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:

  1. distributing books – on the cloud, instead of in print or as downloads to devices such as Kindle or Kobo;
  2. producing books – through such processes of writing, editing, setting, designing, indexing, proofing, and archiving;
  3. 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.

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5 Responses to “Book publishing 3.0”

  1. There has been a quite lively conversation on the cloud on LinkedIn recently in an editors’ discussion group. Most are wholeheartedly for it, including me — I’m using Dropbox, JungleDisk, Gmail, Google Docs, Twitter, etc. quite happily. File sharing was a small part of the discussion, with many concerns expressed about privacy as well as limited functionality. Google Drive is a new entry into this arena, not without detractors because of its algorithmic scanning to push advertising and conversion of files into its proprietary format. I’m perfectly happy to spend most of my editorial day in the cloud — a local copy of Word is almost the only part not in the cloud, as I use Dropbox and Gmail for e-mail and handling files. I also have one client that uses a web interface for invoicing.

    • Thank you, Kristine – really interesting (as always!). In fact, I think the discussion about ‘for’ and ‘against’ will rapidly come to sound dated. my reason for saying that is that, as users in general switch to cloud-based apps, they’ll come to assume/require other users do so – at which time, resisting cloud computing will be clearly counter-productive (rather as, one could refuse to set up an e-mail account, but that wouldn’t be a good business decision). The security question will require a post of its own but essentially the message I’m hearing is (a) nothing is 100% secure and (b) relying on non-cloud based methods of storing data (e.g. USBs) can in practice be riskier. Which discussion group is it, by the way?

    • Thank you, Kristine. Really interesting (as always!). I suspect discussions of for/against will rapidly become dated: as one’s clients adopt cloud computing, they will come to assume/require the same of others. (Just as, one could refuse ever to have set up an e-mail account – but the business case would clearly be against that.) Which discussion group, by the way?

  2. […] Monographer's Blog Publishing and the creative economy HomeAboutComing upGuest postsHTG a jobMonographer’s bookshelfPublishing onlineResource cloudReviews policyStakeholdersTowards a theory of publishing ← Book publishing 3.0 […]

  3. […] a post introducing the theme of cloud publishing in relation to  book publishing, I used the phrase ‘Book publishing 3.0′ to indicate […]

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