Potentially, AIs can be used to cover, more or less successfully, all of the wide range of activities leading to the selection, creation and distribution of books and other printed materials, from manuscript draft, to substantive and copy editing, to layout and cover design, printing (or encoding for e-books) and even distribution of the published works.
One possible future, that is likely to happen is the “engineers” approach to implement AIs in Publishing. Engineers are problem solvers and optimize things, so its natural the whole process will be driven, like many other fields in technology, by this vision.
The process would take several specialized AIs to do the task, but they will no doubt accomplish “something”. What makes the difference, is the approach we take to use them, and I mean WE, because as future professionals, decision makers and leaders of this industry, we must be very wary of how we want this to happen.
I have also included “The Boss” perspective to these outcomes (find them in red) about the possible appeal of these technologies to these people to show how these technologies appear and shape the decisions of the managerial level and their impact on the workforce.
Scenario I -The engineers’ approach-
This process would evolve systematically, starting with the manuscript selection as a Machine Learning project called “Gutemberg” (named un- creatively after a long struggle with Copyright holders… engineers after all). “Gut” starts learning from the actions of a human editor, then, combining the data gathered from the choices of several editors, it would gather enough information to start making its own choices, those being probably corrected again by those editors, who would think its wonderful to have some time to do anything else or just to increase their “productivity”, focusing on “editing” twenty, books instead of ten at a time.
What about the boss? The boss is happy to have invested in this promising technology that may save a lot to the Company in unnecessary human and material resources. It is a very competed world and the ones with the best tools will win the battle (or so the Boss thinks).
With the new data set input, “Gut” would optimize and start making more accurate decisions, “productivity” would increase to 50 books per editor, then 100, the process being refined successively on each iteration. Finally, the “editor” would only have to assign parameters to filter those manuscripts the AI had selected and focus on making “high level” choices.
At this point, The Boss is considering reducing the workforce in the editorial level, the savings are huge and they will allow for investment on other projects. After all, mandate states the company must give voice to as many people as possible. The dream of “serving the community” seems to be fulfilling.
A side effect is, with each successive iteration, the “editor(s)” doing the job become experts on data selection, no more reading required, no need to understand, the primary requirement being competence in evaluating the numbers. Not far from today, this “editor” will become effectively a data analyst with publishing insights. The same process would apply to substantive and copy editing, probably discarding the job position of the later before anyone else.
On the Big office: The Boss is very happy to have saved so much in “not always reliable” workforce. Some new positions had to be created of course, like the AI Tech Specialist, who monitors and maintains the correct working of the AI, its a major expense but “Gut” can do the work of dozens of people in the same amount of time, not even that, they had already developed version 26.11 which even has a simulated but stimulating sense of humor module to allow “meetings” with it more pleasant.
In essence, this Boss has a five figure salary and his troubles had been reduced to dealing with his “chief editors”, a big name for people evaluating the numbers and reading the one page, bullet point prompts the AI deliver to them so they -at least- are informed what a book is about and the major points of the plot.
Design and layouts seem also simple to create artificially, just provide a set of proven templates, use machine learning to teach the AI how to correct widows, hyphens and the like, and don’t worry about the rest, by the moment this occurs, people had already re-learned to read based on those (horrible) screen readers with accessibility, zoom in/out and convenient storage capacity.
Printed books don’t do better. Even today, publishers had sacrificed all the use and meaning of margins and blanks to maximize the use of space and increase their profit margin, which is no surprise, but is deplorable, since even a set of margins as short as half an inch each on a 5×8” book means only 70% of the page is used for text, add “leading” to the equation and that usage may drop to as low as 50%.
For the boss, one of the happiest things brought by AI, this is a different one called “Minuzio” in honor to the famous Italian typographer and printer. He finally got rid of those pesky freelancers who tried over and over to get a cover done, when all that was need was”more red”. Fortunately, “Minuzio” is very obliging so you only have to tell it what style you want and it will deliver tens or hundreds of options, all appealing and optimized for visual impact.
On the accounting, financing and administrative departments, editors would have long been relieved of this pain of doing numbers and dealing with P&Ls. Why bother? The new system linked to “Gutemberg”, called “MIDAS” has the particularity of analyzing the market trends and predict, with 95% accuracy, the best possible date within a time-frame for a new product to be released, also to organize and track orders and deliver prompt shipping to points of sale, not to mention, handle the e-commerce site where e-books are ordered or track sales across Amazon and other regional platforms. Additionally, it can also do your tax reports.
MIDAS has saved the boss the pains of dealing with faulty logistics, the AI is everything they promised, and more. He saves time, money and resources, and now only decides on the best course of action for the Company to invest. The logistics feature means each book may have as few as a few as a couple dozen copies in print and probably double that number on e-book sales, but they are a steady market and return rates are fewer than 5%!
The end result: The Boss only has to deal with AIs, they work 24/7, meaning no more delays, no more missing deadlines, everything just a stream of finished works. With so many projects managed by “Gutemberg” and designed by “Minuzio”, sales are like a videogame where you invest your resources on one or other project. If only writers could write faster, but then, that will be solved when they release “Cervantes” the Writing Author AI everyone is expecting. Then, books will be a matter of inputting a number of parameters and drag a project into the publishing console to produce.
5 years later: The advancement on AIs systems allow the total disposal of unnecessary personnel, at most, a company now haw a CEO, one Executive Editor and Executive Manager which are required to maintain a certain level of humanity behind the scenes of an otherwise automated process.
After a hard struggle, Open Access supporters finally release “improved” versions (mostly copies and rip offs) of the different AIs with various, sometimes flamboyant names, some of these specialize in certain genres, others try to emulate the protocols of Gutemberg or Minuzio. Many are free but mediocre, most are paid per upgrade or feature.
Whatever the angle, this leads to the sudden burst of “single man/woman” publishers managing hundreds of projects at a time which seem to be good at becoming celebrities and influencers. Self publishing is possible but if you want to “write” something that does not stall in the dozen sales mark, you need those guys to become your “Publishers”.
Grant systems for publishing, where applicable, collapse under the pressure of tens of thousands of applications, sometimes, the grant is as low as to barely cover the domain cost site or, the price of a cup of “Hyper Cetacean milk coffee”, it uses no cetacean milk by the way, just a brand, it has no sugar and no actual coffee, just the flavor. Its very popular by then.
Widespread publishing is a reality, anyone can write or give an idea to a “Cervantes” replica, had the book written, then process it and publish “a book”. Mission accomplished, everyone can publish now. With so many works and everyone writing, nobody reads each other.
10 years after total implementation of AI in Publishing: With so many published failures with “Cervantes” and its clones, people starts working back to actually write something appealing to humans, technically, the AIs works are brilliant, but for some reason people do not like the ending, or the story, it was too good, to sad, too real. Something was lacking. Perhaps some lack of perfection?
15 years after total implementation. Book publishing could be considered at its peak since the invention of writing. Almost every person in the planet has “writen” a book at some point or turned his live experiences into one, AIs registering the travels or daily experiences of people can now turn them into movies, blogs and of course, books.
30 years after total implementation of AIs in Publishing: No one reads any longer, the new ODID (organic data and information input device) works marvels to provide people with the knowledge and experience they need. Books are obsolete and reading is a skill that must be taught separately, because not even ODID can “install” such a complex process in one’s brain. Besides, nobody cares about this elaborated system of symbols, meanings and references required to provide basic understanding of topics or evoking an elemental imagery in the mind. Those who read are either those old enough to have been taught to, or learn it out of pure historical interests.
50 years later… internet unplugged…
27,000 years later… On its way to a red star, (formerly AC +79 3888), a primitive space artifact is discovered, there is great expectation as it may be the one sent by the former inhabitants of planet Earth, thousands of cycles ago. Within it, comes a rich description of a world the meta-humans do not know about. When the “Archorologist” finds some unusual markings on it, it uses the primitive code of a techosentient being trapped on a terminal to scan the drawings, the holo-projector replies: I REGAYOV.
Sorry about the length of this work, I was driven by the topic.