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With the New Cloud/Hosted Services, Are Publishers Changing?

Are things really changing for book publishers?

By Ted Hill

A year ago I wrote an article for Publishing Perspectives with the admittedly dramatic title of “The Death of the Publishing IT Department?”. The piece was my attempt to draw attention to what I saw as a growing trend for book publishers to turn from internally managed and maintained business software to shared platforms of hosted solutions. Since then, it has been hard to escape the waves of cloud computing hype in the business press and it seems to me that this good time to ask “Are things really changing for book publishers?”

Ted Hill

The short answer is undoubtedly “yes.” While anecdotal in nature, here are a few selected items that, taken together, reveal the breadth and depth of the activity around the next generation of publishing infrastructure.

Item 1: On a webinar last week introducing cloud computing to book publisher, Ken Michaels, EVP & COO at Hachette Book Group USA revealed that “over the past two years Hachette has converted every single piece of our systems hardware to our cloud infrastructure” resulting in “bottom-line savings, flexibility, scale, and speed all at once.” Perhaps even more important, Hachette has developed hosted solutions for publicity management and for monitoring the dynamic e-book sales environment (prices, metadata, and merchandising) that they will soon make available to their distribution clients and others. Publishers as both users and providers of cloud services? Low set up and maintenance costs now make it possible.

Item 2: A high-level executive at another “Big Six” publisher recently mused with mixed feelings that that perhaps 30% of the new technology initiatives within their organization were not officially sanctioned by their IT department. While he saw the obvious benefits of permitting creative individuals to discover innovative ways to do their jobs better, he was also concerned about the problems that could arise as “unsanctioned technology” spread. It’s one thing if an editor uses Dropbox to share files with an author, or a marketing director experiments with Bookseer to gain insights into the buzz created by a campaign, but quite another to use a new software services enterprise-wide. Who supports users and integrates the services with other software if the need arises?  Where do you draw the line?

Item 3: Next Thursday, July 26th NYC will host the first ever conference on the topic: Book Publishing in the Cloud: How Software as a Service is Transforming the Book Publishing Industry. Staged by Mike Shatzkin and Michael Cader of Publishers Launch Conferences, a quick look at the program should be evidence enough that that the impact of cloud services is running both wide and deep within the industry. Speakers from a great diversity of publishers ranging from large houses like Random House, McGraw Hill Education, and John Wiley will share the stage with mid-sized trade houses, religious publishers and university presses. There they will explain the issues and help separate the hope from the hype.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should state that I helped organize this event and will be speaking at it. If you can make it, you can register here and come by and join the discussion. If not, then please feel free to share your thoughts and questions in the comments below and I will see that they are addressed in the program.

What’s next for publishing cloud services?

If you follow the business press, it’s hard to miss Amazon’s growing dominance as a provider of cloud services and infrastructure. And, as they build out their own book publishing program, it’s easy to see that they will continue to develop applications specific to the needs of book publishers. I would argue that CreateSpace was the first step in this direction; can more “industrial strength” services that complete with Ingram or Donnelley be far behind? What about core systems like title management, royalty management or production workflow?

If so, it will be interesting to see whether publishers will trust their futures to a fast-growing competitor. It also suggests that there is room for another player (or players) to own this space if they have the foresight and ability to do so.

Ted Hill is President of THA Consulting.

DISCUSS: How do you incorporate cloud services in your publishing program?

Conference Details:

  • What:Book Publishing in the Cloud: How Software as a Service is Transforming the Book Publishing Industry
  • When: Thursday, July 26th
  • Where: Baruch College, 55 Lexington Avenue (at 25th Street), NYC
  • See the Agenda and Register for this very full, one-day event.
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One Comment

  1. Posted July 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi. Our cloud-based submission management platfrom, Submittable, encountered a lot of headwind in the beginning (2009). Most of our original clients were forward-looking agile indie publishers and blogs, but now we see large publishers and universities signing up every week. Sales, that were very hands-on, used to take 6 months. Now we see large orgs signing up out of nowhere with no hand holding at all. This is partially because we’ve become more polished as a company, especially after getting backing from YCombinator, but mostly because cloud technologies are just becoming more trusted and understood. Feels like riding a wave.

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