Gilbane_outsell logo.pngThanks to the iPad and other tablet devices, the publishing industry has been able to survive, even thrive. Of course in doing so, they’ve had to transform themselves away from print and toward electronic models. A recent study from Outsell’s Gilbane Group examined the ways in which the book publishing industry has evolved technologically over the past few years.

The Design of the Publishing Industry

A Blueprint for Book Publishing Transformation: Seven Essential Processes to Re-invent Publishing looked at the tools and systems publishers have been using and are starting to use. Despite early advancements in productions and digital printing, the publishing industry is still slow to adapt in other areas, thanks to the rapid evolution of new channels and business models.

When examining the book publishing industry, the study focused on seven processes, which Gilbane considered best represented the end-to-end book lifecycle:

  • Planning
  • Editorial and production
  • Rights and royalties
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Sales and licensing
  • Distribution and fulfillment

By exploring these processes, the study aimed to show that digital publishing requires publishing processes to be more integrated, efficient and transparent. Let’s see what they found.

Adapting to the Demands of the Marketplace

First the good news.

The study found that eBook publishing is well-established across all book publishing segments, with significant revenue growth expected over the next five years.

In addition, "XML Early" is common among book publishers, with 48% of respondents indicating that they use either an “XML-first” or “XML-early” workflow.

Publishers also showed an increase use of print-ready PDF. More than 90% of respondents indicated that the final format for books going to manufacturing is either print-ready PDF or a native production file (such as Adobe InDesign).


The way publishers maintain their source files is also changing. The survey found all publishers using some kind of mechanism for maintaining digital files and assets.

  • 44% use a DAM system
  • 26% use a file management system
  • 22% use a custom, in-house process
  • 9% use a content management system

Perhaps a clearer sign of the times indicated by the study is that most publishers noted that they use outside services for print publishing, although not so much for project management or quality assurance, but for jobs that perhaps are no longer supported within publishing houses, like editing and proofreading.

However, eBook publishing also relies on outside services, but mostly for title conversion and graphic design. Fourteen percent indicated that they don’t use outside services for eBook publishing compared to the 2.6 of print publishers who said they don’t.

Tackling the Challenges of Digital Production

Of course, there are still challenges facing the eBook publishing industry. Rights-tracking has grown increasingly complex with digital product development. The authors of the study summarized the new challenges:

In acquiring rights for photos and illustrations, book publishers historically acquired specific rights related to one use – for example, to use an illustration in a print edition of a new book. … But the growth in digital opportunities and channels has rendered the old process obsolete, even though the rights-holders – sensibly from their point of view – don’t suddenly want to blow up the old model.

As a result, the study calls for publishers to have more flexibility to determine the rights they might need to clear or acquire for a given book, and then the means to quickly acquire those rights. There also needs to be better processes for reporting on the use of those assets back to the rights-holders.

Ultimately the biggest challenge is that digital publishing requires much more collaboration than ever before. Whether it’s marketing and promotion or sales and licensing, these separate processes are all a part of the same workflow, highlighting the need for better project management and communication portals throughout.

Though publishers seem to be stepping up to the challenges in an effort to thrive in a changing technological landscape, there is still work to be done. Like many corporations, the publishing industry faces many of the same issues and must learn how to embrace innovation while updating its processes to handle the demands it brings.