ALL the Tech: The latest publishing innovations from Tech Forum

SFU’s Master of Publishing program has famously positioned itself as a leader in the discussion on the future of the publishing industry. With current and future digital publishing trends always on the minds of MPub grads, it was now my responsibility to see how the discussion sounded outside the walls of Harbour Centre at BookNet Canada’s annual eBook Craft and Tech Forum conferences. I wanted to know, for example, how real-world professionals felt about proposed digital workflows. What were some skepticisms around new production technologies? Were publishers ready to disrupt or to maintain the industry?

There was no shortage of answers to any of these questions, and I tried to parse through twenty hours of mind-bending speeches from the industry’s most notable innovators, diviners, and disruptors. Here are four things I learned.

What would happen if we made eBooks that didn’t suck?

Derrick Schultz suggested that eBook production technology has made little effort to escape rendering trends from the 90s. This is the time in eBook history when CMS’ take over eBook development for the better. And, apparently, a general banishment of regular expression (according to Baldur Bjarnason) will help in the transition process. With EPUB-3 being slowly adopted by publishers, and new innovations in EPUB-WEB standards, an obvious question that Baldur and Derrick tried to answer: why should eBooks be developed any differently than webpages? We have the power of reflowable content, multi-platform compatibility, clean code conversion, and “all the JavaScript.” So let’s start using it!

Headline: Publishing industry divorces Microsoft Word

Every publishing house still uses Microsoft Word, but people like Colleen Cunningham attempt to envision a workflow devoid of this old world technology. Similar to the new ideas around eBook development, it makes sense to replace singular desktop publishers with a centralized CMS as the main input platform. I realized, though, that it isn’t simply a matter of system upgrades, but an entire overhaul of current production workflows from the author and editor through to the production team. Tagging for metadata would need to be integrated into the workflow as early as in the editing stages. Are editors willing to take on additional responsibility in tagging content?

Ebookcalypse finds zombies reading more than ever

Skeptics have been prophesying the death of the book for years, but Kevin Ashton wanted to remind us that we are living in the golden age of book buying and global literacy. Every time there is a development in technology, there’s an increase in literacy. In fact, Kevin suggested, with literacy rates firmly on the rise, print production may not be a sustainable enterprise: ten billion readers multiplied by two books per year is approximately nineteen million trees and potentially the annihilation of the rain forest as we know it. But all jokes aside, there is nothing apocalyptic about the state of the industry; we’re just adapting to higher demand.

Why, suddenly, is everyone an expert in content development?

Actually, in spite of every corporation producing an in-house magazine and every CEO producing a best-selling book, it remains (according to Brian O’Leary) that publishers are still the experts in content development. While marketing divisions have whole-heartedly appropriated the term “content marketing,” their three main obstacles in content development are the same solutions that publishers provide every day: producing engaging content, producing content consistently, and producing a variety of content. So why aren’t publishers leading trends in content marketing?! The fact that we aren’t seems crazy to me. 24symbols, Oyster, and Scribd all offer ways for publishers to think about content marketing in terms of in-house marketing strategies and new streams of corporate publishing. It seems like publishers have been content marketers for years; we just haven’t known it.

For more information, notes, slides, and photos from BookNet Canada’s annual eBook Craft and Tech Forum conferences, visit http://www.booknetcanada.ca/blog/2015/3/17/tech-forum-and-ebookcraft-wrap-up.html#.VRd9OTvF-ts.

See MPub Crashes BookNet’s Annual Conference for more information on eBook Craft and Tech Forum 2015.

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