Monday, December 01, 2008

The Future is Not Binary – Creating and Developing Intellectual Property

To become digital, publishing has to digitise its internal processes and break free of the book jacket and spine that has long ‘straight jacketed’ it.

Publishing is not just about selling books it’s about the total process from author to reader and beyond. So when we look at development we must not just break away from the paper concept but recognise that rights and contextual information, or what many today know as bibliographic, metadata and marketing material, are mere attributes of the content. In other words, they go hand in hand right across the life-cycle.

Today many manage their rights within Royalty systems not Rights systems and as a result have a one dimensional perspective of the rights they actually acquired. Where rights systems do exist these are often restricted to the exploitation of specific subsidiary rights. Permission rights which should have a greater impact in the digital world are all too often forgotten or managed on an ad hoc basis.
The question we would pose is why rights aren’t tagged to content and managed alongside it on a granular basis? Imagine clicking on a title, an illustration, a paragraph and being able to access the relevant rights information?

Today although context information is developed in parallel to content it is all too often managed and developed separately, stored in separate silos and accessed via different systems. The accuracy, level of detail and availability of contextual information has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. We now have ‘authoritative’ web sites such as Amazon and ABE with rich information, widgets and even Google’s developing Book Search. Yet we still have failed to do the simple tasks such as effectively group related titles and still mange ‘lists of titles and authors’ not content. It’s all too often down to the new entrants to show the industry how to manage our information.

Publishing is diverse and it’s this variety and wealth of material that makes it such an attractive consumer offer. It is hard to imagine a mass sea change in how publishers will develop their assets but it is easy to see that there will be a huge disparity between those who are able to fully exploit the power of rich contextual information and those who still see the AI sheet as the answer. Rights management will continue to grow in importance and some will manage these whilst others will continue to heavily depend on others to do it for them.

Digitisation is impacting the publishing development process and players. Just as desktop publishing first challenged the processes and SGML challenged the journals process, technology is again challenging the total process from manuscript to ‘finished’ or published products. Will everyone migrate on mass to one tool and approach? We can’t say, but we can see major players such as Adobe and Microsoft lining up to offer a one stop approach. If we adopt the logical XML database approach, will this be extended to cover context and rights? Again we can’t say but we would predict that those who make that leap will have greater control of their own destiny in this Brave New World.

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