XML

Start With XML update

Eoin Purcell

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending the StartWithXML seminar that O’Reilly, Idea Logical & The Publishers Licensing Society ran in the British Library. The event itself was fantastically interesting as were the attendees.

Will Hawkins, who I met for the first time at the seminar, has a nice overview of the event on his blog here and I totally echo the wonder and awe that this section inspires:

Each book has all of the information about the title held in XML as well as the book in digital format so that, literally, at the click of a button, they can produce 48-page catalogues about their lists, feed their web site and make versions of each book in different formats. Anyone who has ever tried to put together a catalogue in a conventional way will know that it can take weeks and weeks to do this.

Want to know of whom he speaks? It should be obvious, but just in case, it’s Snowbooks.

Aside from that, I was struck very heavily by just how much further down the path of digitisation, chunking and generally the new reality STM and Academic publishers are. One eye opener was the wonderfully succinct and yet powerful presentation (all of the presentations are on slideshare here) by Mark Majurey from Taylor & Francis. Have a read below, but the effort is somewhat lost, because you don’t get to hear Mark saying that T&F were selling chunked content online as early as 2001!!! It just didn’t take off hugely.

When you hear that news, you realise how far trade publishers have to come before they are even at the races with some of these things.

An eye-opening day,
Eoin

The Listowel Fringe Blog

Eoin Purcell

Links & Whatnot
About two years ago I had a wonderful strategy session with a group of arts professionals. It was led by the engaging and intelligent Paul O’Mahony who is from the O’Mahony bookselling clan. I recall that day because Paul was forceful in saying that “survival is not guaranteed” for a publisher like Mercier, a thought that had been floating in my mind but had not taken the form of a concrete reality.

Reasons
Anyway. The point in telling you this is that Paul has been engaged this week in an exciting blogging project: The Listowel Writer’s Week Fringe. I love the idea of a fringe blog for Listowel Writers Week Festival which I think is a fantastic festival but one I think prone to circles and groups (I don’t think it is alone in this. Given the nature of Irish society, most festivals here go that way), the kind that can damage a festival.

Paul and his collaborators are blogging and updating on the weeks events. You should go read some of their thoughts!
Eoin

A pretty neat DRM solution

Eoin Purcell

As far as DRM goes
I knew it would be fun to have G&M’s Digital Development Manager blogging. For instance, here is part two of his series on DRM:

Here’s how it works:

1. I visit a website to order a book
2. The website requires me to register (not perfect in terms of web usability but a fair compromise and fairly universal these days)
3. I order an e-book from the site in my choice of format.
4. The site back-end takes the XML source of the book and starts the process to create my copy of the book in the format I chose.
5. While creating the copy of my book it pulls information from the membership database to add to selected areas in the book and to create a custom header (This copy of RUINAIR has been personalised for XXXXXX).
6. The customised e-book is placed in a digital library linked to my member ship account for me to download at any time.
7. An email is automatically sent to me letting me know that my book is ready for download.

The data we pull from the membership system can be your name, billing address, email address, phone number, order number or any combination of these. Its not a device locked DRM but how many people will be willing to share files that have their email address or phone number in them.

I like this idea but mainly for the reasons I expressed in my comment on the blog:

Now that is smart!

I especially like the concept because where you can add DRM in such a fashion you can add value that is specific to the consumer.

Think of it, if you can pull their membership preferences you can slip in ads for their pre-selected genres and topics, extra info on authors they like and other stuff they would see as enhancing the e-book/digital product!

If you can make DRM a value added, then I think you have a winner. That is of course if e-books is the way forward and not just webpages and access rather than a physical/digital product.

Very nice,
Eoin

Planning for 2008

Eoin Purcell

Overambitious

So I foolishly announced that I would lay out a plan for blogging in 2008 in response to Bloglily’s tag. Thinking it over it sure offers a challenge. Such a big challenge and the world being so terribly random and unpredictable* that I think I made a foolish promise. So I need to do something else. If I cannot predict the blogging year, I can at least offer some thoughts on what I see playing a role in my year ahead and about which I will probably be writing a great deal.

1) Digital projects & technology

- In the next few weeks Mercier Press will be launching one of its first major digital efforts. I’m not going to talk too much about it right now but the basic idea will be to capture digital content online and take that into print. It is an experiment for us and I can see the short term element proving to be a successful precursor to a much longer term goal for us.

- What is more, 2008 sees the start of something very exciting for Mercier. We will be launching our first blog to book product. The wonderful Murphy’s brothers from Murphy’s Ice Cream will launch a book that build on their blog Ice Cream Ireland and offers all Irish ice cream lovers what is going to be a very beautiful book. There will be more of these types of books in the future (not just from Mercier) as blogging makes real talent more visible and findable on the web.**

- These are not the only reasons I think this area will be a huge part of my year in 2008. If you have been following the links both on the blog and on my linkblog at Google Reader ***, you will have seen that these issues are looming large in my thoughts. If you fail to be inspired by these I suggest you check out a few of Snowbooks videos on using Onix data to make life easy. that ought to bring the point home forcefully.

- Mercier have just started the process of moving to an integrated system (Using Anko’s Publishing Manager). it will be tricky as so much of our legacy information is in people’s head and not digital systems, but once we have finished the process we will be in a great place to make much better use of all our content.

- And then there is this, e4Books, which will probably be honoured more in the missing of the target than in the achieving it.

2) Books: reading & commissioning

- Ha, I’ll bet you saw that one coming! The To Be read pile is now insane. Though again I’m feeling a little better about that (thanks NTT). I do try. I read a good few books this year but not nearly as many as I had hoped (closer to 60 than the 100 I had planned). Spending too much time online and reading for work perhaps.

- Of course the other aspect of books will be the process of publishing and building the list here at Mercier. 2008 is now more or less to bed and it is time to get cracking on commissioning 2009. It is nice to be in a more relaxed place with this commissioning but I am conscious still that the competition is hotting up in Ireland with the arrival of an Irish based Transworld office. This side will definitely make for an exciting year.

- And while we are on the subject of books, I need to mention that Litlove has just published one, The Best of Tales From The Reading Room (you can buy it here). A collection of her very, very fine essays from her excellent blog: Tales From The Reading Room.

3) Events & Trends: the unpredictable

- Who knows what will happen to prompt a blog post. Sometimes I have been inconsistent in covering topics here and I have no doubt that will continue. One area I know I have yet to really write much on is the effect that the iPhone is having on the world of mobile devices and online reading. Apple’s OS X has taken a lump of market share in this space very rapidly implying firstly that iPhone users browse the web more than the users of other smart phone/mobile computers and also that consumers are not put off by mobile internet they just want it to be user friendly.

- Here is a list of words that I suspect (but with no real level of confidence) that we will see much more about this year: Onix, Community, Digital Publishing, Online Reading, Ebooks, widgets, content, micro-chunking, CS 3, XML. Of them, for publishers I think XML is going to be the big one! But Community will be too. Just check out Authonomy and see what I mean.

So there you go BL. I hope that my lack of planning is up to scratch.
Pleased with the outcome
Eoin

* And my reading of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan is sure not helping me remain confident of my ability to predicate anything reliably, though it is making me much more comfortable with that. More of that soon when I finish the book and process my thoughts.

** Hint! Hint! Authors, start blogging if you don’t already!

*** Who also have a shared items page which I find a it confusing.

A great series on Digitisation

Eoin Purcell

Original Expression is a great blog that I have been following for a bit.
For more on the author: Here and Here.

Bill started posting a new series today (starting here) which I think anybody considering digital ventures for the first time should follow. Some gems. EG:

Again, don’t be too concerned with file formats. In most cases, your partner will be the one to worry about this, and will let you know what’s best for their use of your data. If you don’t have the format they need, let them create the data for you. Just be sure to get a copy for your archive!

I know I’ll be reading it very closely.
Eoin