Self-publishers setting the stage, but traditional publishers have a part to play

Self-publishing is setting the stage[1] for the future of publishing with the prevalence of “do-it-yourself” tools and applications, almost diminishing the value of the traditional publisher as gatekeeper.

The digital context has given ordinary readers tools[2] to become self-published authors/publishers through several online platforms and user-friendly technology tools to start-up their own publishing, marketing and data analysis businesses. One such author is Scott Nicholson who has published more than 70 books and sells them online through Amazon for the Kindle and other ereaders. “He handles the entire process himself”[3] and the lucrative 70% royalties on e-book sales attract authors more than the traditional publisher’s offer of a mere 25%[4]. With that said, Amy-Mae Elliott says that “with the advent of e-books, social reading sites and simple digital self-publishing software and platforms, all that has changed. An increasing proportion of authors now actively choose to self-publish their work, giving them better control over their books’ rights, marketing, distribution and pricing”(Mashable, February 2014).

Moreover, editors and designers, as well as graduate publishing students are also forming start-up businesses geared towards content strategies for publishers and authors. For traditional publishers, the online context has emphasized the role of the publisher as an incubator, and consultant.

According to Bowker’s statistics “more than three million new titles were published in 2010. Of these, over 2.7 million were non-traditionally published books, including print-on-demand and self-published titles.[5]

Traditional publishers, who already face competition from retail giants such as Amazon, now have to consider their competitive edge against a surprising opponent – the consumer, and in this respect, the reader. We can see that through social computing, as described by Alan Liu as an evolutionary form of reading where the reader assumes the role of annotator, and thereby contribute to the work of the original author. In this sense however, authorship is not overtly important, but the overall collaboration of the project instead. Readers who range from academics to ordinary non-scholars or literary students, are able to developed a shared network among others and create a community from which they are able to grow an audience base. Self-publishing tools offered by Create Space and online coding academies to create website ad artificial intelligent website creators such as The Grid[6] offer readers who become self-published authors the ability to create a brand around themselves and successfully publish online and printed books, without the help of a traditional pubisher who often administered this task.

This paper argues that technology has revolutionized the way we approach the publishing, its function, and who has the right to publish. Matthew Ingram says that how we view publishing is narrowed down to the push of a button in the online context of the web.[7]

The future of the book: “Almost as constant as the appeal of the book has been the worry that appeal is about to come to an end. The rise of digital technology—and especially Amazon, underlined those fears” (The Economist, From Papyrus to Pixels)[8].

Traditional publishers find themselves at odds with having to compete for the same market alongside ordinary persons with little to none experience in the publishing field, but who are able to attract, and maintain an audience with user-friendly, and free tools and platforms on the web. Additionally, the serialization of content is popularized by the context of people consuming media in short form, from a mobile device or tablet, and often on the go. The reader who consumes in this fashion, is able to come up with the right solution for what publishers are missing the mark on.

This ties into Brian O’Leary’s view of “Context not Container” in his book A Futurist’s Manifesto, especially with the publishing industry taking a popular form of the web2.0. In the same sense, contexts such as social computing have blurred the lines between author and reader with both having the capacity to adopt the role of publisher through networked channels.

What this means for traditional publishers is not only a change in their business models, but also their approach to the nature of the digitized age. They have to align themselves with networked trends, and find innovative ways to approach online distribution, marketing, and content creation. Additionally, instead of focusing on the plight of traditional publishing in the age of technology, this paper draws its attention to the opportunities self-publishers exploit and how both traditional publishers can co-exist alongside them within this context.

“The book is now a place as well as a thing and you can find its location mapped in cyberspace,” writes researcher Paula Berinstein[9] who discusses the notion of the networked book where authors, publishers, and readers gather to think, discuss, annotate, and refer the book. One can say that this was sparked by online journaling platforms such as blogs, and now by the Web 2.0 which makes the book searchable, linkable, divisible, and mutable (Berinstein, 2015). A case study such as Gamer Theory (spelled GAM3R 7H3ORY) by McKenzie Wark which started off as a draft online and invited reader interaction through annotation, comments and feedback points to how such a networked book was transformed into a better book for online and print. The book contained index cards with reader comments, and prestigious academics. It was also acquired by Harvard University Press for publishing in 2007 and an online editions are available. This changing approach in how the book is created, curated, promoted, and distributed appeals to the cooperation between self-publishers and traditional publishers in a digitized context.

Other opportunities show that traditional publishers will need to unbundle their content and services in order to remain relevant. “They will have to reimagine their role. [They] could start offering “light versions of their services, such as print-only distribution, or editing, and not taking a cut of the whole pie”[10]. Moreover, publishers will need to work harder at proving to authors that they are capable of reading a far larger audience. This challenge is could be tantamount to the accessibility of the same technology making it is easier for self-publishing and explore new and alternative ways discovering, marketing, sharing, distributing, and imitating the books of other self-published and traditional publishers, think fan-fiction.

Furthermore, traditional publishers need not be at loggerheads with self- publishers, but should rather look for collaborating opportunities by declaring their importance with publishing quality content with the assistance of editors and customized content strategies. A recent case study points out to how a self-published author of a dystopian science fiction short story, “Wool” on the web led to film adaptation and a contract with a traditional publisher, Simon and Schuster to buy the license rights to print the book. “Most writers still sign with publishers when they have the chance, because print books remain such a sizeable chunk of the market”[11]. With that said, the self-published author owns the right to the e-book.

Besides this, self-published authors attract readers by selling their books at a low price, and often in e-book format. This puts traditional publishers under pressure to lower their prices too especially in genre fiction, such as romance, where romance publisher Harlequin suffered financial losses and was ultimately acquired by HarperCollins in May 2014.[12] This acquisition, for the most part, has led to international opportunities for the now-imprint to publish in over 30 languages worldwide, a move they hope to acquire authors. We can again, see in this instance, that traditional publishers are able to exploit international brand presence.

In his article, “A modest proposal for publishers and authors”, Jonathan Fields discusses the nature of the relationship in the digitized age, and how the two can co-exist through partnerships. He says that traditional publishers, even as well-known brands did not even have direct access to buyers, and according to him, still do not.[13]

Self-publishers who are able to attract and maintain a profitable audience can explore the benefits traditional publishers and booksellers are able to offer in partnership. Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press has launched Pub It! that offers self-published authors e-book publishing and print book packages. Potential self-publishers can build their book, prepare downloadable manuscript files that includes instructions to create, format e-books and print books on demand—as well as the technologies available to do this. Authors also have the option of acquiring professional input from Nook Press in any part of the publishing process.

Their author services packages can be purchased and guides authors through the publishing process to create a printed book which is ready for shipping within a week. [14] The Nook Press print platform creates print books for personal use whereas the ebook platform creates digital books for sale through Nook and the Barnes and Nobles website which distributes directly to the reader.

According to their press release, PubIt! attracts at least 20% independent authors every term and titles increase by 24% in the Nook Store. The report also states that at least 30% of customers purchase self-published content accounting for at least a quarter of Nook books sales every month[15].

In conclusion, self-publishers have approached the web as a platform or context of endless opportunity, whereas traditional publishers have perceived it as a threat to their business models and in turn, their very purpose of publishing. Essentially, a new form of publishing is already set as the stage where self-publishers are able to introduce new standards of creating content and curating content, marketing and distributing it with user-friendly, accessible and even free tools. The smart traditional publishers, and even booksellers, as we have seen have used this as an inspiration to expand their own models, and collaborate with successful self-publishers, even emerging bloggers and annotators by offering unbundled professional services and content strategies, as well as editing and formatting tools to publish their own books. The new stage of the “techno-publishing”, a term I coined myself, is a place to invest coding skills, multiplatform marketing and content disaggregation for the right audience at the right time, is where the business of publishing is right now. What is left, is for us to decide which part we’ll play in it as future publishers.


Work cited:

Elliott, A. 2014. “People-Powered Publishing is changing all the rules.” at

McGuire and O’Leary (2012) “Context, not Container” in  A Futurist’s Manifesto. Press Books.

Transmedia storytelling and publishing

Publishers have for  long  announced dwindling revenue for their print products such as books and magazines, laying the blame squarely on the Web and new technology. It’s a tune we know all too well.

For some, they have adapted and given way to the e-book as a format to extend their content on a different platform reaching new audiences at the same time. “In 2012, the Ontario Media Development Corporation estimated 15 percent of book sales in Canada were in digital formats, a number expected to at least double by 2018,” it was reported in the Metro (p 16).

Several publishers, as we know, have folded, not seeing any other means of overcoming the knock they have suffered. Others have dusted off their traditional business models and made way for a fresh perspective, incorporating and even embracing the new opportunities of the electronic age.

There is hope.

In fact, there is opportunity, and this opportunity is presented through transmedia storytelling.

Transmedia storytelling as a movement has been around since the early 1960s, and in some cases 1920s.

Science Fiction, has probably been the most prevalent genre adopting transmedia methods between the publisher, author, book and its readers, with blockbusters such as The Matrix being a notable example of transmedia storytelling in the Science Fiction genre.

What is transmedia?

Essentially, transmedia is a new form of storytelling. For the purposes of this paper, I shall be referring to it as transmedia storytelling, which comprises telling independent yet connected stories across multiple media platforms as a collective experience of the narrative. By doing so, this method of storytelling explores new creative possibilities that opens up new revenue streams for publishers and promotes brand loyalty and audience engagement.

Until recently, the concept of transmedia storytelling has been associated with Henry Jenkins through his book, Convergence Culture, whereby he describes transmedia storytelling as a process whereby important parts of a story, fiction or non-fiction, gets dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. “Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story,” says Jenkins, who speaks of today’s culture, and the future, as an era where spectatory culture is being replaced by participatory culture.

For publishers, transmedia should be a shifting and evolving definition. They cannot work with a fixed notion of what transmedia storytelling means, because they would only limit themselves to the possibilities of what they can do with their brands and products across several platforms.

Transmedia storytelling and publishing should be one connected idea. One should not be able to speak of one without the other. Publishers should no longer have to think of just printing a book, or converting it to an e-pub format, but they should keep in mind the non-conventional extensions of the book/magazine as a whole. Particularly, when it comes to capturing their audience’s attention, and involving them in the storytelling process through other platforms such as digi-novels, games, and even apps.

Transmedia as convergence

“Storytelling is going through and evolution. The impact of new technologies combined with audience that has more control over its media is challenging from revenue models to authorship”, according Lance Weiler, a story architect and co-founder of Transmedia Next.

A distinctive factor about transmedia is that “all plot lines and media presentations are designed to flow within a single, integrated story world, often with an emphasis on audience participation across platforms.” In the case of Conspiracy for Good (2010), audience participation plays a crucial role to the unfolding of the storyline fictionally and in reality. This is a good example to disprove critics who are of the opinion that transmedia might bring about greater apathy among digital audiences who might be too immersed in the content across several platforms.

Instead, the infiltration of transmedia storytelling through popular culture, and its permanence as well as flexibility in culture, showcases the difficulty researchers have had attempting to pin down an exact hypothesis or concept of the transmedia narrative experience.

Transmedia storytelling is also known as pervasive storytelling or persistent narrative that lends the idea that a narrative is no longer confined to a single book, or screen. Other ideas of transmedia is that it is a marketing tool, a means of engaging and enticing new audiences to buy your product, or become loyal members to your brand. Other purposes of transmedia storytelling is accessing alternative revenue streams for new business models, and thereby creating new value through stories and their experiences.

Transmedia and fandom

Fandom, would mean the joining of the two words, fan to denote a follower, or admirer of a celebrity, brand or product, and dom would be derived from kingdom, to illustrate a container or gathering of a community of people with similar interests. Fandom would therefore imply some sort of cult. A fandom would in this instance, interact and participate in creative works and discussions surrounding these works, online and off-line.

Transmedia, as this paper will explain, is a narrative and social practice emerging as an integral part of popular culture as we know it today.

Looking at historical examples, this paper will maintain that the term transmedia itself renders an evolutionary process whereby publishers should create innovative means of creating, marketing, and distributing their brands (and products, ie. books and magazines) in such a way that continues to challenge the expectations of traditional media making and its audiences across these platforms.

Books as an old-age product, can be incorporated into a strategy and architecture that raises curiosity among audiences to click, scroll, and connect with other devices and platforms (even embedded within the book itself) warranting the longevity and relevance of the book in print.

Penguin Book’s Dutton Publishing has been on the forefront of the transmedia storytelling, publishing the digital first novel, Level 26.

Transmedia as an evolving definition also brings publishers to incorporate their audiences in the storytelling process whereby a participatory practice is exercised. Readers not only become reviewers, but also extended creators of content (prose/poetry/music/film/games) that extends the narrative of the book/magazine. Here are a few case studies for demonstration and impact.

In my opinion, Transmedia storytelling in publishing is a slow starter. Many first have to evaluate or observe whether other publishers have incorporated transmedia storytelling into their business plans, or whether it is product specific. Also, many publishers consider transmedia to be the task of marketers, and often find themselves not too involved in the process. Judging by the amount of money marketing gets from the budget, one can assume that transmedia is not often a viable option to consider with their books or magazines.

Books as an age-old product,  can be incorporated as part of a bigger narrative architecture which would aim to spark enough curiosity in readers to click, scroll on other devices and to recognize fragments in their daily social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, newsletters, games, movies, music, and so forth, to generate their own content, and attend live events adding more value to the story as a whole.

One cannot speak about transmedia storytelling without speaking about platforms, devices, and technology.  Publishers now and in the future, need to explore how different platforms can be used to distribute content. Different media platforms can be categorized as literature (the manuscript, book or magazine in print and e-book format), films, television, radio, games, social media, and guerilla marketing skits (or street theatre). Besides the latter, audience consume content from these platforms on multiple devices.

Transmedia storytelling examples: 

By these examples a common thread that often exists in transmedia storytelling is virality. The tendency for a media form such as an image, video or song to gain prominence online through various views, and interaction (through personal blogs, sharing or retweeting) with it. The aspect of virality does lend a brand, or book title its susceptibility in becoming transmedia.

The examples below show how books have evolved into other media forms vis a vis transmedia storytelling. Other exceptions will show that movies, or digi-novels have evolved into books and other transmedia platforms.

The Lord of the Rings. Most likely the most popular and well-known uses of transmedia storytelling is The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. This trilogy stems from the 1950s  in book (print) format before it expanded into various other genres and platforms, such as games (board, card, mobile), cartoons, films, songs, merchandise and collectibles, and even internet memes, such as “You shall not pass”, a classic during finals. Audience who have often read the book will end up watching the films, or collecting merchandise or buy the board game. The very serious fans often attend comic festivals and dress up for Halloween.

Sherlock Holmes. This fictional character is perhaps one of the most famous names out there. Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, Sherlock Holmes has featured in several written works by the same author and has moved on to becoming a franchise across media platforms such as film, TV shows, radio, and games.

Cinderella 2.0. By the name, we can see that an age-old narrative of a girl mistreated by her stepfamily finds true love with a rich handsome monarch, when he discovers her glass slipper, is being re-told through transmedia, as audiences assuming the role of the prince on his search for the girl who got onto a stage and sings. She stuns the audience. As she gets removed by security, she looses her shoe. Upon discovery of the shoe, a huge virality takes off where audiences engage in several platforms to find the “Cinderella”. Her song goes viral on iTunes,  and the list goes on. Transmedia showcases the reality of audiences and how they adapt to information. In order to stay relevant to a hyper connected generation being present in their minds and lives, we need “Liquid content” adaptable in order to distribute it on all available mediums, vis a vis Cinderella 2.0 illustration. 

Level 26. This horror digi-novel written by Anthony E Zuiker who is also the creator of CSI, began as  a book online at and was an interactive extension of the book series. This transmedia idea lets the reader move from the book to visual content online on the website. The success of this digi-novel has captured the likes of Dutton Publishing for print.

Dejobaan GamesA video game developer who has combined both literature and gaming into one. The art game, Elegy, where the player writes diary entries visible to other players, explores three worlds inspired by British romantic poets  like Shelley, Byron, and Keats. This game has received good reviews for alternative and new introduction to how literature and gaming have formed a new experience whereby narrative storytelling took prominence over action. The software company, Steam received an honourable mention at the 2014 Independent Games Festival for their participation in this new art form. Transmedia, therefore, brings several genres, and professions (technology, art, and literature) together to create a collective narrative experience.

Transmedia as semiotic

According to Scolari from the University of Vic in Catalunya, Spain, “many concepts have been developed to describe the convergence of media, languages, and formats in contemporary media systems” (Scolari, 2009: 586).

His article proposes a theoretical approach to transmedia storytelling (TS) that combines semiotics and narratology – a combination that should be explained before these “complex textures” are analysed.

Furthermore, the definition of semiotics is outlined by the author as being, “concerned with sense production and interpretation processes.” Semiotics, Scolari contends, is very useful in describing sense production devices such as transmedia narratives.

I am in agreement with Scolari that transmedia storytelling proposes a new narrative model based on different media and languages, and it invokes sense production and interpretation processes. The excitement around transmedia storytelling is definitely the visual and technological appeal. User-friendly technology of creating code to form websites, and interact with other users in a Second Life, appeals to audiences across the world. Publishers need to cash in on this movement to stay in the game, and ahead of it.

YouTube user Alyiswriting, describes transmedia storytelling  as the idea of telling a story through multiple platforms with each platform making its own unique contribution to the content of the story. Pottermore. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (comic books). Beatgirl

Transmedia as new media  

i) New media in scholarly publishing:

“The difference between traditional and new media excellence lie in both form and content” (Ioppolita et al 2009).

“New media research spans numerous genres, from critical essays to political activism to community-building to software design.” Furthermore, there exists a handful of journals that concern new media. “The Leonardo journal (MIT Press) is of this writing the only print journal with a longstanding track record as a peer-reviewed journal about new media” (Ioppolita et al 2009). This discussion is, however, particular to academic journals and their approach to new media. There are others, such as Fibreculture in Sydney, First Monday in Chicago, Vectors in Los Angeles, and Digital Creativity in Copenhagen.

In terms of citations, Ioppolita et al (2009) states that they are a valuable and versatile measure of peer influence because they may originate from various platforms such as websites, databases and books in print and e-format[3].

Downloads and visitor counts, is another tool to measure transmedia interaction in the scholarly field. Downloads and web traffic statistics show a measure of influence that has gained the attention of an online community. An Open Access study by Brody and Harnad (2005) found that “the significance of citation impact is well established, access of research literature via the Web provides a new metric for measuring the impact of articles—Web download impact[4].”

Ioppolita’s paper, although it speaks to academic publishing, points out that practitioners across several disciplines have fallen behind in making their works available in new ways online and across several other platforms, such as Second Life[5] communities and other online conference venues and archives.

Transmedia as convergence, cross-media and franchising

Jenkins (2003), when he speaks of transmedia, has referred to it as convergence culture. To a larger degree, the notion of transmedia as a franchising is another definition to consider. “Industry professionals and media consumers, may see transmedia storytelling to bring greater institutional coordination, added narrative integrality, and deeper engagement to the various pieces of contemporary media franchises,” says Johnson (2014). Transmedia storytelling, as the various explanations have pointed out, is indeed a means for publishers to turn their works into franchises.

And why not?

Despite the negative notions that surround the word franchise, transmedia incorporates all forms of creativity across various platforms, lending acknowledgement to various authors. The evolving concept of transmedia as new media, convergence, semiotics, and franchising, is only just the beginning coming to understand the vast possibilities there exists with this movement that enables audience participation, and publishers being able to engage their content by adding more value for itself and its stakeholders.



Ioppolito, J., Blais, J., Smith, O., Evans, S.m and Stormer, N., “New Criteria for New Media” in Leonardo, Vol. 42, No.1 (2009), pp 71-75. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. url:

Simcole, L.  Feb 26, 2015. “Writers see e-ink on the wall” in MetroVancouver. (p.16).

Jenkins, H. 2003. Confessions of Aca-fan. The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins.

[3] Ioppolita et al (2009) New Criteria for New Media (p.72).

[4] Brody and Harnad  (2005)“Earlier Web Usage Statistics as Predictors of Later Citation Impact”.

What the heck is hacking? A Guide for publishers in understanding hacking and system design

“Hackers have become scapegoats: We discover the gaping holes in the system and then get blamed for the flaws” –Emmanuel Goldstein

“A hacker is someone who experiments with systems… Hacking is playing with systems and making them do what they were never intended to do.” ­–Dorothy Denning

Hypothetical event: 

“Breaking News: Penguin Publishers Hacked!” read the headlines across news sources on the web and in print.

Publishers, I’d imagine are all shocked, and some competitors may be secretly smirking at the unfortunate event that has befallen the giant book producer. What this event also signifies is the vulnerability of publishers who have their books, financial information and other technological trade secrets online. Hackers sending out false information on behalf of the publishers, selling manuscripts to other publishers under false pretense, and perhaps just the removal of valuable information from their systems.

Many rush to their offices, call their IT personnel—in-house and outsourced—to either strengthen their buffer zone (put up firewalls), or completely remove their businesses from the World Wide Web.

Perhaps not so extreme, but a catastrophic event such as the hacking of a publisher, would send most of the others into frenzy. Much like the several supposed terrorist attacks across the world, and governments’ response to protect themselves and their citizens, so would publishers need to find their own protective, preemptive, and restorative measures to protect themselves from cyber terrorism, or intellectual property theft in the form of hacking.

Even if publishers themselves would not think themselves targets, their publishing partners, such as Amazon could face a similar threat. In this instance, valuable banking transactions, and the personal accounts of customers could be seized.

This scenario is not all that hypothetical. In fact, a recent series of hacker attacks on publishers is raising questions about potential third-party security holes that leave websites exposed to cracks, it was reported What’s New In Publishing Online in September 2014. “Third parties already snagging profits from many publishers by using the publishers’ own data for monetary gain, the news that hackers are using these same third-party JavaScript tags as a way to break into publisher sites feels especially insidious”[1]. The news source site, Reuters and was one of the victims who were infiltrated through third-party partners’ systems to access their data by using JavaScript tags.

“A potential problem with JavaScript tags is that if a platform vendor would not have control or validation over the creative, it could return inappropriate content such as adult material or extremist views[2].”

French newspaper, Le Monde has been the most recent victim. Their Twitter account was hacked allegedly by a Syrian Electronic Army in service to the Syrian president. “Among media sites hit were London newspapers the Daily Telegraph, Independent and Evening Standard. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp and New York Daily News also said they had fallen victim to the hack.[3]

What is also more shocking, or perhaps not, is that nearly 80 percent of publishers said they were ignorant as to which and how third-party companies, like Google and Taboola were accessing their audience data.

Although this scenario is hypothetical, publishers need to understand hacking and its implications.

Hacking and piracy are forms of intellectual property theft, which is described as, “theft of material that is copyrighted, the theft of trade secrets, and trademark violations. A copyright is the legal right of an author, publisher, composer, or other person who creates a work to exclusively print, publish, distribute, or perform the work in public.[4]

As publishers move their business models online to maintain readership numbers and remain relevant among their audience and competitors, they face risk of intellectual property theft.

Intellectual property theft through cybercrime, has become less sophisticated as individuals with minimal programming knowledge are able to purchase software to carry out hacking activities which are immune to firewalls, according to the CIO[5].

Furthermore, intellectual property rights could be considered to be trade secrets that give business a competitive edge. In the publishing industry, the same concept applies. Whatever trade secrets a publisher possess, from editorial, circulation and distribution (operations), advertising and sales, financial information and technological innovations, these needs to be protected under copyright law and intellectual property law.

Publishers that have shifted their business models online possess several types of rights when they acquire an author and eventually sell the book in various formats online. Furthermore, if the book has the potential on becoming a blockbuster film, publishers will most likely have bought secondary media rights to earn revenue from such a platform. It is therefore important for publishers to understand their intellectual property rights when it comes to hacking and piracy.

Hacking, says David Gunkel (2000), “designates an activity that is simultaneously applauded for its creativity and reviled for its criminal transgressions (798)[6]. The concept of hacking is diabolical in understanding for most hosting systems. Hackers, the ones who are hacking, need a host. How they gain access to this host is through a so-called back door that has been left wide open. “Hacking only fixates on and manipulates an aporia, a bug, or back door that is always and already present within and constitutive of the system as such[7].”

By this statement, hacking works like a parasite that feeds off a system that has not taken precautionary measures to secure it completely. “The activities of hacking must be seen as highly attentive and even compulsive responses to specific systems that both call for and make the hack possible in an by their very systems’ design[8].”

What is a system’s design? When one speaks about a system’s design, one is actually referring to system design. This is a term more often coined by computer scientists and engineers. In this case, publishers might consider themselves to not be affiliated with this profession. Rightly so, but it is important to understand what system design involves when publishers so often acquaint themselves with technology and operating their businesses online. This is a fair argument that deserves attention from publishers who have web-based content in various formats, such as EPub, PDF, Podcasts, analytics, websites, and so forth.

To understand system design, one must separate the two terms:

A system, defined by Jim Waldo, Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems, “is a set of interacting parts, generally too large to be built by a single person, created for some particular purpose…Hardware and software that allow the programs on [computers] to interact with each other over a network are systems.”[9] Waldo further explains that deciphering a system requires a look at the layers of that system. The larger the piece of software, the more layers there are in the design, and the more complex the system. He further iterates that design has an ambiguous definition but that more often than not, in computer science, one will discover the design of software by its code. This code could have been created prior to the production of the system or may have evolved with the implementation of the system itself (2006: 2)[10].

Waldo urges training in system design. “If system design is in fact learned as part of an apprenticeship, there are two places that we should expect such learning to take place. The first is in graduate school, where a student can work with a single faulty member, his or her advisor, who acts as a master. The other is on-the-job, learning the arts of system design by doing such design.[11] This is already taking place through agile methods and open source software. Agile methods is an approach to writing code, and systems based on small groups of programmers working collectively as one unit[12].” This method is often peer reviewed. Similarly, open source projects also provide forum and discussions on system design.

Publishers should invest in hiring system designers, or sending their in-house web specialists to attend such training, if they have not. This, in the long run, will cost publishers less money than to outsource IT specialists to work on a system that they had no hand in creating, and access confidential information. Also, in-house system designers will be able to come up with exclusive system design for the publisher that will make it less likely to be hacked or copied.

Publishing and media school courses should invest in in-depth system design curriculum, so that graduating publishers who move into the industry are geared to create software, and design systems for the publishing businesses. At least it would be useful to have an adequate understanding of such a system when the subject is broached in hiring IT specialists to install several software programs should the company face cyber threat or intellectual property theft.

If publishers choose not to invest in system design, then there is the outsourced alternative:

How can publishers protect their system’s data from getting hacked? According to WikiHow[13], there are at least a few ways to prevent getting hacked. These are:

  1. Use a port scanner to identify open ports on your network and the software that’s running them. It is important to update these programs.
  2. Regularly backup your data and test the backups.
  3. Store the backup files off line for extra security.
  4. Encrypt data with encryption software that has important company information in transit mode, such as emails.
  5. Use the latest antivirus software.
  6. Use real time protection software to manage your operating system.
  7. Use anti-adware and spyware software that protects your system from monitoring passwords and confidential data.
  8. Install intrusion detection software to point out when your system is accessed illegally.
  9. Install a firewall to maintain a secure interface between your publisher’s network and other public networks.
  10. Regularly update software programs for added security and that all default passwords are reset.

These precautionary measures seem obvious and self-explanatory, but it is important for publishers, as well as emerging publishers like ourselves to be informed of the means of protection, and the costs involved to ensure intellectual property and other confidential company information is protected online, all the time.

Conclusively, publishers need to educate themselves on system design, hacking and third-party agreements to secure their data. Publishers need to take control of their own data. There are not a lot of tools available to attain this, but with greater investment in system design, publishers should be able to create these tools themselves. This way publishers protect their customers, their intellectual property, but also their profits.

 Work Cited:  

[1] Pritchard, M. 2014. What’s New In Publishing article: “Open to hackers? Partners can be a publisher’s weakest link”:

[2] Pritchard, M. 2014. What’s New In Publishing article: “Open to hackers? Partners can be a publisher’s weakest link”:

[4] Cyber Crime- Intellectual Property Theft- Internet, Pirates, Trade, and Secrets:

[6] Gunkel, David J. “Hacking Cyberspace” in JAC, Vol. 20, No. 4. Fall 2000.

[7] Gunkel, David J. “Hacking Cyberspace” in JAC, Vol. 20, No. 4. Fall 2000.

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[10] Waldo, J. 2006. “On System Design” in Harvard University Press:

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