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A More Efficient System: A Look Ahead at 2019

Last year on the blog, we highlighted several ways in which technology is influencing and changing content industries. From newspapers to book and journal publishing, music to fine art, technology is speeding up processes, streamlining workflow, helping with discovery, creation, and fact-checking content, and improving the way we reach customers. What we also discussed is how, in many ways, these changes will impact those working within these industries.

As we look ahead to 2019, I want to emphasize some of the key changes we can anticipate this year to help prepare for the future of publishing and align our industry better with the changes that are going on in the world around us.

Artificial Intelligence

Even though we see artificial intelligence in our day-to-day lives, there continues to be some knee-jerk wariness on the part of publishers. Because Artificial Intelligence is uncharted territory, publishers aren’t alone. In a survey of some 979 technology pioneers, innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists conducted in the summer of 2018 by Pew Research, the experts predicted “networked artificial intelligence will amplify human effectiveness but also threaten human autonomy, agency and capabilities.”

Though AI on a larger, global scale should be taken in a slow, plodding way to ensure proper implementation and protection for the humans involved in each industry, on a smaller scale in publishing, AI can help improve workflow and systems, allowing for humans to engage in fewer mundane, time-consuming tasks and more high-level, creative pursuits.

Workflow Solutions and Automation

AI and machine learning are used to help automate some repetitive tasks in publishing. Last year, we ran a series on the State of Automation, which was highlighted by The Bookseller, outlining how automation is being implemented in the world around us—from retail sites to healthcare—and how it will impact the publishing industry on a granular level. Though automation is still very much in its infancy in publishing, it has the potential to be one of the more disruptive changes in the foreseeable future.

By automating many systems, some departments, such as production, editorial, and rights may have radically different workloads and responsibilities. By automating some of these systems, we could free up these departments to expand their roles into new, creative areas.

Blockchain in Publishing

Blockchain became the hot topic last year. Blockchain is a decentralized, digitized series of information blocks shared in a peer-to-peer network and the technology behind the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. For academic publishers, blockchain seems to be the most viable way to chart research, peer review, and dissemination of information.

Just last week, Dutch publishing consultant Sebastian Posth released a paper entitled “What Is Blockchain: Why and How Should the Industry Care?” comparing the shift to blockchain and cryptocurrencies as “significant as the shift that happened with the emergence of the internet.” Posth illustrates how blockchain can help publishers and other media with piracy, payment, expanding the ability to reach customers better, but blockchain will also “confront publishers with new, inherent obstacles and questions: about identity and governance; about laws and regulations; about transactions and revenue models; about crypto-currencies and currency-conversions; about crypto-economics and financial incentives; about censorship and borders – and a lot of things they might have never thought of before.”

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