The topic I chose to write on today was Information Overload. The term was first popularized by Alvin Toffler and is equated to the difficulties presented when an individual has to make a decision based on a steadily increasing amount of data. The steady stream of information keeps the individual from ever getting to the point of resolution, thus creating a log-jam of pertinent information that cannot be disseminated quickly enough to arrive at an immediate plan of action. (1) Here is where the story begins…
When I first began my career in publishing, the Internet was something the military was working on and not a public information network as it is today. The file cabinets (where I worked) were full of contracts, purchase orders and printed job estimates in “hard copy” format. The office worked well based on the transfer of all of this paperwork, but more innovation was necessary to eliminate the wasted time that occurred in getting paperwork sent from point A to point B. Also, generating the paperwork was a time waster as well. The advent of the Fax machine was a boon for the publishing operations. I remember sending a fax to Tokyo back in the late 1980’s and marveling at how revolutionary this advance in technology seemed to be. The transfer was instantaneous and if someone was on the other end waiting, you could get a turnaround answer in a few minutes. This was unbelievable, but the paperwork was still too much to handle and managers yearned for the paperless office that was forecast at the dawn of the tech and computer age in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In this new electronic /digital world of information delivery, the one aspect that will begin to become more and more important to you and your publishing enterprise is CMS. What is CMS? CMS stands for Content Management System. Every book that comes from a publisher is built on words. These words are integrated into sentences, paragraphs and chapters. This conglomeration of words/sentences/paragraphs and chapters is all the components that make up content. How you archive and disseminate that content is the wave of the present and on into the future.
CMS will be accessible using DAM technology. What is DAM technology? DAM stands for Digital Asset Management. This is the IT infrastructure that houses your CMS and when configured correctly can get your content sent to your Company Web Sales portal, and distributors in the format and naming convention stipulated by the individual companies you deal with. The DAM you build should be able to handle your current archive with an additional 10-15 years of scalable server space going into the future. The built-in obsolescence of the system will put you in a position to transfer and upgrade to another system within the 20 year time-frame of technical degradation. In other words, plan ahead since the technology will force you to the next platform whether you want to upgrade or not.
Now, once you decide that your print books will be available as e-books, you can start to formalize the D-T-D. What is the D-T-D? The D-T-D is the Document Type Definition. If you were putting together a parsed title for a compositor, and you marked up the call-outs for the A Heads, B Heads, and Chapter Openers and so on, you would get the picture as to what the D-T-D entails. It is the specs that build an XML document to the standards stipulated by your individual corporate identifiers. Once these specs have been checked and updated, your title should be readable as an e-book.
The D-T-D is put together with stipulations using metadata tags. What are Metadata tags? These are the actual coded tags that call out the elements within the document. These tags will make sure that your content will be formatted and readable on a Kindle or other reading device when downloaded by a customer.
The one thing to keep in mind as you contemplate what the requirements are for your company: Every company is different and will look at CMS/DAM in relation to company revenue constraints and projected publication plans that will not be reflective of any other company. The age of “Going it Alone” is upon us, but the level to which each company can commit to utilize this process and system may be the difference between corporate growth and corporate oblivion. There is no middle ground on whether to build or not, the only question is the extent to which you can start the process.