Streamline Your Workflow—and Maximize Your Content—With XML

19 Mar

Originally Published in Book Business Magazine’s Extra E-Newsletter
March 19, 2009
By Britt Brouse

Beyond the printed book, many opportunities exist for publishers today to re-purpose content in various formats and to increase exposure via online search marketing. However, if it is impossible to tag a book for search engine optimization, or adapt a book from a print to an electronic version, without copying, pasting and reformatting 100,000 words, then publishers could waste a significant amount of time and money in pursuit of these opportunities.

Initially preparing a book in XML makes that book a universal piece of content, tagged with the data and information necessary to translate it into other formats and applications. Phil Madans, director of publishing standards and practices for Hachette Book Group, advises trade book publishers to use XML instead of the old, error-prone, costly and lengthy process of adapting a printed book, after-the-fact, into a digital format. In his upcoming session, “XML Workflow Demystified,” at the Publishing Business Conference & Expo in New York City, March 23-25, Madans will explain how using XML can help publishers reign in their content and seamlessly deliver it to consumers in any way, shape or form.

Here, Madans talks about the benefits of XML and how publishers can transition to a content-centric workflow.

Book Business Extra: Why should trade publishers move from a print-centric to a content-centric workflow?
Phil Madans: The major message is we should focus on the publishing and not the printing, because we are publishers and we publish content. Printing is [only] one form of publishing that content … . With what we see happening in the industry today, we have to start looking at these other formats. … We basically have a print-centric workflow in trade publishing where everything is geared toward printing that book, and we want move to a content-centric process where we’re really looking at the content and the best way that we can get that content to the most people possible.

Extra: What are some of the myths or misunderstandings that book publishers might have about XML?
Madans: People get hung up on XML because they think it’s hard to understand and it’s [technical]. … They think there’s a lot more complexity built into this than there actually is. They tend to look at the XML itself instead of looking at what the XML can do for [them] … . It sounds intimidating when people try to explain XML and go into the structure of XML itself. … I think what trade publishers want to know is: “Why should I use this?” “What is this going to give me?” and “Is this going to make me more successful?”

Extra: What are the benefits of XML to trade book publishers?
Madans: XML allows you to apply any kind of formatting or design you want to your content. Whether that’s streaming it into InDesign and creating a printed book or streaming it into .epub so [the content] can go onto an e-reader like the Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader, or onto an iPhone, Web page or into a widget, or most importantly, so that you can tag up that XML in the beginning to make it easier for people to find your content online.

For most trade book publishers, the opportunity is really in the discovery online. … You can index your text and put it out there … but what’s the likelihood that [users are] going to find your book with all of those other books out there? But if you can enrich your content so you can have contextual tagging in there, then when your book is talking about a diamond, it’s clear whether it’s the Hope Diamond or Neil Diamond or a baseball diamond or whatever kind of diamond it is. … If you can put that information in there, when people are doing searches, you have a much better chance of them finding your content, and once they find your content, then they can buy your content.

Extra: What’s the best approach to converting to an XML workflow?
Madans: There’s different ways [of doing it] and it’s … hard to tell publishers what to do because it really depends on what [their] publishing program is. … I think the whole point of this is that you can go to an XML workflow today, without that much of a problem, if you have the right partners.

It also really depends on your content and how you want to deal with it. That’s another important lesson to take out of this: It really starts much earlier than in the production process. It starts in the whole editorial and creation process when you’re deciding what you’re going to do with this content. … When we’re deciding whether we’re going to buy the content or not we ask, “What is the market?” “How are we going to reach the market?” and “What else is out there?” But we’re looking at it in terms of the print, and if we start looking at it in terms of all the other opportunities that we have in the online world, for search and discovery … then the question becomes, “How am I going to take advantage of having a book in XML?”

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2 Responses to “Streamline Your Workflow—and Maximize Your Content—With XML”

  1. brittbrouse 04.24.09 at 8:46 am #

    Thanks for reading- for more information, here’s:

    a publisher with xml products: http://oreilly.com/xml/

    a blog with industry resources and studies: http://xml.sys-con.com/

    a blog with a good XML reading list: http://www.cafeconleche.org/books.html

  2. Liza 04.24.09 at 7:22 am #

    After reading through the article, I feel that I really need more info. Can you suggest some more resources please?

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