Publishing is a sector which many do not associate with investment in artificial intelligence. However, AI is already prevalent in many publishing businesses and all the signs show that this trend will continue. From content creation through to production, marketing and retail, AI is transforming the way in which we are support research, learning and creativity.
At the Publishers Association we’ve been working over the past year to analyse how AI is used in publishing and how publishers are planning to invest in the future. Today we are publishing our report on this subject: People Plus Machines: The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Publishing.
When we have tried to discuss AI in publishing with those outside the sector in the past, it has more often than not been met with the response: “Do you mean that robots are writing books?” The answer to that is yes; in a sense we do. But there is so much more to it. Yes, books are being written by machines but I am not about to spell out the demise of the human creative process and try to claim that the next Jane Eyre or Girl, Woman, Other will be written by a machine.
What we have found is that the UK’s publishing industry is at a watershed moment for investment in this area.
The most common application of AI in publishing is content classification. This is the use of meta data tagging to improve the discoverability of content. Making sense of the information boom that we all live in is a critical role that publishers play – high quality research requires high quality, discoverable data and AI is being used to do deliver that.
However, there are other areas in which AI is, and will continue to be, useful. These include content acquisition; identifying market trends; searching for plagiarised content and carrying out copyright infringement checks; recommendation engines; identifying relevant peer reviewers and assisting with the verification of research outputs and finally, in marketing and retail.
From these functions we can see that AI is useful to all sectors of publishing. Academic publishers aim to support robust, peer-reviewed and innovative research. AI plays a vital role in this by aiding the sharing of research, finding relevant peer reviewers and assisting with the verification of content. Often these are in sensitive, high stakes areas. For example, creating tools for clinical decision making. These are areas where you need to get it right.
The education market has been strongly impacted by the development of adaptive and remote learning solutions. This is something that is even more relevant now, as every parent reading this can probably attest to. There are several products available that link publishers’ student performance data to educational content. We are already seeing the smart learning of the future.
And finally, in the consumer space, AI is used in marketing and sales.
Artificial intelligence offers our industry a huge opportunity, but there are a number of investment barriers we must breach in order to achieve our aims.These challenges primarily relate to the importance of legal certainty regarding intellectual property law to create a stable investment environment. There are also the difficulties of large upfront costs associated with researching and implementing AI solutions which may be prohibitive, particularly for smaller publishers. Increased access to finance for small businesses could be brought in by the government to help with this.
To summarise, AI is already improving processes and publications for publishers and the role it plays will only increase. However, to quote a line from an article written by a machine and published in the Guardian newspaper in September: “AI should be treated with care and respect.”
We are urging policy makers to treat the development of AI with due care and we are sharing the findings from our report with the government to feed into those discussions as they develop. We want high-quality AI products and a regulatory framework which supports these, including maintaining the strong intellectual property framework that stimulates investment in the underpinning data and information that we all rely on.
It is an exciting time for publishing and we hope that, with the right approach, both the industry and society will benefit hugely from these advances.
Dan Conway, director for External Affairs at the Publishers Association