One of the funny things about publishing—at least in a company that’s been around for a while—is how personal choices can evolve into lucky breaks. An example is XML.
When Harry first started the company, printing was done from negative film that skilled technicians called strippers carefully taped into large sheets called flats. Harry is a hands-on kind of guy, so LPG eventually had a whole raft of strippers on staff. We supplied the film to the printers, and from the flats, the printers made plates. Harry also preferred printing locally. So very rarely did the film leave Minnesota. In a lot of cases, our local printers stored the film for us.
With the advent of desktop publishing, film slowly gave way to direct-to-plate printing. Instead of film, we have electronic files. But we still send the files to local printers. And in the meantime, e-Books have come on strong. So we’ve gotten back old film and are digitizing the titles that continue to sell, even if they are not from our frontlist or midlist. We now offer a broad range of titles in print or as e-Books.
So, how does this relate to XML? To create XML files, a publisher needs either to have the film or the digital files that originally were printed. Another option is to digitize a title by scanning the physical books. (With the latter, the downside is that the resulting digital file is several generations away from the original work.)
Because of LPG’s penchant for keeping things in-house and local, the company has had immediate access to nearly its entire backlist. (We’ve already adjusted our workflow to ensure that most of our frontlist and midlist titles automatically become e-Books.) Some of the publishers who have long chosen to print overseas are scrambling to get back their book assets from printers. We’re lucky that Harry’s personal preferences helped us avoid this problem.