Turning roadblocks into building blocks—that, and sheer determination—drives India’s digital solutions industry, where obstacles to achieving speedier, smarter, more secure, and seamless workflows to meet publishing demands are many and varied. Making challenges into solutions, embracing new technologies, upping the ante, and pushing the envelope are par for the (obstacle) course.
For many in the industry, the adoption of artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, statistical machine learning, natural language processing, and rule-based or expert systems—collectively known as cognitive technologies—has helped in sifting through the large volume of incoming content, flagging anomalies, and accelerating internal production processes. So what’s not to like? Since time is money in the digital solutions and publishing industries, AI is surely worth its weight in gold. (And no, robot overlords have not taken over the world, and global warming poses a far more immediate existential risk.)
Along the way, publishers are going “virtual” to achieve realism. Whether it is augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), or mixed reality (MR), the fact is that learning and user experience have never been more fun, fascinating, or engaging. Again, what’s not to like? For digital solutions providers used to the tedium of dealing with words and tomes, the opportunity to work on AR/VR/MR projects is like letting kids loose in a toy store. (See “Making AR and VR Work in Publishing,” p. 22.)
And there is blockchain technology, now a hot topic around office watercoolers and at book fairs and publishing events. Its potential applications in publishing are still being debated and contemplated. But transaction-based activities—tracking and tracing IP ownership in rights contracts or enabling direct payments from readers to authors, say, in self-publishing—are the likeliest early implementations of blockchain. For now, the industry is buoyed by the buzz, hype, and hope surrounding this new technology.
That brings us to existing implementations that still pose challenges. Metadata—the data about data—is one of them. The basic descriptors for a book, an article, or a journal remain inconsistent and, in many cases, incomplete, which means that content discoverability is not optimized, and higher sales are not realized. Metadata is really the backbone of the book industry, and until this inconsistency is straightened out, bringing blockchain into the mix is probably not a good idea. (See “A Quick Check on Metadata,” p. 28.)
Accessibility is another pressing matter. While publishers have been converting printed content into accessible formats, efforts are lagging far behind for educational websites, online ancillaries, and other materials residing in the digital realm. To address this issue, digital solutions providers are pushing for “born accessible” content, which is developed right from the start alongside print and digital formats. The journey so far has been bumpy and erratic, even as the calls for accessibility are getting louder by the minute. (See “Next Steps Toward Digital Accessibility,” p. 25.)
Despite the constant changes, chaos, and challenges, digital solutions players have been frenetically reducing production costs, shortening turnaround time, and increasing work efficiencies. They are also busy branding their solutions: nearly every sizable outfit has at least one core solution or platform that is being offered as a SaaS, a PaaS, or an aPaaS along with a tiered subscription model. The goal is workflow standardization and process integration—and, of course, enabling closer client-vendor partnerships.
A never-say-die resilience and a can-do attitude have seen these industry players navigate bumps, potholes, and roadblocks on the way to success and higher efficiencies with dexterity and chutzpah. The multifaceted roles they play—tech geek, content protector, creative maestro, device genius, distribution expert, to mention a few—are largely fueled by new technologies and improved tools. But they can’t do all of this by themselves: publishers have to share the responsibilities (and costs) of transforming their eureka ideas into reality. Together, solutions vendors and publishers must map the future of publishing.