I’m not at all surprised by the news item in today’s Bookseller1 that the move to digital technologies has revealed a major skill gap in the publishing industry. It feels like that has been the case for a long time. Over the past few years, I’ve often commented on the limited extent of the expertise in digital technologies in some major publishing houses, who tend to outsource almost everything.
Outsourcing is no bad thing; it’s what publishers do, and it works well. But, in the digital domain, if done to excess it can feel as though the publisher abdicates responsibility for their digital business, placing in the hands of a third party technology company, thereby letting the technology drive the business, rather than the other way round.
I’m certainly a beneficiary of that outsourcing, and my current clutch of clients tend to be among those publishers who have a good range of skills for electronic publishing, but even they would admit that there are always holes and gaps in understanding and practice that get pushed to one side amid the daily routine of getting new products to market.
I can understand some of the gaps. After all, why would many publishers want to get too heavily involved with XML schemas, but at least some basic XML knowledge should be mandatory these days, if only for fixing typos.
So, I’d be interested to know where you see the gaps, either in your own skill-set, of your business, or of some of your competitors?
- Neilan, Catherine. “Digital skills gap now ‘critical’ for publishers.” 14 August 2009. The Bookseller. http://www.thebookseller.com/news/94322-digital-skills-gap-now-critical-for-publishers.html.rss. The Skillset report was also the basis of a piece in the Guardian, though its headline seems to have somewhat misrepresented the substance of the findings: Holmwood, Leigh. “Literacy level of recruits now a major concern for media, report finds.” 13 August 2009. The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/aug/13/literacy-concerns-media-recruits-skillset-report