When Peter Dart first entered the book publishing industry as an electronic data processing manager 25 years ago, publishing books was pretty much all that the industry worried about.
Back then the company was called Penguin Australia, but a series of amalgamations has seen it evolve into Pearson Australia Group, a division of the UK-based company Pearson PLC.
As information services director Dart has been responsible for IT operations across Australia and New Zealand, and supporting initiatives in India, and China. But as he prepares to wrap up his quarter-century career with company, the biggest changes are yet to come.
Pearson globally has been experiencing a revolution in its internal systems as it prepares itself for an increasingly digital future. Dart describes it as modernising the whole of the publishing cycle.
Pearson Australia’s imprints today include Penguin, Viking, Hamish Hamilton, Dorling Kindersley, and Ladybird, covering cookbooks and biographies, fiction, political writing and non-fiction, as well as educational books from Longman, Rigby, Heinemann and Prentice Hall (the parent company also publishes the Financial Times in London, and operates businesses in the testing and assessment industry).
But over the years Pearson has expanded significantly from being a simple regional book publisher. Pearson Australia is also responsible for delivery of technology services including its BookMaster enterprise resource planning system into New Zealand, India (Penguin is now the leading trade publisher in India), China and South Africa, It also runs the United Book Distributors business that provides warehousing and logistics services to its own brands, as well as to rivals Allen & Unwin and Simon and Schuster.
“We are running a multi-company, multi-geography and multi-currency computer system, and basically acting sort of like cloud computing service for the ERP of Allen & Unwin,” Dart says.
Then there are also the standard desktop and telecommunications requirements for a company whose Australian staff numbers about 850 (out of 42,000 worldwide), including around 100 Apple Macintoshes, and a huge amount of storage.
Hence Pearson globally has been experiencing a revolution in its internal systems as it prepares itself for an increasingly digital future, centred around the Documentum document management system from EMC. Dart describes it as modernising the whole of the publishing cycle.
“Traditionally we have produced a book, and then somebody has scanned those pages in and turned it into something electronic or, if we are lucky, we have taken the PDF and put that into an electronic form,” Dart says.
The company began its electronic journey around 2000 when it introduced its Pearson Asset Library system in the US, which was used primarily for managing versions in its higher education books so they were suitable for each region they were sold. A parallel system was also introduced for images, including the entire Dorling Kindersley image library.
That has been sufficient for Pearson to produce books in PDF or the EPUB e-book standard created by the International Digital Publishing Forum, an open standard for ‘reflowable’ text that can be optimised for display on devices of varying screen size. But it is still a model that puts the printed publication first.
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