Book publishing 3.0
Book publishing and cloud computing – what have they to do with each other? Not a lot it would seem, based on the paltry results returned by searches on databases such as Twitter, Technorati, and WordPress. Yet in our own publishing company – The Professional and Higher Partnership – the role played by cloud computing is already important and is about to become absolutely central.
Cloud computing occurs where software applications and processing power are accessed online. That description is, of course, rather bland. To convey the essence of cloud computing more vividly, let me use two images (one ‘macro’, one ‘micro’).
The macro image was developed originally by (I believe) Nicholas Carr in The big switch: rewiring the world, from Edison to Google. Carr draws a parallel between the introduction of electricity and computing. In the transition from earlier forms of power to electricity, companies and communities each developed their own generators. The result: a multitude of small, unco-ordinated, inefficient generators. This situation continued until the development of a national grid meant that each user could, if they chose, source their electricity from a utility.
According to this parallel, many users of computers remain largely in the pre-utility age. They download software onto their computers; they store data on their hard drives (and, in large organisations, in their own data centres). Now, however, users are gradually shifting from downloads to cloud-based services. You don’t, for example, download Gmail or Twitter.
The second image (the micro-scale one) is provided by the machine I’m writing this post on, which is a Samsung Chromebook. I have nothing programmable on this computer. I haven’t downloaded anything. I can’t. Though I can do most of the things I do on my other computers – write documents, create spreadsheets, send e-mail, etc. – I do them using cloud-hosted apps, such as Google docs. The data is stored not on my computer, but on servers somewhere else (most likely in a country, such as Switzerland, that has a cool climate).
So that, imagistically, is what cloud computing means. Of what use is cloud computing to us as book publishers – and why are we investing in it? As I’ll show over an extended series of posts, cloud computing contributes to three major functions:
- distributing books – on the cloud, instead of in print or as downloads to devices such as Kindle or Kobo;
- producing books – through such processes of writing, editing, setting, designing, indexing, proofing, and archiving;
- running a publishing business – by keeping accounts, invoicing, banking, and so on.
If print was book publishing 1.0 and e-books are 2.0, cloud publishing shifts the paradigm of the industry to 3.0.