Why Publishers Should Switch To The Cloud If They Haven’t Already
What is The Cloud?
The Cloud is software that runs on the internet rather than locally on your computer, and a provider usually hosts it. Examples of this are Apple iCloud, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox (Cha 2015), but The Cloud also includes social media and streaming services like Netflix.
In publishing, these software systems are usually “referred to as SaaS: software as a service” (Shatzkin 2012). SaaS is possible because of virtualization (the act of creating something virtual), such as in this case, digital-only computers that acts without their own hardware (Cloudflare).
Since systems on “The Cloud” run online, all you need is a login and internet, meaning that sharing the content becomes much more accessible and streamlined for both marketing and editorial staff (Kinsman 2010). Many industries have moved to The Cloud, and it seems the inevitable endpoint for all publishers. With the streamlined effect The Cloud can create, publishers can devote more energy to entertainment and stories. “The Cloud offloads that burden from media companies and makes Everything as a Service a reality” (AWS Cloud 2017).
Advantages of The Cloud
Currently, not every system can be online. There isn’t any perfectly working streamlined service that has everything that publishers need, but it makes sense to adopt and adapt where you can! Adopting Cloud services as a part of your workflow systems can mean easier collaboration, less manual error and a more streamlined design throughout your offices. Moving to The Cloud means faster workflow and, for some, lower costs (AWS Cloud 2017). I have identified five of the advantages to utilizing Cloud-based systems for publishers to consider.
- Less Hosting, Storing and Managing of Publication Workflow!
The 2020 pandemic modified the way publishers are doing business, and now, much of that work is from home offices. There are offices left without people but still housing computing services and hosting storage. For a small company especially, this can mean a lot of money wasted (LoPresti 2019). The Cloud allows lightning-fast start-up and easy operation, all without the need for hosting and storage in an office space (Deanta 2019).
The goal of automation is that all the systems work perfectly without depending on manual workflows and local drives. Forgetting steps can be detrimental to the workflow, and when everything is handled manually, there is a higher chance of forgetting to send that latest version to the editor. Cloud-based workflows can make this much more of a reality by helping with organization and reducing manual steps (Workflow 2021).
- Easier Collaboration
If you don’t have your work on The Cloud, your team may not have the most up-to-date version. “Thanks to The Cloud, many publishing functions such as copy editing, design work, and proofing can be multi-tasked across time zones, with a single version being worked on” (Deanta 2019). A bunch of different documents can be an absolute nightmare to work with, which is why centralized documentation is needed to ensure the correct information is being passed on at the right time to the proper person (Workflow 2021). While you may still suffer from a disconnect between content and production, you will be much better off if you use a process where collaboration is a part of that system (Hyde 2021). If you can streamline marketing and editorial, that leaves less room for mistakes there, and you can focus on systems like Indesign, where there is no automated system for saving and sharing.
- The Start of Workflow First!
Publishing has suffered from broken workflows, and even though we can not fix some of these problems until a new system is created that works for everyone within the system, publishers should adopt and adapt where we can Hyde 2021).
Hyde explains that workflow-first systems are built around tools that share the same file format. WordPress and Google Docs are good examples of this. In a perfect system, this would include content, design and format, but as of now, these systems are on separate servers. While Indesign is the current industry choice for publishing designers, Canva is an excellent example of a Cloud system that allows for collaboration within the system and could help marketers within publishers have an easier time with workflow.
- Getting Ahead
The Cloud is a game-changer for publishers. However, while The Cloud allows publishers to get on board with new systems, it also helps authors bypass publishers entirely. There are now so many systems for authors to publish online without traditional publishing (Business 2021). Publishers should get embark on The Cloud train before authors do it themselves. Cloud-publishing gives authors tools to publish their books with near-zero costs, with simple, web-based collaboration, networks or creators and a network of readers (McGuire 2009). Many authors will still choose to go the “traditional publishing” route, but publishers should be focusing on creating a system that shows authors working with them is “worth it” in this online world.
Understanding The Downfalls
The main downfall is that no system can do it all, and The Cloud doesn’t work for everything. For example, some design-based systems are very specialized and do not collaborate well. David Michael (CIO/Executive VP of Global Technology) explained to Folio that there are times when it is not practical to share equipment and services. Publishers may need to take this on a case-by-case basis.
There is also the problem that accessing your data and cloud-based programs becomes impossible without the internet. Then the biggest argument against Cloud-based systems is security. When servers are all online instead of localized, wouldn’t that leave more room for hackers? Michael LoPresti from TheTilt, argues that Cloud-based systems have higher security and uptime performance than most on-site solutions that require IT support.
Adopt and Adapt Where You Can
As Hyde puts it, there is no shared environment, but currently, Cloud-based systems are the fastest way to help publishers streamline their systems and get the content to the market (AWS Cloud 2017).
It is better to use many Cloud systems than none at all. Fleck Nesbit from Workman Publishing Co. explains that they use many paid and unpaid Cloud-based applications.“Among them are Ingram’s CoreSource systems for digital asset management and distribution, Google Docs and … Basecamp for project management, NetGalley for digital ARC [advance reader copy] distribution, RackSpace cloud hosting for our websites, and we are currently migrating from Book Connect to Firebrand for title management and production scheduling” (LoPresti 2019). These are some of the best systems available to help keep everybody online and up to date.
An Online World
Cloud-based technologies not only enhance the ability to create and deliver but also reduce costs (AWS Cloud 2017). Eventually, we hope to see a streamlined, shared Cloud-based environment where publishers can collaborate effectively and minimize manual error. When that “next” happens, publishers will want to get on board or get left behind. Publishers may want to keep up with technology, but according to an article from Deanta (and my personal experience), “book publishers don’t seem to be making much headway” (Deanta 2019). For the sake of the traditional publishing industry, I hope everyone “gets on board” soon.
AWS Cloud. 2017. “Media & Publishing In The Cloud – N2WS.” N2WS. https://www.facebook.com/n2wsoftware. June 14, 2017. https://n2ws.com/blog/aws-cloud/media-publishing-cloud.
Beaumont, Peter. 2008. “Internet Leak Brings End to US Cult Book Series | Books | The Guardian.” The Guardian. The Guardian. August 30, 2008. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/aug/31/leaked.book.
BrightSpot. 2018. “Why High-Volume Publishers Should Move to a Cloud CMS – Brightspot.” Brightspot. September 7, 2018. https://www.brightspot.com/learn/articles/high-volume-publishers-cloud-cms.
Business. 2021. “Literature and Cloud Computing – How the Cloud Affects Authors.” Startupsavant.Com. TRUiC. June 7, 2021. https://startupsavant.com/news/literature-and-cloud-computing-how-the-cloud-affects-authors.
Cha, Bonnie. 2015. “Too Embarrassed to Ask: What Is ‘The Cloud’ and How Does It Work? – Vox.” Vox. Vox. April 30, 2015. https://www.vox.com/2015/4/30/11562024/too-embarrassed-to-ask-what-is-the-cloud-and-how-does-it-work.
Cloudflare. n.d. “What Is the Cloud? | Cloud Definition.” Cloudflare.Com. Accessed January 27, 2022. https://www.cloudflare.com/en-ca/learning/cloud/what-is-the-cloud/.
Crum, Erin. 2013. “SCRIBD LAUNCHES FIRST GLOBAL, MULTI-PLATFORM DIGITAL BOOK SUBSCRIPTION– HarperCollins.” HarperCollins. October 1, 2013. https://www.harpercollins.com/blogs/press-releases/scribd-launches-first-global-multi-platform-digital-book-subscription-service.
Deanta. 2019. “Cloud-Based Publishing Technology | Deanta Publishing Solutions.” Deanta. July 22, 2019. https://deanta.com/how-the-cloud-has-revolutionised-publishing/.
Debjani_Chatterjee. 2016a. “How Is the Publishing Industry Dealing with Cloud Technology? | Valuebond Inc.” Digital User Experience Creator | Product Engineering Services Company | Valuebound. October 21, 2016. https://www.valuebound.com/resources/blog/how-publishing-industry-dealing-cloud-technology.
———. 2016b. “5 Things to Know about Cloud If You Are in Publishing | Valuebond Inc.” Digital User Experience Creator | Product Engineering Services Company | Valuebound. November 17, 2016. https://www.valuebound.com/resources/blog/5-things-to-know-about-cloud-if-you-are-publishing.
Hidalgo, Justo. 2011. “A Cloud-Based Subscription Model for Books: The Challenges and Opportunities – Publishing Perspectives.” Publishing Perspectives. https://www.facebook.com/pubperspectives. July 19, 2011. https://publishingperspectives.com/2011/07/a-cloud-based-subscription-model-for-books/.
Hyde, Adam. 2021. “Single Source Publishing — Coko.” Coko — Coko. August 16, 2021. https://coko.foundation/articles/single-source-publishing.html.
Kinsman, Matt. 2010. “Publishing on the Cloud – Folio:” Folio: July 29, 2010. https://archive.foliomag.com/publishing-cloud-0/.
LoPresti, Michael. 2019. “Publishing in the Cloud: Tips for Publishers on Making the Transition.” The Tilt. June 23, 2019. https://www.thetilt.com/content/publishing-in-the-cloud-tips-for-publishers.
McGuire, Hugh. 2009. “Why ‘Self-Publishing’ Is Meaningless | HuffPost Latest News.” HuffPost. HuffPost. August 16, 2009. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-self-publishing-is-me_b_260623.
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Workflow. 2021. “Cloud Workflow System | Why You Need a Cloud Workflow Software?” Kissflow. https://www.facebook.com/KissflowInc. October 17, 2021. https://kissflow.com/workflow/cloud-based-workflow-top-10-reasons/.
The “Downfalls” section here is concerned with functional failings — which aren’t, to my mind at least, very serious downfalls, and in most cases not really any worse than their non-cloud alternatives. But what I don’t see in this treatment is the other major Downfall of cloud(y) thinking: the platformization of publishing, workflows, and work itself.
Because the business model behind almost every single cloud provider is to make your workflow dependent on their service, then using that dependency to effectively lock you in to that business relationship, and then extract both fees and data from you forever more. We’ve discussed the pitfalls of the ‘Internet Business Model’ and I think most of that is directly applicable to the drive to cloud-based workflows and services.
Where I see this post almost addressing this is in the advice, “It is better to use many Cloud systems than none at all. ” I do think one hedge against platformization is to not put all of one’s eggs in one basket. By keeping business functions in a variety of online services, there’s perhaps less of a worry of losing autonomy as there would be if we go all-in on one provider. It’s maybe more organizationally complicated to keep a variety of providers in the mix, but the upside would be that you’re still in charge of the organization!