined product and service offering from NewsStand, Inc..
NewsStand offers, essentially, WYSIWYG distribution of periodicals through a secure reader. They have some prominent publishers already, including major newspapers such as The New York Times and Boston Globe and high-value periodicals such as The Harvard Business Review.
For an indepth presentation about NewsStand from Michele Chaboudy, Chief Marketing Officer, please click here. This presentation was originally given at the DRM conference in New York City earlier this month.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:30 PM
April 10, 2004
eBooks Show Life
Remember when everyone thought eBooks would be the next big thing? The apex of the hype was the fall of 2000 when there were two e-book conferences in New York one week apart. At the same moment speakers were trumpeting the advent of a billion dollar market, someone at the other end of the hall was already calling in the sell orders to their broker.
Here we are more than three years later, and there is, in fact, en eBook market. It is smaller than hyped of course, but it has proven to be some nice incremental revenue for some of the trade publishers. The Open eBook Forum (OeB) reported that retailers enjoyed $2.59M in eBook revenue for the quarter ended September 30, 2003 (their latest public numbers), an increase of 37% over the same quarter the year before. Not billions clearly, but modestly good numbers that are trending in the right direction.
I also like the latest news from OeB, their decision to produce a monthly eBook Bestseller List. The first published list is notable for how much it looks like any other bestseller list, and also where it differs. Thus we have books such as The Da Vinci Code (#1, go figure!) and Richard Clarke's Against All Enemies, which came in at #8. However, you also have books that don't often appear on general bestseller lists, such as Peter Hamilton's space opera, Pandora's Star, at #3.
More significant to the list are the refererence books—a bible, a dictionary, and a thesaurus. We all know bibles to be perennial good sellers, but so too are staple reference works such as dictionaries. Everyone has to have a dictionary in their home, and I like the idea that many people apply the same rule to their computers and PDAs. There is room in these devices for other reference materials as well.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 6:13 PM
March 9, 2004
Outsell Finds Market for Paid Content to be Larger than Thought
Outsell does excellent research about the publishing and information industries. They have some new research that suggests the market for paid content is much larger than previously thought. To quote briefly from their press release:
"Outsell, Inc. ... today released startling new analysis revealing the online paid content market to be 35 times larger than commonly reported. A new Outsell Briefing, Content Vendor Best Practices: Busting Up Fee Vs. Free, provides specific and actionable information for content vendors and information users alike. The Briefing includes profiles of more than 100 successful content providers focused on blended business models that create value for their users. Rather than worrying about fee OR free, innovative companies are taking a wide-open, both/and approach, creating a very large and often misrepresented market and ending the fee vs. free debate. "
I am not at all surprised by this. Indeed, I think the market for paid Internet content is undercounted—as is the market for paid internet advertising. There is a lot of good news out there for publishers.
However, the ability to capitalize on these opportunities depends on publishers being able to deploy multichannel publishing technology at a reasonable and predictable cost.
For publishers, the Internet can seem like a conundrum. In the midst of so much plenty, why is there so little real revenue? Indeed, the opportunity defines the challenge--so many potential opportunities, and yet so many of them are unproven.
Publishers are used to a model where they can focus on predicting audience and revenue against a relatively well-known set of costs. The Web, for all its potential, is still unformed, and few business models have any kind of track record.
Complicating matters is the difficult question of predicting costs. Many Web development efforts have not just proven costly--they have often suffered from cost overruns, unmet expectations, and enormous hidden costs. Add to this the constant change in technical requirements and infrastructure, and publishers are left with often staggering challenges.
Building a Web infrastructure is a complex, highly technical undertaking that many organizations are unprepared to face. Research from CAP Ventures and elsewhere suggests that as many as 60% of in-house Web development and integration efforts fail, and are abandoned at significant cost over time.
Publishers who consider building their own systems face high costs of software and integration, and the need to maintain and upgrade the system over time. Publishers are not typically staffed for this kind of operation, and even may not have necessary skills and experience to contract for this work efficiently.
Any single component application of a Web site is itself complex and difficult to select, install, and customize. Yet integration of multiple component applications is even harder. Even a component technology such as a search engine, long considered "commodity" software, is difficult to integrate across a complex Web site to the point where the end user is ensured a consistent experience across the site.
Publishers who seek partners are often faced with "all or nothing" proposals that bind them to larger portals that could well cannibalize or overtake their own business.
Further complicating things is the perceived need to move quickly, even in the face of partial information.
Even in cases where the initial Web development effort has been completed somewhat successfully, the publisher is likely left with a maintenance headache. Systems and subsystems change so quickly, by the time the project is completed, major components of the system will likely needed to be upgraded or swapped out.
So What to Do?
The key is to effectively manage all aspects of the technology that supports your publishing. This begins with basic questions such as, "Should we even try to do this ourselves, or should we look at options for partnering, outsourcing, or relying on an Application Service Provider (ASP)?" If you are not the kind of organization that is accustomed to running a lot of technology, you should think twice before trying to run a complex publishing operation on your own.
Just my thoughts, as usual. I would love to hear from others on this topic.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 1:01 PM
January 4, 2004
Does Context Rule?
In the fall of 2000, there was a spate of e-book conferences--two in New York, one week apart, for example--and the same sorts of arguments about the advantages of digital content for publishers were once again trotted out. There's the lower publication costs point, together with the felling of fewer trees angle. There's the faster time to market due to virtual distribution across the Web, and because the aforementioned trees don't have to get chopped, chewed, and rolled out for printing presses. There's the "digital document is better " docket, where the tried and true search and retrieval achievements are pointed to, along with other usability improvements such as the ability to cut and paste, annotate, and customize dynamic documents. Updating information, integrating information, navigating information, and disseminating information are all part of the "digital is better" formation.
E-books are still with us, of course, but they never lived up to their hype. I remember sitting in one of these e-book conferences and trying to decide which was the better metaphor--e-book as 8-track tape, or e-book as videotext.
Just because these arguments can be mapped across a few decades--back to the online information services of the 1970s, through the first blush of CD-ROM in the 1980s, and right up to the Internet and Web and enterprise portals of today--doesn't take away from the force of these convictions. On the other hand, after so long a time this argument has been made--and as variously applied as it has been--there's a certain impulse to say, Been there, done that.
In fact, despite the presence of new digital content delivery platforms in the form of e-book readers, there is little new coming out of such conferences about e-books that goes much further than offering--ironically--an electronic analog of the print book. Never mind some of the new wrinkles being brought to bear in the digital publishing scene, of which digital rights management (DRM) has been thrust to the fore, right along with (and in the case of XrML, in combination with) XML-based content tagging and management systems.
As important as DRM and standards-based content management are to rational, efficient, and cost-effective document and information serving, and yes, even if that document is a book, there remains one challenge that often still comes up short: getting users of digital document systems the exactly right content these users need at the exactly right time these users need it. While it is a great idea to get any content seeker the content he or she seeks, most of the real action of managing digital information is taking place within companies that have a real ROI interest to motivate good content handling, and among these businesses' partners and value chain participants.
Giving Content in Context
For enterprises wishing to benefit from the creation and management of content portals, the challenge is clear. Systems that manage content without managing the context fail.
Searching for content is a frustratingly difficult and easily overwhelming exercise. This is true even as search engines are increasingly bolstered by technologies and processes to help make them more effective--spiders, meta-data, standardized taxonomies, and human editorial intervention. The problem of course is an ever-greater avalanche of data. The projections for simply and effectively finding content are dire, and hardly a case of Chicken Little; for example, where there were less than 200,000 web sites in 1995, there are, a half-decade later, 22 million, and these numbers don't include most intranet sites that are closed off to Web indexing efforts by firewalls.
The Web's promise (among others) is to improve communication both within and outside the enterprise. To succeed, however, customizing the content delivered to employees, partners, and customers becomes important.
Getting Personal about Content
Personalization requires enterprises to have the means to capture information--the term "profiles" is typically used--about the information users. These profiles need to be useful in directing specific content to those profiled, which means that an enterprise also needs to know about its own content and, if used, third party content.
There are many elements that can be used to deliver content in context. These include:
� Registering content meta-data for Web and enterprise-wide search engines
� Implementing effective search engines (e.g., relevancy)
� Collecting and managing profiles of site users (e.g., personalization engines)
� Creating and maintaining taxonomies of content (e.g., subject classifications)
� Identifying communities of interest (e.g., portals)
� Enabling pass-along content delivery (e.g., superdistribution using DRM)
� Sending email content offers/links to profiled users
Some companies rely on powerful search engines that possess tools such as relevancy ranking, natural language query, built-in thesauruses, contextual hit results, and other improvements to the electronic searching.. Other companies simply rely of self-selection of its content users, where the assumption--as in the case of many enterprise and vertical portals--that the focus of the site carries enough implied context. The more effective solutions, of course, are those that use as many contextual content delivery strategies as possible.
The more robust, detailed, and accurate the meta-data, the easier it is to find content in huge content bases and return find hits and serve the content itself. If such search effectiveness is tied to personalization profiles that track a content user's interests and requirements and content delivery mechanisms, content delivered in context becomes powerful indeed.
But for enterprises today, perhaps the biggest benefit is gained by mastering how enterprise content can be served into specific contexts within the business process and partner chains, to deliver more on the promise of automation. Look for such management of content (which could be called "syndication") to play a growing role in tying the information of the enterprise to the many different parts of the enterprise's business actions.
(My thanks to David Guenette, who collaborated with me on an earlier version of this article.)
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:21 AM
November 11, 2003
Houghton Mifflin eReference
One of my clients, Houghton Mifflin, has launched a new e-commerce Web site for their eReference product line. eReference is a downloadable version of the Fourth Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary and a companion thesaurus, Roget's II: The New Thesaurus. eReference has the full databases of each of these two fine books, with a number of interactive features including search, spell correction, and spoken pronunciations.
The databases have been created and maintained in XML, and the electronic version stores XML-encoded entries that are converted to HTML on the fly for display and printing. The database, supporting software, and multimedia elements make this, in my opinion, the best tool of its kind on the market. The eReference tool is downloaded to your hard drive, and will eventually accommodate other reference works that Houghton is producing. My congratulations to Houghton Mifflin on the successful launch of this new product.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 3:01 PM
November 6, 2003
Full-Text Indexing of Books at Amazon
Amazon.com has rolled out a new feature, where the full text of about 100,000 books is indexed. I did some basic testing with the DRM book I co-wrote, and am pleased with the results. The idea of so much "finished" text being available on the Web is an intriguing one. This does bring the Web (a small step) closer to being an interconnected network of essential human knowledge, and it will be interesting to see how people end up using the search.
October 13, 2003
Applications of Internet Publishing
At the request of Mark Cummings, VP and Publisher at Scholastic Library Publishing, I was a guest lecturer at a class he is teaching at NYU, Principles and Applications of Publishing on the Internet. The class has been delving into some real nuts and bolts--how a reference publisher, for example, goes about digitizing and structuring their content for effective publishing on the Web.
It was interesting to speak to a group of graduate students, some of whom are already working in the field and some of whom hope to. As I said to them, I spend so much time speaking with other technical people in the field, I am guilty of speaking too much in the jargon of the industry.
They are using The Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing as a text. Mark Walter and I co-wrote the chapter on content management.
If you would like to see the slide presentation from the NYU talk, you can download it here. My thanks to reader Brian Casey for taking the PowerPoint and creating the PDF.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 1:45 PM
September 15, 2003
More XML-Based Publishing?
Seybold was a very busy week for me, so I didn't really get a chance to step back and really think about what trends seemed to be represented there. However, it does seem like there is more XML-based publishing going on. And this includes publishing to print, through desktop engines such as Quark Express and Adobe InDesign.
The conversations I had on the show floor seemed to indicate this expanded emphasis on XML comes largely from the requirement for simultaneous output to print, the Web, and other electronic formats. Nothing new there, of course, but the reality seems to be setting in that multiple output publishing is here to stay. As I have said elsewhere, conventional wisdom says everyone's "second business is publishing"; now everyone's second business is multiple output publishing. So, if that is the case, and XML does the job, it follows to use XML, doesn't it? Not always, of course, but apparently in more and more cases.
I hope that this new emphasis doesn't lead people down a path of complex, nearly impossible implementations of XML. Most documents can be supported by very simple XML Document Type Definitions (DTDs) or schemas, some of which are already in the public domain. (Although some of the public domain ones are also over-engineered and difficult to implement, too, so be careful there as well.) Keep the initial implementation very simple, starting with a pilot and going from there.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 10:59 PM
September 9, 2003
Is DRM Emerging Again?
Seybold has more about Digital Rights Management than I thought it might, given the relative softness in the market. Bill Rosenblatt did an all-day intensive yesterday, and has an excellent keynote session scheduled for tomorrow, The Great Digital Copyright Debate.
Bill has lined up excellent speakers for this:
--Joe Kraus, Co-founder, Digitalconsumer.org
--Tim O'Reilly, Founder & President, O'Reilly & Associates
--Dean Marks, Senior Vice President, Intellectual Property, Corporate Business Development and Strategy, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Bill himself is a great moderator and speaker, and this is a stellar lineup. It should be a great session.
It's interesting, though most likely a coincidence, that Microsoft last week announced availability of their Windows Rights Management client. A number of people see Microsoft's Rights Management Services as a springboard for a lot of development. Perhaps Microsoft's client application will get some traction, and fuel more development of DRM solutions.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 12:43 PM
September 8, 2003
Seybold San Francisco 2003
Seybold San Francisco has always been my favorite trade show. You can't beat the locale, of course, but I have also found it to always be upbeat, informative, and a great indicator of the current marketplace. I will be reporting from here over the next several days. Wednesday will likely be a quiet day for reporting, as I am moderating the day-long XML-Web Services event (discussed elsewhere in the blog). I have a couple of current projects that will drive some of my research; in particular I have been thinking about Web Services style integration, and a couple of familiar (for me) but somewhat older topics--technical documentation in XML and ebooks (of all things!).
Posted by Bill Trippe at 8:51 PM
August 20, 2003
XML and Print Publishing
One of the traditional arguments for document and content management is that, "everyone's 'second business' is publishing." That is, regardless of the nature of your business or organization, you are in the information creation and distribution business, so you would be wise to automate it.
If that traditional argument still holds true, then everyone's second business is still publishing--but now to both in print and to the Web. Why? To paraphrase Mark Twain, the death of print has been greatly exaggerated. Indeed, print is not going away, even as the Web becomes an essential channel for organizational communications of all types--marketing, sales, and customer support to name a few.
The result is a new, compound requirement for organizations--to efficiently manage the flow of content into printed form, while at the same time getting this same content out to the Web. The task is made more challenging as organizations try to do this multichannel publishing economically--and with a mix of platforms for content creation, print production, and Web distribution.
If this problem sounds vaguely familiar, it is. Multichannel publishing is a more common problem because of the Web, but it is not an entirely new problem. Since the 1980s, organizations have been looking to distribute their information in ways besides print. CD-ROM was a popular format at one point, but it was overlapped by the Web--with its ubiquity and low cost of entry for basic communication.
Not only is the problem an old one, but the solution happens to be as well. In the 1980s and 1990s, organizations looked to an ISO standard called SGML--the Standard Generalized Markup Language. The promise of SGML was that you could capture content in a way that was format neutral--and then publish it to as many formats as you needed. "In the early days of SGML it was considered a breakthrough to mark up a document in a way that let it be published on more than one imaging device," noted Jon Parsons, Director of Product Marketing at XyEnterprise, a longtime vendor of content management and electronic publishing technology. "Then came the idea that that same generically marked content could also be published in a browsable version on CD."
Indeed, some organizations implemented SGML-based publishing systems, and a few were able to realize significant productivity gains from this approach. In the end, though, SGML proved to be too expensive and too complex for the average organization. Just as CD-ROM gave way to the Web, SGML would also give way to a generalized markup language that was more suited to the Web.
The eXtensible Markup Language (XML) was conceived by the World Wide Web Consortium as a "lighter weight" SGML that was more suitable for the wide distribution and HTML-oriented browsers of the Web. The thinking--correct then and correct now--was that HTML was too irregular and too format-oriented, and SGML was too complex. XML, then, emerged as a relatively simpler way to encode content in a format-neutral manner that would allow multichannel publishing from a single source.
As XyEnterprise's Parsons observed, "What's consistent is the idea that adding intelligence with granular mark-up and lots of metadata creates flexibility, increases efficiency through content reuse, and meets the goal of 'write once, use many.'" In fact, it is this ability to reuse content that is so powerful, and where organizations see the most dramatic return on investment (ROI). According to Parsons, "We've seen astounding ROI from single-source implementations in aerospace and automotive technical documentation, legal publishing, defense-related maintenance information, e-learning companies, and other markets."
Deja vu All Over Again?
If you have been in this business for a while, this is now sounding all too familiar. Is XML simply the latest all-purpose technology to fix the same problem that SGML never really solved? Well, in a word, no. XML may be heavily based on SGML, but it is succeeding where SGML didn't for many important reasons.
--Most significantly, XML is a key piece of all major software development platforms and components. This begins at the database, where major vendors such as Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM have made XML features a key part of their product roadmap. XML then permeates all the key applications and platforms--portal software, enterprise application integration, application servers, and, yes, content management. This is a significant change from SGML, which was only supported by a much smaller number of specialized products.
--As a result, XML is widely understood by programmers, who use XML in their daily work. This is becoming truer as organizations use XML-based approaches such as Web Services to tie existing and new applications together. Doug Tidwell, XML Evangelist at IBM has pointed out that XML is seen as "the universal data access language data access language" for the Web. Again, this is an enormous change from SGML, which was understood by a small cadre of specialists, and never became a part of the programmer's toolkit the way XML has.
Why is XML so much more useful and widespread than SGML? While there are some advantages to the XML language itself over SGML (mainly, it is lighter weight and easier for programmers to parse and process), the more important factor is that XML is supported by many important related standards and technologies. This begins with the transformation language XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformations), which allows programmer to easily map XML to other formats (including HTML, other XML vocabularies, and document formats such as PostScript). But it also includes the XML Path Language (Xpath), which is used to access specific objects within an XML document, and the Document Object Model (usually referred to as the DOM), which is an industry standard programming interface for XML documents. The result is a ready toolkit for programmers to create, access, update, and transform XML data from one form to another.
Indeed, to this date, XML has become much more of a general-purpose data representation tool for programming than a markup language for document encoding. But it is still ideally suited for encoding content for single-source publishing, and industry experts say the time is right to begin leveraging XML in the enterprise. "Information technologists have understood the value of managing a single source of information that can be used in multiple ways for some time." said Frank Gilbane, editor of the Gilbane Report (www.gilbane.com), "The problem has been that the benefits were not apparent to business managers, and it was simply too difficult and expensive to accomplish. Today's need to deliver synchronized information to multiple channels (print, web, wireless, etc.) is something all business managers understand. This business need has also driven technology development and adoption to a point where single-source strategies, especially XML-based, should always be considered."
XML for Everything?
Gilbane's careful emphasis--that XML-based single sourcing should be considered--is precisely the right advice. In other words, don't drop everything and convert all your content to XML. As Parsons from XyEnterprise observed, "Successful single source solutions require careful analysis of the content, a clear focus on defined and measurable business objectives, and solid software support at each step in the workflow." So a reasonable first step would be to understand the business objectives tied to single sourcing--what do you hope to gain from single sourcing, and how will you know if you have achieved the objective?
For one engineering firm that I work with, the business objective was to make all their key documents available in print and on the Web--and as soon after updates occurred as possible. They employ a group of 16 technical writers and editors who are responsible for incorporating all updates into a document database of over 70,000 pages. When the documents only had to be available in print, this was a manageable but somewhat slow process. Updates could take several months to appear in a reprinted report. When they began to also produce HTML versions of the documents for distribution over the Web, the delays--and costs for contract help--only increased. They implemented an XML-based system for print and Web publishing with the goal of reducing the time for an update to be distributed--while maintaining current staffing levels. Two years into the project, they have dramatically shortened turnaround time and are producing print and Web versions of their documents with the same staff.
I advise clients to look first at a key business objective for their content, and then to undertake a pilot single-sourcing project that could support that business objective. For example, the business objective could be to make customers more self sufficient in the customer support process. The content tie-in could be to make key service bulletins, heretofore only available in print, also available for download in a searchable HTML database.
Consider a Pilot Project
The pilot project could be as simple as encoding a small sampling of content in XML, and then designing processes for print and Web rendering. You would begin by analyzing the content for its suitability for single sourcing. In XML parlance, this involves creating a Document Type Definition (DTD) or XML Schema that defines the content elements--how they are used, what content or subordinate elements they consist of, and what attributes they share. For example, a technical document may include a number of sequenced tasks, where a parts catalog may include part numbers and descriptions. Writing a DTD or schema is the formal expression of these elements. It's a marriage of the often well-understood but perhaps not formally codified rules of your content and the formal structure of XML encoding. It's important in a pilot project to keep this analysis relatively simple and high-level; remember this is a proof of concept.
To see what XML encoding is like for a business user, you could have an experienced user test an XML editing tool such as Corel's XMetal. This could give you a sense of the learning curve some users may face, and could also give you some metrics for future reference. (Keep in mind, though, that a full system may use a variety of tools and processes for the XML encoding, such as forms interfaces, so the actual tagging processes will likely differ.)
Once you have the XML-encoded content, you would need some means to render print and HTML versions of the content for distribution. Assuming you have kept the DTD or schema relatively simple, a programmer can quickly create an XSLT stylesheet for the HTML output. XSLT, or its companion language XSL-FO (XSL Formatting Objects), can be used to create the print output.
You would then have sample content, sample print and HTML output, and some metrics--the time it took to create the content, the informal DTD, and the associated stylesheets. Armed with this, you would be well positioned to plan a larger implementation--either with available in-house resources or by working with a vendor or system integrator.
Posted by Bill Trippe at 9:08 PM