Why the iPad Matters – Its the Beginning of the End

Even if you are not a techie or ECMer,  it would have been hard to miss all the marketing and press that has surrounded the iPad lately.  Numerous articles have weighed in on whether or not Apple will be a success both long and short term, what this means to Amazon, etc.

Relevant? yes. Interesting? Somewhat, to me. Do not get me wrong. I have been following the advent of iPad closely, but not from a “wall street” perspective. From my ECM-er perspective, the reason the iPad is so important is because it marks the beginning of the end of the old generation of publishing, and the popularization of e-publishing.  The ability to publish electronically – not just create and layout content electronically for a paper-based print run – but content created specifically for electronic delivery, is clearly not new. But, the overall market understanding of and appreciation for the full value of electronic content delivery has been lagging.  The popularizing of electronic-based content delivery, (yes, I think the Apple entrance into the market will help finally raise awareness and market demand overall, similar to the way Google raised the general market appreciation for the value of search) will not only allow publishers to take advantage of e-based delivery, but compel them to do so, and race to leverage the unique powers and capabilities of the media.

ECMers such as myself have been heralding the ability and associated benefits of designing content for e-based delivery for years, (see earlier posts ). Despite the ability to do so, however, the majority of business applications that involve content delivery remain rooted in paper-based delivery. Even in cases where content is created electronically (which is nearly exclusively now), design concerning output is almost always mired in paper-based metaphors.  (A simple case in point, just today I was asked to complete a form – it was available on-line, i.e., I could print the form from my web browser, complete it ala ink on paper, and – are you ready – fax it back. Just days ago I completed another form totally online, but the “publisher” of the form did not leverage any e-based delivery capabilities. I was asked to skip over irrelevant sections. Relevancy of sections was something that could have been handled automatically based on data I had already entered.)

Now, with the popularizing of e-based consumption of content, it is likely that content publishers (taken in the strictest and loosest sense of that phrase), will wake up and actually leverage the publishing media to its fullest value. Dynamic links, multimedia, content in context – by person, geography and time of day, will more readily be embraced and supported by those that provide content – from books and newspapers to coupons and name badges.

The market is at an inflection point, much like it found itself circa the 1980s, with the popularizing of imaging technology. Scanning technology had been around for quite some time before that, but organizations were still mostly thinking in terms of paper.  Imaging was a “new capability” that augmented paper. It was not uncommon to find organizations that were printing content, only to scan it into an online imaging system.  Hard to believe? (Hey, I still occasionally find examples of people doing this.) This mentality is not so different from that of organizations today that create volumes of content online and then design output for paper– either exclusively, or online versions of paper metaphors.

Practices and approaches to publishing (i.e. electronic content delivery) have started to change, and will surely begin to pick up speed. I was recently talking to a very good friend of mine who has been in the text book publishing industry as an editor for over 15 years. We began talking about our careers colliding and she shared with me that she was currently working on over 130 e-based books – not publishing the same paper-based book online – but books specifically tailored to take advantage of the dynamics and flexibility of electronic delivery, exclusively.

For those electronic content management technology vendors that have focused on dynamic delivery, there time is here.  I have commented on the opportunity that this represents for ECM many times.

Folks such as MarkLogic, PTC, Tridion, and SiberLogic should find a burgeoning market that “suddenly” better understands their value proposition. Others such as Astoria and HiveFire, may likely reposition their underlying capabilities to more directly address this growing need. ECM bastions such OpenText and EMC (especially with their X-Hive acquisition) are well positioned to re-direct attention to these capabilities they have touted for years, to a mostly blind and deaf consumer.

DITA will become the “new html” and gain far greater market awareness and adoption.  The onus will be on  the distributor of content to become innovative to leverage the new capabilities and to think beyond  8.5 x 11 static media.

So, take a deep breath, we are only getting started – but we are surely entering the beginning of the end of publishing as we know it.

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