« Global Trade Talk

In-house v. Offshore Book Production: Now You Don’t Have to Choose

By Amanda DeMarco

At the Frankfurt seminar “Book Publishing in the Cloud,” Dan Dube, Senior Vice President of Really Strategies, a consulting service for publishers, discussed “an ever more dramatic need to reduce expenses and costs,” mainly due to the emergence of online providers like Amazon and Google Books. As a result, many publishers have transferred their composition processes to offshore service providers. But going offshore has its drawbacks; in a Really Strategies poll, 29% of publishers cited “too many correction cycles” as the greatest challenge to offshore production work, while 32% chose “inconsistent results.” Basically, what those results mean, said Dube, is that “the biggest hit has been in terms of quality,” which dramatically lengthens the proofing process, and depending on the severity of the problem, can negate savings.

Bringing production processes back in-house is desirable, and one way to cut offshore organizations out of the process is to integrate XML into the production process early on, in order to streamline production for various formats. XML is a highly adaptive coding system for documents—one main benefit is the ease of re-purposing content (for print and various electronic formats). But for all of XML’s “one input, many outputs” advantages, expecting authors to deliver in XML (or anything other than a Word document for that matter) is probably unrealistic, and training editorial staff takes time and money many publishers don’t have.

The happy medium between in-house and offshore may be cloud-computing. Really Strategies offers a web-based production system, DocZone. Like off-shore production services, DocZone charges by the page to take the pressure off of staff, but it offers far quicker turnaround times for tweaking and proofs, without the concerns about quality. Stephen Driver, vice president of production services at Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group said that when RLPG switched to DocZone, they “saw no difference in quality from our normal process as a result.”

(This story originally appeared in the Publishing Perspectives show daily at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 8 October 2010. Download the complete show daily here or click on the image to view the online version.)

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