Our industry has made significant investments in production systems over the years. We’ve all had to evolve from print-only to the various digital formats (e.g., PDF, mobi, EPUB, web, apps, etc.). I’m always amazed to think about how the emphasis has always been on the back end and yet most of us are still using the same authoring and editing tools today that we used 20 years ago. Sure, new versions of those tools have been released in that time but have they really evolved as much as our production systems have? I don’t think so.
O’Reilly’s Adam Witwer is one of the smartest production experts I know. His presentation at the recent Books in Browsers event focused on how we need to stop saying “we need new tools” and start leveraging the ones that already exist.
The example he presents focuses on the Atlas platform currently being developed at O’Reilly. It uses a variety of existing technologies such as git, a version control system. Some might say Atlas is an example of “O’Reilly being O’Reilly” and that it focuses on technology publisher needs rather than trade publisher needs. I disagree.
The technology publishing industry is often a canary in the coal mine for the larger trade publishing industry. The challenges we run into are likely to impact other publishers down the road. Collaborative authoring and editing tools will be useful to every publisher. Version control management is also something every publisher needs to understand. These are just two of the problems Atlas solves.
I encourage you to watch Adam’s presentation below to get a glimpse of how a front-end tool like Atlas could change the way you create, develop, and manage content.