What is single-source publishing?

In an earlier series of blog posts, I outlined the process we follow when making a book at Cambridge. This process is a traditional book publishing workflow. It has people responsible for discrete tasks and linear process. The author produces the manuscript which the editor then edits and styles and passes onto the typesetter who lays the book out. The proofreader gives the book a once over, and then it is ready to print. If an e-book is needed, then a whole new process starts, with the PDF marked up for conversion to an epub. An external service provider typically completes this task. If we need to implement changes or reprint corrections to the title, then these changes must go back to the editor and then the typesetter. We must then implement these changes in the e-book version. This workflow is costly and time-consuming.

The alternative is the modern workflow approach, which I also discussed in a blog. This workflow keeps the content in a central place, either an online content management system or an XML document. The same people are involved, but they work collaboratively on the manuscript. Any edits can be made through the content management system and saved automatically. Revisions are kept and can be reverted to if needed. The XML file can still be designed in InDesign if required, but any changes made to the content will be stored in the XML file, not in the InDesign file. When the book is complete, the required formats are exported, which means you immediately have both the print book and e-book (and any other formats) ready for publishing. The real benefit, however, comes when you need to make any corrections or changes to the text. Theses edits can be done quickly and easily in the content management system or XML file, and the formats re-exported.

Have you had experience with this workflow? Any suggestions for software applications that can help? Leave a comment below.

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