It is time to stop talking about digital publishing

A few years ago, a friend of mine said, that a job title or department name prefixed by the word digital is a sign of an immature industry. And I tend to agree that this is quite true in the publishing industry. At least as far as those digital activities are considered separate from the real processes, or established as something isolated to a digital department, acting and regarded as a radical cell inside the publishing house.


But can you imagine modern book production not being digital? Yes, some productsare non-digital, but also production of non-digital products is thoroughly digitized; from editing over layout to the digitally governed printing processes.

And how about marketing? Do you know of any well-functioning marketing department not having a substantial part of their activities being digital? Most campaigns are (at the least) thought equally as digital and analog – the difference is not necessarily of importance; all channels and platforms must be considered, targeted and analyzed…

Also, a growing part of today’s marketing efforts consist in shaping and disseminating quality metadata in order to optimize discoverability (and hence sales). This activity is strongly governed by rules and data and distribution of these metadata is most often fully automated.

Of course editorial activities also rely on digital tools and methods. – But wait?! So they have been for decades; Your everyday MS Word or Google Docs is a digital publishing tool.

Even people in acquisition shouldn’t omit taking digital exploitation of rights and acquired content into account on equal terms with good old print books.


At this year’s Publishing for Digital Minds conference that took place in connection with London Book Fair, HarperCollins CEO Charlie Redmayne was asked in a closing panel discussion, if he believed that we would continue to go to digital conferences. He answered promptly, that we would probably always need innovation conferences, but the digital activities that we have discussed thoroughly on conferences, have become mainstream activities today.

So working digitally in publishing today, is not innovative in itself. This fact should affect the way we specify what competencies are needed for a modern editor or any other kind of employee in the publishing industry.


So as we nowadays say turn on the light instead of turn on the electric light, and as we simply came to just say tv about a colour tv (if you remember those devices), could we then also agree on just saying

production instead of digital production,

or marketing instead of digital marketing

and why don’t we just change digital publishing to … publishing!