StartWithXML Early Survey Results

I’ve previously blogged about the StartWithXML project that O’Reilly is working on with the folks at Idea Logical.

Overall, the project reminds me of the California Milk Advisory Board: get a bunch of diary farmers together to push an idea they can all agree on — eat California cheese. (Which, by the way, was articulated in my favorite way through the famous Grandma commercial.)

Here, instead of dairy farmers, it’s content and publishing vendors (e.g., codeMantra, Jouve / Publishing Dimensions, Klopotek, Firebrand, and Really Strategies). But the idea is similar — get a bunch of vendors together who can agree on one thing — in this case, starting with XML — and go push that idea.

Towards that end, the project is doing a few things. First, they’re hosting a one-day forum in New York City on January 13, 2009. They’ve recently run an educational webcast entitled Essential Tools of an XML Workflow, slides below.

They’ve run a survey and are producing a research report as well. Below are some slides that highlight selected results from the survey.

Some takeaways:

  • Remember that “trade” publishers in this context means book publishers
  • Note that digital publishing is “very important” to 40% of non-trade publishers, but only 18% of trade publishers. This is scary on both sides. It’s a bit sobering to think that it’s 2009 and only 1 in 5 book publishers thinks digital is very important.
  • 43% of trade publishers say they are trying to “understand the importance” of digital publishing. Another yikes.
  • Trade publishers are twice as likely to ignore downstream use and twice as likely to edit with a print focus.
  • Trade publishers are half as likely as others to use XML in the production process

Now, none of this is a big surprise to those who work with the information and media market. The clear leaders in XML adoption were STM publishers (e.g., Elsevier), followed by those in other segments like education and B2B trade. At the mid tier, you see folks like legal, tax, and regulatory publishers and market researchers. Bringing up the rear you have consumer magazines, news, and trade publishers.

While some trade publishers (e.g., Simon and Schuster) are strong adopters of XML, it seems that most others are way behind. This will get increasingly dangerous as the Kindle takes off (I’m a user and a big fan) and the Google Books settlement turns Google into an Amazon-rival online bookseller, overnight.

If a publisher can’t output for the Kindle, pretty soon a lot of people won’t be buying your books. Right now, a quick search reveals about 200K titles for the Kindle out of 24M total on Amazon, but that number will be increasing fast. And if you can’t output in the appropriate format for Google Books to ingest your content, then for many customers, your books won’t even exist.

Trade publishers need to get moving to enable flexible output to both different print (e.g., large print, library editions) and e-book formats. The good news? 46% of trade publishers believe their business will benefit by publishing in more e-book formats and nearly 70% say print-to-web processes are problematic or need to be fixed soon.

I wonder if moving from scrolls to paper was as difficult. Well, I suppose it was.

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