Smart and enhanced content. Intuitive and dynamic workflow. Interactive and integrated media. Scalable and customized solutions. Single-source and multi-platform processes. Aggregated and dechunked data. Agile and mobile technologies. The adjectives keep coming and the concepts pertaining to content, ever more sophisticated by the day.
So just when you were grasping the meaning of “discoverability” and “big data,” you will now have to get your mind around “flipped classroom,” in which students view short video lectures at home before the class session while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussion; and “semantic tagging,” a way of reinforcing the meaning of specified content.
Concepts and jargons aside, both publishers and digital solutions providers need to make some major calls regarding content, and its digitization and distribution processes. For publishers, the big decision is about how enriched, complex and smart (or smarter) their content (or assets) should be to grab the end users (and their wallets). For digital solutions providers, how much the publishers are willing to pay to apply enhanced and intuitive solutions to their content would decide how high the level of offerings would go. In short, everything has a price and finding a workable business model is getting more complex—and crucial—than ever.
As we speak, content is being scanned, converted, reformatted, enhanced, spliced, diced, structured, dechunked, animated, fattened (or trimmed) and slicked up for distribution through all types of devices and platforms. The need for content consistency, portability, efficiency, accuracy and speed is overwhelming.
Current digital technology, says CEO Kris Srinaath of Qbend, has thrown up various possibilities, platforms and devices. “We see consumer choices becoming extremely varied, and content delivery so complex that publishers—both traditional and non-traditional—cannot afford to focus on a few formats. The goal for S4Carlisle, Qbend and our transmedia services team is to provide a solid framework for publishers to curate and enrich their content, and provide what the consumers have come to expect,” he says, adding that transmedia services, a new division within S4Carlisle, will bridge the gap between technology providers and content creators to offer consumers rich content experience on their devices.
Multiplicity of devices has certainly increased the demand for content conversion, and by default grew Lapiz Digital Services further last year. “The services required ranged from simple conversion to complex animation,” says CEO Indira Rajan, whose team strives to keep up with new technologies even as it works on more digital products for publishers. “In e-book production, for instance, dealing with multiple platforms and stiffer competition from industry counterparts are all in a day’s work.”
There are also more requests to compose content as individual assets along with the entire title, says v-p of sales and marketing David Bass of codeMantra. “Publishers are thinking about customizing content for their end users digitally in ways that they cannot do with print products, and they are using XML to ensure content functionality and display capabilities on different e-book readers and browsers.” Publishers’ objective, he adds, is to develop a title one time, with a single process that produces outputs for print and digital—and leaving one file to update and edit going forward. “It is about improving operational efficiencies to create and distribute print and digital in a variety of methods.”
And it has always been about XML in the digital solutions industry. “We have heard of ‘XML-first’ and ‘XML-early’ for many years now. But it is a real conversation stopper when you try to introduce ‘XML’ to content creators and authors. We believe they should not have to even know what XML or structure is,” says Marianne Calilhanna, director of marketing at Cenveo Publishers Services, adding that it is the service provider’s job to support publishers and authors with structure that enables front-end automation. “Our editorial transformation tools do this now and are evolving to even provide a mechanism to incorporate stylistic elements before acceptance. It sounds like a pipe dream, but everyone—authors, readers, the scientific community, for instance—will benefit from the speed and efficiency this system brings to the process. We are making this happen now and will be partnering with publishers even more in 2014.”
Content enrichment and semantic tagging are what help publishers manage their most important asset—content, adds Calilhanna. “Commercial and society publishers alike will need more efficient ways to bring semantic tagging into workflows. This is a particularly critical process that needs to be considered when working with a service provider like Cenveo, which manages much of publishers’ development and production processes.”
With lines demarcating publishing departments blurring, “editorial, production, marketing and IT departments now play equally important roles in product development and delivery,” observes chief marketing officer Rahul Arora of MPS Limited. “In addition to creating engaging and interactive learning products, it is also imperative to provide seamless access to such content through robust and easily scalable platforms. And more than ever before, publishers are committed to understanding their end-users through richer analytics and market research.”
MPS is also seeing its business becoming more focused on platform development and managed services for publishing clients in recent months. Its hosted cloud-based platform, MPSTrak, for instance, powers the overall publishing process from start to finish, and has won two significant client awards in 2013. Meanwhile, the Peer Review module of MPSTrak, having passed the early development and testing stages, will be implemented for a U.K.-based publisher sometime this year.
In the e-learning space, the multiplicity of devices and platforms, while affording vendors new paths to grow their business (and revenues), poses a big challenge. “Content must automatically fit into different platforms while learning effectiveness needs to remain the same,” says executive director Jayant Kulkarni of Harbinger Interactive Learning, explaining that “the pedagogy, interaction levels and learning effectiveness must remain unchanged even as the content sequence is presented a little differently on a PC, tablet or a smartphone due to different screen sizes. This called for improvisation at the instructional design level itself.”
How to achieve that same level of learning with different display or content presentation, he adds, “is an instructional design question, and that is a very exciting problem to solve.” Other hot button issues for the e-learning industry on Kulkarni’s list include responsive HTML5, interactive ePub3, augmented reality in print, personalizable educational videos and cloud technologies.
Technology, while confounding, also makes it an exciting time to be in the education industry. “Technology affects the way we receive and process information, and directly impacts the way we learn. Students now live in a digital world, and we are creating a learning product, MarkSharks, that is consistent with that,” says Aditya Tripathi, CEO of OKS Education. In a nutshell, MarkSharks is a tablet- and cloud-based e-learning product for students grade 6 to 12 that will be launched in the autumn of 2014.
Almost all educational publishers today are looking to acquire or partner with adaptive learning companies to make their products more personalized, observes CEO Samudra Sen of LearningMate, whose team created a huge amount of content for adaptive learning platforms last year. “We know students master learning objectives faster through personalized learning—when the system is intelligent enough to predict areas of struggle and prompt students with additional content and assessments that help them achieve mastery of that concept. Meta-tagging for the level of difficulty or specific subject area becomes incredibly important. So these platforms are changing the way publishers write, and create, content.”
Publishers and content creators are no longer selling curriculum or full-text content, adds Sen. “Instead, they are focusing on selling learning outcomes. And when you sell outcomes, you need technology to measure effectiveness. That is a great opportunity for us because our team is uniquely qualified to develop content with embedded programmatic constructs to measure and track these outcomes.”
Digesting (Big) Data
With consumers buying more content and products online, providing data and content enrichment solutions to pure-play retailers or “click-and-mortar” companies is par for the course at Datamatics. “Such solutions have expanded to include deeper and richer catalogue creation, maintenance of merchandizing sites, and quicker migration to newer taxonomies to enable faster and more accurate product discovery,” says Krishna Tewari, executive director and global head of digital publishing and retail solutions. “The huge traction on e-commerce has prompted us to expand our vision to include business insights and complementary technologies for content and e-commerce. Since we serve both publishers and retailers, we are uniquely positioned to ‘cross-pollinate’ the learnings from these clientele and help them achieve increased e-commerce success through enriched content and improved technology.”
Over at Thomson Digital, it has been about embracing technologies such as semantic tagging and big data to support its clients for a long time. “Analyzing various data sets can help editors and publishers to make informed decisions about how to develop, package and deliver content—if they have the right tools. And when it comes to big data, there are three dimensions that need to be considered: the volume, which is the amount of data being collected; velocity, or the ability of real-time analysis; and variety, which may be structured or unstructured information including text, videos, images, log files, sensor data and click streams,” says executive director Vinay Singh, adding that the company’s innovative TD-XPS platform will soon integrate big data analysis.
With data gathering at a tremendous rate and from ever increasing sources in this fast-paced world, the challenge is to understand that data, structure it, and use or monetize it to achieve a competitive edge—accurately at a fast speed. “Although the publishing industry has generally righted itself from just a few years ago when it faced revolutions in new digital content creation paradigms and delivery platforms—such as ePub3, LMS and the challenges posed by Google and Amazon, for instance—we believe big data and how to take advantage of it is publishing’s next big challenge,” says Nakul Parashar, v-p of enterprise content management at SourceHOV, which is offering its revolutionary Rule14 technology to the publishing industry to meet that challenge. Rule14 is a game-changing big data-based platform from its California-based technology-driven affiliate company, perfectly applied to content aggregation.
Uncovering Discoverability and Profitability
Today, one big issue faced by publishers and authors is to ensure that their books get discovered in the online environment, where shelf space is endless and anyone with a computer can—and probably soon will—self-publish a book, observes CEO Kannan Narayanaswamy of ePagemaker, a subsidiary of Newgen KnowledgeWorks. “Readers face a different challenge: with the huge increase in the number of books available in the market, it is getting harder to sift through the ‘noise’ and find titles that they are interested in reading. Thus we have both a book discovery problem for readers and an audience discovery problem for authors and their publishers.”
At ePagemaker, the goal, he says, “is to help publishers to leverage their digital presence, for example by creating a modern, responsive, SEO-optimized website that uses the latest techniques to drive search results, discoverability and revenue. We help authors to reach the network of audiences on online and social platforms to drive awareness across both front- and backlist, and we plan consistent online marketing programs, which are more appropriate than one-shot campaigns when a book is published.”
For CTO Gurvinder Batra of KiwiTech, digital content and its monetization are central to any business’s growth these days. “User engagement defines profitability. The growing bandwagon of new-age chief executive officers with digital blueprint as their primary ROI index is driving the growth of mobile apps and digital solutions providers like us. Enterprises are evolving to stay connected, improve processes and deliver rewarding consumer engagement. Mobile and the digital spectrum are offering never-before-seen mechanics to our shrinking and connected world. This is a truly digital convergence era that we live in, and KiwiTech is strategically positioned to evolve and grow organically with it.”
Serving Up Solutions
Whether it is about transforming content, enhancing e-learning modules, aiding discoverability, experimenting with new workflows, augmenting reality, gamifying interactivities or mining big data, the following 27 vendors—sizable or small, specialist or generalist; listed in reverse alphabetical order—offer a multitude of services, bespoke or templated, for e-books, apps, tablets and mobile devices. Each company is answering calls for innovative products and novel solutions in its own way, building on proven expertise and established reputation.
This small sampling, out of hundreds that mostly operate below PW radar, is sufficient to showcase their cumulative strength and expertise. But if you need further assurance about, and proof of, their capabilities, online article Across Segments and Domains looks at many of these vendors’ interesting and complex projects.
This review—totally unscientific and not rubber-stamped with our endorsement—is totally discriminating, featuring only those with interesting products and solutions targeted at publishers and content creators/aggregators. Whichever provider(s) you ultimately choose to be your partner down the digitization path, remember: do your homework and exercise your due diligence.
Some of the highlights for eight-year-old Hyderabad-based vPrompt in 2013 were the acquisition of a new facility in New Delhi and addition of another 300 production people. “Our revenue more than doubled, with significantly increased volume of work from major clients,” says president and CEO Ameet Chauhaan, adding that their capabilities in foreign language data processing, HTML5 production and mobile app development have been strengthened and expanded further. “We pride ourselves on our flat hierarchy and quick response. Our dedicated client service, for instance, enables clients to interact directly with our production line managers for continual updates on project status. For clients, nothing is more frustrating than being put on hold and not knowing what is happening to their projects.”
Hyderabad has no other major player of vPrompt’s size offering composition services. The location gives the company an edge, as Hyderabad is about 15% less expensive than Delhi and other major Indian cities in terms of entry-level wages. “But cost will eventually go up and nullify any cost advantage. So we have been investing in technology to reduce manual work and to achieve cost-effectiveness in production workflows. This investment will offset future increases in manpower costs,” adds T. Giriraj, senior director for strategic planning.
Presently, 80% of vPrompt’s business comes from the U.S., mostly for XML work and e-book processing. “We are a one-stop shop for all types of publishing and content processes, such as data entry, art creation, conversion, structured copyediting of all content types, automated page composition and XML processing for e-publications,” says managing director Ajay Srivastava, who recently brought in industry veteran Byron Laws as v-p for business development and account management. “Our New Delhi office serves as a client hub, as many clients prefer not to make the longer trip to Hyderabad, while most software-related and full-project management services are handled by our Hyderabad facility. Both facilities will undergo further expansion this year with newer and faster services to better meet client demands.”
Last year, Vakils Premedia, a subsidiary of printing and publishing group Vakils & Sons, entered into an alliance with Boston-based short-run printer King Printing and Milan-based Rotolito Lombarda. “Both companies and their clients can now take advantage of Vakils’s premedia services for file conversion, or use our new business lines to create mobile apps, interactive e-books, e-catalogs or applications for e-learning and the Web,” says managing director Bimal Mehta.
“It is estimated that 500 million smartphone users will be using healthcare apps by 2015, and many major pharmaceutical firms, such as Merck, Pfizer, Roche and GlaxoSmithKline, have introduced apps for marketing and medical education. And we have developed several mobile solutions for our clients in the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry to improve their customer outreach and increase their competitiveness. Apps such as MD Spirometry Flash and Dental Sleep Medicine Study, for instance, are designed to reinforce knowledge for professionals in the respective fields,” adds Mehta. His team also developed the official app of Sleep Diagnosis and Therapy Journal and an app on Merck Millipore Antibody that comes with comprehensive search functions and hyperlinks.
For the business sector, Mehta and his team provide annual reports, XBRL conversion, IR apps and other services to company secretaries and investor relations departments of corporations. He has also added Virtualboardroom to his offerings, which is a secured Web-based portal for board members and company secretaries to share confidential information and access documents remotely. (Virtualboardroom is owned and developed by a British company, and Vakils will be marketing it in India.) “Together with our associate companies, we provide a one-stop solution to clients requiring premedia services, app development, IT services, printing and publishing, including self-publishing,” adds Mehta.
It was a year of evolution for Thomson Digital in 2013. “We developed the revolutionary concept of 1P1P [One Person One Project] with the aim of fostering a smart and lean workflow pattern from input acceptance to delivery. It is about facilitating the shortest possible workflow while lowering costs and improving quality,” says executive director Vinay Singh, adding that the concept is backed by TD-XPS, the company’s unique Web-based digital publishing platform. “TD-XPS is a game changer. It builds and manages a robust XML-based production process that integrates authoring, reviewing, editing, formatting and multichannel product delivery from a single content source. Its futuristic features have a measurable impact on cost efficiency and resource optimization.”
TD-XPS’s high degree of automation captures the levels of granularity in content while limiting manual intervention to a minimal, thus delivering consistent quality at an unparalleled speed, he adds. Launched at the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair, TD-XPS, which can handle books, magazines, journals, e-learning, and other smart and interactive content, has since completed the pilot phase with two of the company’s largest customers. “We are moving toward the second testing phase and will go ‘live’ soon. We are also customizing TD-XPS for legal publications for one of Europe’s biggest publishers.”
Digital media capabilities, which are the core of e-learning services, have also been the prime focus for Thomson Digital in the last few years. “Our team of instructional designers and subject matter experts offers interactive animation and e-learning module development in a variety of disciplines and languages,” adds Singh, who has also built a creative services team skilled in understanding cultural nuances, local tastes and specific creative needs.
Singh has been busy expanding Thomson Digital’s onshore and offshore presence in recent months. “We have a sales office in Germany, and a new facility in Gangtok, Sikkim, which was conceptualized with the 1P1P/TD-XPS workflow in mind. We offer translation, copyediting and proofreading services in French (handled by our Mauritius facility), Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Dutch and Brazilian Portuguese.” Thomson Digital now displays a growing list of addresses in London, New York, Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro. “This is about having a global reach with a local touch, and we are hatching plans for an onshore presence in Germany and Singapore.”
Based in Chennai with around 2,000 employees, 17-year-old TNQ is known for its expertise in STM publishing. Proof Central, its proofing platform, has been replacing the traditional PDF proofing processes, and will be used for more than 1,400 scientific and technical journals (one-fourth of such journals globally) by the end of this year. “This technology eliminates errors that are inevitable in the content integration process post-PDF annotation. Besides increasing accuracy, it halves process time and cost,” says CEO Yakov Chandy, adding that his team will leverage the capabilities of Proof Central in other areas of STM publishing and beyond.
Meanwhile, the writable Web has enabled everyone—authors, editors, reviewers, typesetters and publishers—to work on the same HTML page from submission to publishing in TNQ’s single-URL publishing workflow. “It is a content-centric workflow as opposed to user-centric. In this scheme of things, an article or a chapter equals a URL. After testing this concept and the associated processes and technologies, we have successfully used it for the journal Review of Agrarian Studies [ras.org.in] in the last two years, where the whole process—submission to publishing—is managed online,” adds Chandy, whose clients include Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer, eLife and the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Chandy regards the company’s most important clients to be its own employees. “However, we make it tough for them to join. The recruitment, induction and training processes are rigorous, so much so that TNQ is considered the de facto training ground for the rest of the industry.”
TNQ is known for its CSR initiatives, especially the annual lecture series featuring speakers at the leading edge of biological sciences that it co-sponsors with Cell Press. Speakers featured in past events include David Baltimore, Elizabeth Blackburn, Shinya Yamanaka and, recently, Huda Zoghbi. (Interestingly, the first three won the Nobel Prize after their lectures.) TNQ also sponsors a chair at the Chennai Mathematical Institute, provides scholarships for journalism and performing arts studies, contributes to the Integrated Child Development Centre, assists in running a school for the disabled and supports the Lepra Trust (founded on the ideals of Mother Teresa), and facilitates wildlife-tribal life harmony in an ecologically sensitive zone.
Independently owned since April 2013, Swift Prosys has moved to a new facility with space for 75 people. “We also have two Norwegian employees, under a three-year employee exchange program with our client eBokNorden. FK Norway funds this program, where Swift Prosys and eBokNorden will exchange two employees for each of the three years,” says managing director and founder Mohan Thas Shanmugam, adding that his company provides eBokNorden with e-book production, typesetting and web application development to enable a fully functional e-book portal. (eBokNorden provides e-book distribution and sales services to Scandinavian publishers.)
Shanmugam and his team are now busy servicing various libraries under the Europeana Newspapers Project and working on a new project to clip German newsreels. “There is also a two-year project on MARC XML retroconversion from Germany that is the second phase of a project we had successfully completed in 2010,” says Shanmugam, who has also started servicing Italian libraries as a third-party vendor. “We now serve 21 countries including Iceland, and have more clients from South Africa in the past year for typesetting and e-book production.” There have been a lot of enquiries on ePDF, which is a low-cost e-book format for personal computers, and backlist conversion to ePDF and ePub, he adds. “The demand for iBooks Author workflow from Scandinavian publishers is also on the rise, pointing to the wider acceptance of this format beyond the U.S. shores.”
This year, Swift Prosys is set to open an office in Chennai suburb that will hire only female workers (and managed by Shanmugam’s wife and Swift Prosys co-owner, Bhavani, who is an experienced executive in the ITES industry). “We will focus on selling web applications such as learning management system and human resource management system to South African clients. While Swift Prosys is a young company of five years, we have been able to leverage on our cumulative expertise to go into—and work on successful projects in—areas such as apps development, SharePoint development and open source implementation to offer products in CRM, MIS, NVOCC Dynamics [for shipping and multimodal logistics], performance management system, retail ERP and warehouse management system.”
Texas-based SourceHOV has over 70 locations throughout the U.S. in addition to facilities in India, China, Canada, Mexico, Indonesia and the Philippines. This global provider of transaction processing solutions, strategic consulting and data analytics has over 12,000 employees and recorded a 20% growth last year. “In the publishing space, our biggest challenge is making our new and traditional services widely known to the industry. We have actually been servicing publishers for over 21 years,” says Nakul Parashar, vice president for enterprise content management (ECM).
“Our ECM publishing vertical uniquely distinguishes itself by bringing to every one of our content clients the depth of our organization’s expertise. ECM offers not only all the traditional publishing services—ranging from developmental editing services to ePub3 creation—but also creates content for our clients. We have strong writing and legal teams providing legal blogs, social media posts, articles, and case head notes to the world’s biggest legal publishers. We also have a deep pool of technology solutions that currently help over 100 of the Fortune 500 companies. Our publishing clients can create content with us, do a deep dive into data and content analytics, use our content management solutions, engage our end-to-end production services, and avail themselves of our document analytics, conversion work, quality checking, and auditing of all their workflows,” explains Parashar.
End-to-end big data-driven aggregation solution is another SourceHOV offering to publishers. Rule14, says manager for scalable cloud systems Shao-shao Cheng, “takes current bodies of content or unstructured data, break them into modules, discover relationships within, bring in related and relevant public external content, and dynamically assembly all the pieces into intelligent streams of aggregated content. These streams of content can then be delivered as marketable product to any format.” Rule14 has been applied by two major legal content developers to create headnotes for judgments and write blogs after researching for stories on the Web. “Rule 14 is a hybrid system, taking advantage of a machine learning, natural language processing, and customizable rules engines and is therefore extremely flexible, customizable to client’s requirements, and is able to learn and therefore refine its performance to extremely high levels of accuracy with minimal human intervention. It also can manage product technology support and customer relationships at a fraction of today’s costs for such services.”
Pune-based Reality Premedia is high on advanced e-book apps and augmented reality (AR). “Now that e-books are no longer new, publishers are looking beyond cookie-cutter solutions. Service providers are expected to create a unique e-book experience—not just adding technology for the sake of going digital, or simply embedding video or audio to the digitized version of a print book,” says manager for business development Alberto Lima Fernandes, pointing out that the big mistake for a lot of service providers in the past was to keep e-books very similar to the print editions. “The key to a unique digital experience is a much closer collaboration between the publisher’s editorial team and the service provider’s technical people. And while earlier technology determined how digital content interacted with users, now it is more the content dictating how the technology is applied.”
Most publishers today get into e-books because of competition, market hype or the fear of being left behind in the technology race, adds global head for marketing Mohit Ahluwalia. “However, not many can confidently say that e-books have generated revenues for them. AR offers a unique win-win opportunity: publishers can attract users to access their digital content directly from their print book. There is no need to leave the print strategy behind. Instead, publishers can now leverage that print strategy to create interactive digital content and boost their revenues. AR only requires readers to scan the print pages with a simple mobile app, and the pages would come to life with games, videos and other enhancements.”
Recently, the team produced “momics” (mobile comics) for a major comic book publisher, using a semi-automated workflow to adapt more than two million pages in 14 different languages for mobile devices. “We are also working with a large entertainment and publishing company to digitize their 20-year-old backlist and make their content future-proof using XHTML/HTML,” adds Ahluwalia, pointing out that his 18-year-old company serves more than 100 European newspapers and marks up nearly one million pages annually for multiple devices and platforms.
The publishing industry has come to realize the importance of selling direct to customers, according to COO Kaushik Sampath, “so we have been working to adapt our services and focus areas to meet publishers’ needs, such as the enterprise side of content delivery. One of the great things about selling direct is that you will build communities around your content, and we look forward to helping clients achieve this.”
His team has launched several services that cater to both traditional and nontraditional publishers, retailers and authors. MyCollect, for instance, takes content customization to a whole new level where end consumers can put together customized books from a large repository of a publisher’s content. “The potential is tremendous; for example, a researcher can assemble chapters, sections or even content with higher granularity into a single reference book, a food lover can collate favorite recipes into a personalized cookbook, and parents can customize storybooks for their children,” adds Sampath.
CEO Kris Srinaath adds, “We are also working on a self-publishing platform that will enable authors to prepare their content for publication, build their brand through an eStore powered by Qbend, use our services to distribute their content to channels such as Amazon, B&N and Apple, and utilize our digital marketing services. Our prepress team, S4Carlisle, will work with them on editorial, design and other publishing aspects. So every aspiring author will have the best professional tools and aids to get their magnum opus published.”
Analytics, an area for which Qbend is well known, has changed sales models for many publishers, says Sampath. “With Qbend’s analytics, a publisher gets to know, for example, that many people are looking at a particular book by a mid-level author but not buying it. Offering a free first chapter of the book to interested readers will help dispel doubts about the writing and quality of a largely unknown author, and this can increase sales tremendously.”
Six-year-old Bangalore-based Purpleframe has been producing learning solutions that promote strong user retention through the usage of rich and interactive content with broadcast-quality graphics. “Such experience comes about by partnering innovative technology with in-house subject matter expertise,” says founder and CEO Yogish Shanbhag, adding that the finished content is deployed seamlessly on all platforms and devices. His team delivers mostly platform-independent solutions and virtual reality-based content for real-time 3D simulations. Such expertise has netted Purpleframe the 2012 Brandon Hall Gold award for a technology-based training solution for GE Transportation.
Its double-digit growth last year came mostly from the manufacturing and engineering industries, where Purpleframe excels in creating customized training content. “The demand for real-time simulation-based training solutions is growing, and our success in this area has opened more doors. Our ability to mix 3D and programming skills in real-time simulations is expected to bring us a twofold increase in revenue and clients this year,” says CEO for America, Mahim Mishra.
The team has also created Learnival, a flipped classroom model for higher-ed students. “Asian colleges have recognized that curriculum excellence alone does not define the success of their students, and are increasingly aware of the widening gap between student achievements, and corporate and industry expectations. Learnival serves to bridge this gap,” explains director for Asia Pacific, Sharath Waikar. Learnival, a flip-classroom model, is focused on the learners while supporting different learning styles. It offers many collaborative tools that continuously engage learners to explore and get exposed to global curriculum in their field of study or research.
Housed in a new 20,000-sq.-ft. office that can accommodate around 100 people, Purpleframe is busy leveraging its success in the U.S. and Singapore markets to move into new territories such as Australia and the Middle East.
Founded 30 years ago by Vinit Khanna, OKS Group has expanded many times over since then, having bought over Alden Prepress (now OKS Publishing) in 2009 and Exactus (now OKS Legal) in 2011. Despite having four production sites in New Delhi, Mumbai, Trichy and Chennai, and offices in the U.S., Europe and Latin America, OKS still operates very much as it did during its modest beginnings. “We pride ourselves on being small enough to treat a client like they are our only customer, yet large enough to provide everything that is needed,” says Khanna, the group’s president and CEO. “Last year, our STM business grew significantly, and we continue to see an increasing focus on electronic delivery and interactivity for educational products, which creates a strong impetus for us to expand our e-learning services.”
Its brand-new e-learning product, MarkSharks, adopts the “flip classroom” methodology, where students undertake self-study before class by watching videos or using other learning material (typically in digital format). “MarkSharks differs from other e-learning material in that it does not present the content through a ‘talking head.’ Instead, it transforms the learning experience using a guided discovery approach where students literally interact with, and explore, the content,” says Aditya Tripathi, CEO of OKS Education.
Nigel Wyman, president of OKS Prepress Services, says publishers are looking for new workflows that remove the reliance on traditional typesetting processes. “Many publishers are migrating to a nonprint portfolio, and there seems little reason why they should be constrained by page layouts that are created to meet printing requirements. We are about to launch a cloud-based publishing platform that delivers content in various digital formats simultaneously and with minimum reliance on conventional processes.”
The range of services that the OKS Group provides, adds Wyman, goes above and beyond the normal set of publishing services offered by other vendors. “Our clients particularly benefit from our legal, information and technology solutions units. We have the expertise, capacity and flexibility to work with our clients to develop new products, design new workflows and deal with specialized content.” Its IP unit, for instance, carries out work on trademark protection and anti-counterfeiting to prevent activities that would threaten brand integrity and cut into publishers’ sales.
One noticeable trend at Newgen in 2013 was increased experimentation with formats and publication models for academic and professional books. “In large measure, the experiments, done in collaboration with our clients, were enabled by the near-ubiquity of XML-first production workflows and multiple e-delivery formats,” says president Maran Elancheran, adding that many reference works, for instance, have “adopted a journal-like model in which each chapter is published online as soon as it is copyedited.”
Many monograph publishers, Elancheran adds, have also begun to make individual chapters available online to researchers or as e-books. “For backlists, the metadata for each chapter may need to be derived by manually splitting reference lists or indexes, or by taking the first few sentences of each chapter to create an abstract. For new titles, authors are often asked to submit abstracts, and references and index terms are assigned to the relevant chapters on the basis of links in the XML.”
As for full-service manuscript-to-print projects, he observes involvement of the Newgen team as early as the manuscript acquisition stage. “This prompted a client to ask how we could jointly make life easier for authors, and the result is the Author Experience interface. Authors see a simple responsive Web interface, which is backed by a powerful project management system, that focuses their attention on what they need to do next. It even ensures that project managers prioritize their daily activities to coincide with their authors’ time zones.”
Meanwhile, Newgen’s Silk reflowable ePub tool now has a Web-based fixed-layout counterpart, Steel, which converts PDFs to HTML pages, which are then optimized for major reading devices. “This optimization has required extensive research into often undocumented device specifications, which put us in a good position last year to join the IDPF BISG working group set up to compile the ePub3 Support Grid,” adds Elancheran. The grid is a summary of app, device and reading system performance across features supported by ePub3. “We are currently working with several academic presses to formalize their specifications for accessible ePub within the reality of what devices and reading systems can support.”
Netex Knowledge Factory
Last year was a busy period of implementing innovative approaches in real time for Netex. “One of our latest initiatives is to enhance learner engagement through Collaborative Learning using eXperience API, formerly known as Tin Can. This technology allows both online and offline tracking of the learner’s experiences from multiple sources. We are using this API capability to make e-learning content truly dynamic, flexible and engaging, and exploring possibilities such as adding gamification and social learning to the e-modules,” says country manager Sumedh Kasare, whose company is one of the early adopters of this technology.
Netex, he adds, is focused not just on the technological aspects of e-learning solutions but also on its pedagogical relevance. “Our flagship platforms—learningCoffee and learningFruit—are perfect for needs-based e-learning while our authoring tool, learningMaker, is evolving by the day as a robust solution for content authoring and publishing,” says Kasare, pointing out that learningCentral, Netex’s comprehensive learning management system, helps to manage online, offline and blended trainings in a perfectly integrated environment. “And now, through collaborative learning tools along with eXperience API, we are taking participative learning to a whole new level.”
Netex clients, adds Kasare, are primarily looking for device-agnostic content which helps them to tap into the tablet and smartphone content consumption market. “Our authoring tool learningMaker uses responsive design architecture and publishes totally responsive HTML5 content for seamless consumption on multiple devices. Our revolutionary tool, learningApp, allows clients to publish, deliver, and sell their learning content in Google Play and App stores through their own app.”
With big publishing houses finding it difficult to move their content into the digital space, Netex is offering its consultancy services to identify the best strategies that clients can use to digitize their content. “We analyze their requirements, business objectives and provide our expertise in pedagogy, usability, technology and production management in order to develop an effective action plan,” adds Kasare, whose company was established in Spain in 1997 and opened its Pune office 11 years later. Netex now has offices in London and Mexico City.
It was an exciting 2013 for MPS, which was selected as one of the core vendors for product development services by two of the world’s leading educational publishers. “The acquisition of Florida-based Element LLC has certainly strengthened our position in the k-12 market. We also met the clients’ criteria in terms of experience and performance on service deliveries, a strong digital focus and ability to leverage technology for product development,” says chief marketing officer Rahul Arora.
“We have also been conducting several pilots with publishers using DigiEdit, our intuitive online editing platform with underlying XML,” adds Arora, pointing out that “the success of such platforms is dependent on the publishers’ capacity for innovation and change. On our part, we are committed to our goal to redefine how content is managed, and we continue to develop more products to make life easier for authors, editors, production planners and publishers.” Currently, 90% of the content that MPS produces for publishers is for digital consumption. “Our production processes are driven by digital-first workflows that come to life through DigiCore, our smart, cloud-based editorial and production platform, which has been helping STM publishers realize savings and reduce time to market.”
MPS Insight, which enables users to dynamically access and analyze content usage, is one of the first platforms to be COUNTER 4-compliant, and is a natural choice for publishers looking to understand their customers better. “Publishers can access this dynamic platform in real time to analyze usage patterns in order to develop richer content, make intelligent pricing decisions, focus on specific distribution channels, and develop an overall marketing strategy,” says Arora, whose team completely overhauled the Insight user interface last year.
Over at the learning and new media services (LNMS) business unit, a range of digital production services are offered, such as image reprocessing, complex artwork production, audio and video processing, video transcription, video screen capture, and templated file creation for image galleries, companion CDs/DVDs/Websites, interactive presentations and others. “It leverages on various MPS proprietary technologies such as MediaSuite, which can convert content in any format into multimedia-rich flipbooks. Audio, video, animations, hyperlinks and interactivity can then be added to the flipbook pages to create enhanced learning solutions,” says Arora. “In some cases, we offer MediaSuite to publishing clients through a SaaS model.”
Hitting the 10th-year mark was a major milestone last year for LearningMate, which now employs 600-plus people. The company sees more demand for editorial work as well as more content rendering for mobile devices and digital environments. And it has expanded its offerings to include authoring services, such as those dedicated to adaptive learning.
“Schools are buying iOS, Android or PC tablets, and one-to-one computing is literally exploding. Everyone is looking for a strategy to capitalize on m-learning. For a strategy to be successful, controlling student-teacher interaction and structuring the learning experience are crucial. LearningMate was a first mover in this with GoClass, which was recently named an SIIA Education CODiE finalist. And we are helping one of the largest educational content providers in the U.S. to build their mobile curriculum platform, which will be rolled out to school districts this fall,” says CEO Samudra Sen.
LearningMate’s next-generation GoClass+, a cloud-based teaching and learning application, incorporates flipped-classroom methodologies using a three-screen approach (student, teacher and shared). “This flipped model proved itself when storms wreaked havoc on much of the East Coast of the U.S. last winter. GoClass instructors stayed on schedule even though schools were closed,” says director of marketing Danielle Holmes, adding that GoClass has instructors in more than 70 countries.
Learning analytics, or education intelligence, is another key area that LearningMate has focused on in the last few years. “Since 2012, we have worked with the Arizona Department of Education to develop and implement a statewide data and analytics framework to track areas such as funding patterns, content analyses, teacher and student performance, and attendance–performance relationships. This is the largest analytics project in education, covering 1.1 million students, 600 school districts and 500-plus local education agencies,” adds Sen. (Read more about this on page 29, LearningMate’s Analytics Project for Arizona.)
With many educational publishers moving content to digital format or creating digital-first content, there is increased demand for new approaches and workflows, and often a change in resource and expertise requirements. “In the k-12 segment, for instance, we are working on TEI [technology-enhanced items] that adhere to the new Common Core standards,” adds Sen, who is setting up a k-12 editorial division in the U.S.
Lapiz Digital Services
Last year, more software-based projects than just plain typesetting and composition landed at Lapiz Digital. “We were able to handle these projects by enhancing the skill levels of our existing staff through rigorous training and constantly updating them on new technologies and methodologies,” says CEO Indira Rajan. The company has become the place publishers go to when they want to vet other vendors’ work.
In a recent project, it was asked to “debug” the code for an interactive math project. “We had to enhance the performance (or loading) of the content, the code for math calculation, and the image loading with HTML5 canvas. In the end, we changed the user interface design and created more 3D interactivity before finishing it up with more validation and testing,” adds Rajan.
Another Lapiz specialty is adding interactivity to comics (or manga) using ePub3/HTML5. Explains COO V. Bharathram, “We add background audio or audio lip-sync for the comic characters, enhance the variety of voice-overs to suit different characters, and produce animations that range from simple effects to complex movements.” He points out that the popularity of printed comics makes the task of repurposing them for the digital medium a challenge. “We have to ensure the same user experience in various devices in terms of page swiping. The images need to be in high resolution so that there is no difference between print and digital versions. We also have to enhance the experience by adding interactivity and audio to make the characters come alive. That is quite a tall order.”
In the meantime, Rajan has expanded the company’s software division by developing their own products. “On the publishing side, we have developed content management systems using technologies such as Python and Django frameworks. For schools, we work on the full management system right from student admission to records management. Our team has also developed a wide range of apps on iOS and Android specifically for students and k-12 publishers. More new products and services from our software division are in the works.”
Five years on, KiwiTech has pivoted from a mobile app development outfit to a digital ecosystem builder for today’s enterprises. “We now offer a consultative-driven approach to build Web, mobile and social media solutions. A key differentiator in 2013 was our strategy to engage with start-ups that bring niche offerings into the digital world. This has given a fresh leash of solutions and technical capabilities to infuse into some of our large enterprise clients. We have moved from a typical vendor-driven approach to a strategic technology partnership that solves two of the major issues in the start-up world: access to capital and human talent,” says v-p for strategic partnerships, Mohsin Syed, adding that publishing continues to be a big part of what KiwiTech does. “We are also actively working in enterprise world with the likes of McKinsey, Intel and Toyota. Overall, we are pivoting as the mobile market becomes more mature.”
CTO Gurvinder Batra and his colleagues have also been busy driving Ruckus Media—an interactive children’s multimedia app, education and retail platform that was acquired last October—from a negative cash flow to profitability. Says Batra: “We strategized a new operational model and this redefined approach is showing strong results through app store downloads. The usability and export of Ruckus content is also seeing new opportunities with some large enterprise accounts willing to collaborate and use them as a part of their gamification strategy to build and engage their brands.” Warner Brothers and IDW Publishing have also signed up to add their content on Ruckus platform.
KiwiTech also acquired a major share of Loopster, a developer of cutting-edge video-editing software in October. Director of project management office Rachna Chauhan adds: “The value of video as a medium to enthrall digital audiences is high on the radar of the most progressive enterprises, and Loopster is able to uniquely address this new-age demand for customized and on-demand video content creation and management. It fits into KiwiTech’s digital philosophy for today’s enterprise: disruptive user engagement, and ease of using and deploying technology. We will launch a HTML5-based Web video editor and an Android app very soon.”
Established in Mayenne, France, back in 1903 as a printing company, Jouve has since expanded into digital services with offices in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. Every year, its 2,500 staff in 19 locations handle around 50,000 projects and process nearly 24 million pages. Currently, 25% of its business comes from export.
For Jouve India in Chennai (which was established in 2011 through the acquisition of TexTech), a major differentiator is its editorial expertise in all European languages. “Last year, we saw an increased demand for full-service project management from both trade and educational publishers. We also had the highest volume in custom publishing, showing that more publishers want to reuse their content,” says CEO Sanjiv Bhatnagar. His team also provides content structuring, database management and content enrichment services to French and Australian travel book publishers. “Our clients are also interested to have Jouve handling project management along with custom publishing. In fact, more publishers want us to use their content management platforms, where they already have the content structured the way they want.”
A high-speed workflow has enabled Jouve to provide project management, genre-based copyediting, and typesetting with simultaneous print and e-book deliveries. “This workflow is a full-service end-to-end production process that is focused on low- to no-touch titles,” adds Bhatnagar, who recently introduced a new service for the production and delivery of interactive assessment objects. These are XHTML5-based exercises that use sets of predefined and reusable building blocks, and are fully customizable with support for multimedia components within the assessments. “I continue to see increased interest in building libraries of reusable learning objects. For instance, a learning module may contain a learning objective, specific content, an assessment and the metadata, which can be assembled on the fly to fit a student’s need and delivered through a variety of platforms.”
He also sees publishing clients struggling with the management and streamlining of editorial workflow. “This is a common problem, and it is an area of great interest to Jouve. We are looking into new tools, methodologies and services that will make life easier for publishers.”
Now at version 5.1, iPublishCentral, the flagship product of Impelsys, offers a suite of comprehensive features that include library model functionality, rich data analytics, abandoned cart monetization and enhanced user experience. “With rich data analytics, publishers can transform data into actionable insights and discover effective ways to gain more readers,” explains assistant v-p for marketing and presales Uday Majithia. “The new version, empowered with the latest COUNTER reports, will help publishers understand reader behavior, gain insights into title consumption and analyze various buying patterns.”
A comprehensive solution that helps to warehouse, market, sell and deliver content online across multiple platforms, iPublishCentral can be customized to specific publisher requirements. This SaaS model, which can build a digital e-book strategy from scratch, serves around 100 publishers globally. “We will be adding exciting e-learning features to iPublishCentral that are geared toward improving the reading experience with richer, integrated and interactive content,” adds Majithia, pointing out that the implementation team recently built a white-labeled e-library for Elsevier using iPublishCentral. “With the e-library, students can access an entire collection of titles by paying a fixed monthly rate. Such e-libraries allow publishers to accrue recurring revenues through subscriptions and renewals, and monetize existing digital content by having a presence in the institutional markets.”
To help publishers create rich, fun, immersive and engaging titles, Impelsys has also launched enhanced e-books on iPublishCentral. “It offers better discoverability and navigation, improved readability and presentation, and support for ancillaries and assessments. Other features include enhanced tables of contents, note-sharing, bookmarking, multimedia components, reader personalization, real-time assessment and social media networking,” says marketing manager Shubha Khaddar. She lists adapting the layout for mobile devices as well as developing and embedding ancillary content without disrupting the text flow as key challenges in producing enhanced e-books.
Named one of the Top 100 Digital Companies That Matters by EContent magazine, Impelsys offers solutions that support multiple business models, such as chapter-based selling, e-lending, subscription, book collections, and retail and institutional access. “These are models that can be leveraged by publishers, educational institutions and content aggregators alike,” adds Majithia.
The latest product from Hurix is the cloud-based version of its multi-platform publishing solution Kitaboo. “The beauty of Kitaboo Cloud is that it has multiple versions to cater to the needs of medium-sized to large publishers, institutions and corporations. Since its launch in January this year, it has created quite a buzz among existing and prospective clients. We have seen several adoptions to date, and we are working on new features such as licensing mechanisms, enhanced analytics and improved feedback,” says CEO Subrat Mohanty. He acknowledges that the idea for Kitaboo Cloud came from clients who wanted a totally cloud-based end-to-end solution. He launched the Windows 8 Reader app on the day Microsoft launched the new browser. Coming up soon is the app for Windows 8.1.
Dictera, by the way, won the 2013 Brandon Hall silver award for excellence in technology. This content creation platform allows users to author, manage and publish e-learning content on multiple platforms. “You can create workflows and assign different users access to different areas. It is designed to make the job easier for authors, editors, asset producers and project managers. It has the capability to deliver upwards of 20,000 pages of content within a three-month turnaround time,” adds Mohanty. Major publishers using Dictera include McGraw-Hill, Pearson and Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Harbinger Interactive Learning
The move into more innovative design and development services of instructionally sound and interactive digital learning content is behind the new name given to Harbinger’s content development business unit, explains executive director Jayant Kulkarni. “With strong customer relationships, new client acquisitions and innovative offerings, Harbinger Interactive Learning is poised to usher in the next stage of rapid growth.”
One of the innovative services deals with AR (augmented reality). “There is immense potential in AR, and it is surprising to note that not much has been thought, or done, about this concept in e-learning,” says Kulkarni, pointing out that users—whether kids or professionals—“find this innovative, real life-like ability to explore, discover and apply knowledge within the learning content highly engaging and effective. We have started to look into adding ‘application-driven interactivity’ in learning experiences using AR. The initial results from our clients are extremely positive, and it shows that responsive design principles in instructional design are increasingly in demand and much needed in educational content.”
Perhaps the only learning solutions company to hold patents on technologies for developing learning interactions, Harbinger has also been busy making video-based content interactive and dynamic. “Our new innovation, Video Jazzer, changes the conventional one-way presentation of content in a video by turning that content into a multi-layered, interactive and personalized learning experience. For publishers, the ability to rapidly and cost-effectively turn educational videos into dynamic, interactive and socially connected personalized learning tool will be of great value. The high level of interest shown by our publishing customers attests to the potential of this product,” adds Kulkarni. Video Jazzer, which is currently at the beta-testing stage, will soon be launched by Harbinger Group. “It will join TeemingPod, our Group’s versatile platform for embedded social interactions, as a SaaS-based product offering.”
With self-learning becoming a major component of the learning process, it is imperative, says Kulkarni, “that learners must get effective means to interact with the content as well as with the group or his peers. Without the appropriate mix of both types of interaction, the overall impact of interactive learning diminishes. So Harbinger is focused on both approaches that immerse learners in interactive learning experiences at both individual and social levels.”
For CEO Muthu Krishnan of Dataworks, having his production facility in Thirunelveli, some 610 kilometers south of Chennai, is a sound business strategy. “Costs are high when one operates in major cities, and there is no lack of skilled labor even this far south. In fact, it is even better as there are few solutions providers out there to compete with us for resources. Our low-cost model works, especially since creating e-books is not exactly rocket science.” One recent project to convert 114 titles, or 5,496 pages, into different outputs—press- and Web-ready PDFs, standard reflowable and fixed ePub, Mobi and KF8—took the team under two months while another similar project of 63,108 pages with inputs in scanned pages, Quark and InDesign application files and print-ready PDFs was completed within three months.
Currently, nearly 60% of business comes from Europe, which Krishnan attributes to his company’s expertise and capabilities in handling more than 20 European languages. “We also work as an aggregator for about 20 publishers on two different models. The first model is where we convert the titles for a flat fee and then we register the titles on behalf of the publishers with selected e-book retailers and negotiate the percentage of sales to be paid to the retailers. Once a user ID is created, we upload and maintain the e-book files. So we act as the technical assistant and consultant to the publisher.” In the second model, Krishnan’s team converts the titles and hosts them through the Dataworks account. “We track the sales and pay the publishers after deducting our fees, which range between 12% and 22% of sales. This is done after paying the retailers’ fees.”
Although there is still a significant demand for ePub2 format, adds Krishnan, “many of the required features in most of the app projects that landed at our door can be easily created in ePub3. So this has opened up new opportunities for us to convert and update hundreds of backlist apps into ePub3 format.”
The way ahead for Dataworks to expand, says Krishnan, is to maintain the same successful strategy. “We have been providing high-quality digital services at very competitive rates with turnaround time that is on par with the best in the industry. My plan is to continue on this path and give our 100-plus clients unmatched turnaround time and quality service.”
As one of the leading big data vendors, it is not surprising that Datamatics was invited to deliver a keynote speech on that topic to around 300 publishers at a forum in Berlin in May last year. “My presentation covered the overall idea of big data, various types of data that are generated in publishing, challenges faced by publishers in harnessing the data, and the big data technology landscape along with relevant case studies,” says Krishna Tewari, executive director and global head of digital publishing and retail solutions. “One of the ideas we mooted was that publishers should take focused steps in harnessing big data technology by identifying target areas to work on, and then approach it at an organizational level instead of operating in silos.” (Datamatics was named Innovator in Technology of the Year by the 2014 National Trial Lawyers’ Summit in Miami for its expertise in both big data and legal publishing.)
While its publishing and e-retail business continue to grow on its own, the acquisition of Premedia Global in August 2013 has boosted the company’s portfolio further. “It has created a powerhouse in content-related capabilities and digital solutions. Our company, with more than 2,500 people spread out in nine locations worldwide, is now focused on the emerging needs of publishers and retailers, working to help them grow their business by enabling content and e-commerce through newer technologies and solutions. In recent months, we are seeing increased demand for assessments, reader analytics, buyer behavior studies, in addition to the usual inquiries about full-service project management and digital products,” adds Tewari, whose team is working on several initiatives that will soon be unveiled.
The increase in services for both publishing and e-retail in the European market has also led to the creation of a separate company in Germany, aptly named Datamatics e-Retail & Publishing GmbH. Says Tewari, “This new company marks the point where we will be enriching our offerings with more platform-based solutions using software such as Oracle-ATG and Intershop.”
Formerly known as Planman Technologies, Contentra has been associated with three of the world’s largest e-reader companies for a while now, helping them to produce magazines, newspapers and e-books for their respective portals. “Every month, we produce more than 1,000 magazines, around 1,500 e-books and over 300 newspapers for these companies,” says president Amit Vohra.
Contentra has developed its own proprietary digital software solution, Flexe- Pub, to digitize contents into multiple formats for various devices and platforms. According to senior v-p Pawan Narang, FlexePub is truly “a state-of-the-art technology and our clients have experienced an average 40% reduction in cost while maintaining the required high level of quality. FlexePub is a robust, agile, seamless WYSIWYG solution, where quality checks and edits can be made in real time. We have also made FlexePub truly ‘flexible’ and ‘international’ to handle all major European languages as well as Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Malay.”
FlexePub is based on the client-server model that is built on standard Web and cloud technologies. “This enables the ‘deploy-once, access anywhere’ environment while providing centralized access control and data security,” explains Narang, adding that the solution “utilizes tried-and-tested open source technologies to reduce both initial and operational costs.” The servers utilize Linux-based operating systems for higher efficiency and lower cost, and allow administrators, managers and operators to access the system through Chrome Web browser. “Centralized access control mechanisms further allow secure authentication schemes and support for industry standard 256-bit SSL encryption for data security.”
This year, Contentra is focused on ePub3 creation, HTML5 animation, developing mobile content, digital learning modules and providing end-to-end publishing services and solutions comprising of conceptualization, manuscript development, editorial services, fact-checking, book design, page composition, proof-reading, creative artwork, photo research, permissioning, cartography and project management services. “In the newspaper segment, we offer a complete solution that includes microfilm scanning, content refurbishing, digital data preservation and Web hosting solutions for national libraries across the globe,” says Vohra.
Crescendo, codeMantra’s newly launched XML-anytime composition workflow, takes the center stage this year. A powerful XML authoring and dynamic composition engine that imports, exports and transforms content across multiple publishing applications such as Word, InDesign and Quark, Crescendo can work with, or provide, XML at any point in the publishing production process. It also seamlessly integrates with a publisher’s existing workflow. “That means that no matter where, or how, your edits occur—before, and even after a so-called final page or file is declared. Crescendo captures those edits and can create and store an up-to-date XML instantly from a traditional Word-to-InDesign workflow,” says president Walter Walker, adding that the workflow integrates seamlessly with cloud-based collectionPoint 3.0 [cP 3.0] platform—codeMantra’s flagship product—to store and distribute content to any digital retailer or printer.
Recently, the codeMantra team used cP3.0 to work on content from the IMF (International Monetary Fund), where the documents were enhanced with an XML layer allowing IMF to distribute their e-content across the Web for marketing purposes and drive users back to their e-bookstore and e-library. This enables them to measure marketing ROI and traffic trends.
The metadata management, title workflow and sales/revenue reporting features of cP3.0 have been enhanced significantly in the past few months, adds Walker. “We are focused on providing clients with end-user insights related to their titles including daily rankings of their titles, top sellers and highest grossing, and average selling prices. We want to provide features that will help clients improve revenue insights and operational efficiencies.”
Structure-wise, after a management buyout by a group of investors in February, former head of sales and marketing Walker now serves as the president while ex-CFO Nathan Vaidya takes the CEO mantle. Ed Marino, former head of Lightning Source, is one of its board members. Says Walker: “2013 was a great year for us with double digit revenue growth again. Our strategy is to increase codeMantra’s presence and offerings within the composition services and XML composition technology products. An announcement on Crescendo software licensing is forthcoming, and we are placing specific emphasis on our suite of solutions and services to enable publishers to increase their efficiencies and lower overall costs.” He is also preparing to launch Duet, an e-book reader application, in the latter half of this year with several key partners and publishing brands.
Cenveo Publishers Services
The list of publishers using Cenveo Mobile dPub, a device-neutral browser-based digital publishing framework for mobile content development and delivery, continues to grow. The Society for Petroleum Engineers, for instance, moved from print to digital-only journal issues to cater to the evolving needs of its members, who are mostly out in the oil fields with their iPads. The organization’s multi-issue app is now supported by Cenveo Mobile dPub Business Edition. In addition, Cenveo’s production team provides resources to meet the client’s XML workflow and changing editorial and production requirements. Georgetown Law also launched a multi-issue app on the Mobile dPub platform. “Both clients have an XML-early workflow, enabling us to flow XML into our app engine and use that for other outputs, such as Web sites, PDF and licensing channels,” says marketing director Marianne Calilhanna.
The Mathematical Association of America, on the other hand, uses the Starter Edition of Cenveo Mobile dPub, which offers a print replica on the iPad and uses PDF files as the input. Explains Calilhanna, “Clients use this edition to enter the world of apps, collect usage data and poll their readership before deciding whether to move to the next level. We provide them full metrics to show how their content is being used and which devices are most popular.” The Cenveo team also provides 24/7 e-mail support for all Mobile dPub versions and helps publishers identify in-app links to serve their readers and connect with the larger community.
Meanwhile, a new online editing system that allows faster and more accurate downstream processing is set for global release this spring. “This system allows corrections to be made online by authors or reviewers in a PDF-like environment but with XML in the background. Math can be easily edited inline, again with true MathML behind the scenes. Notes, metadata, history and changes are all captured, and users can choose to see these things or hide them.”
Price and time to market continue to be key factors. “Publishers are constantly under pressure to control costs. So we work with them to develop the right solution at the right time, in the right location for the right price,” adds Calilhanna.
Braahmam Net Solutions
Translation and localization services form the biggest—and strongest—part of Braahmam’s portfolio. But in recent months it has been busy expanding into digital learning, Web applications development and non-traditional localization services for ERP systems, learning content and even games. In fact, Braahmam was the recipient of the 2013 SAP AG Service Recognition Award for localizing in Hindi the SAP ERP software, consisting of around 1.7 million coding lines. “Apart from providing services in over 150 languages, we offer custom solutions to fit the customer’s requirements in different fields and industries,” says CEO Biraj Rath. He adds that the majority of his counterparts in the translation industry “often provide piecemeal services and would hesitate to educate clients about difficulties related to a localization project. We believe in educating and guiding our clients in order to forge long-term relationships that are mutually beneficial. So our sales and project management teams are here to guide each and every client about the complexities and challenges involved in different languages and projects. They are trained to handle end-to-end solutions that combine localization, digital learning and digitization.”
The localization industry, too, has evolved, says Rath. “Language service providers now use translation memory and translation database automation tools to support their unique offerings. Machine translation is now a hot topic, and we are also developing our own machine translation tools in key languages to stay ahead of the competition. The industry is also looking at expanding into the field of interpreting and transcreation.”
With two-thirds of the company’s business coming from Europe, it is not surprising that Rath is opening a new office in Dublin, “the birthplace of localization.” He explains, “There is a natural affinity for the European market due to their demand for language solutions. However, we have been gradually expanding our market to the U.S., Middle East and Asia Pacific. There will be new Braahmam offices in Japan and the U.S. in the next 19 months.”
The main focus for the AEL Data team currently is EduLektz, a spin-off from its flagship product, the Lektz reader. “EduLektz powers mobile reading, both online and offline, through a mobile LMS, and it supports DRM for piracy protection. This SCORM-compliant reader supports PDF, HTML, and ePub2/ePub3 standards. It can be integrated into any PHP-based LMS, and is compatible with any portal through Web services or APIs. Since EduLektz is tied to an LMS in the back-end, content can be downloaded to mobile devices for offline access,” says Aditya Bikkani, assistant v-p for business development. “This allows students to take a test on their mobile devices and save it locally while commuting. And when the device is subsequently connected to the Internet, the saved progress is synched to the LMS. So EduLektz facilitates m-learning on the go, and it is a white-label reader that can be personalized by institutions or organizations.”
Ongoing work on EduLektz includes making it an LTI-compliant reader with Tin Can API. “The various versions of browsers available in the market remain a big challenge that we need to deal with. New updates to Internet Explorer 9 and FireFox 13, for instance, cause some problems with the scripting, something not encountered previously,” adds Bikkani, pointing out that LTI and Tin Can will be among the new standards to watch out for in 2014.
One of the few vendors with expertise in Arabic language services, AEL Data continues to see a lot of backlist digitization projects from the Arabic-speaking world. The content, in both ePub2 and ePub3 formats, ranges from the Koran to interactive educational material and children’s books. At the same time, the team is constructing a book portal, customizing a mobile reader, and integrating them for an Iranian client. It is also building a Web site based on parallax logic for Lebanon Open University. AEL is also one of the few vendors with vast experience in accessibility (see page 27 on Accessibility: Where Are We Now?).
Flash-to-HTML Conversion: The Hurix Story
Now that Flash is dead, publishers are scrambling to reformat their FLA files into future-proof standards such as HTML5. But making converted Flash-to-HTML content compatible across various devices—desktops, laptops, tablets, phablets and smartphones—is a major hurdle, admits CEO Subrat Mohanty of Hurix. “With the current boom in the mobile industry, we now have devices with varying screen sizes, from 5-inch smartphones to 10-inch tablets with phablets somewhere in between. We also need to ensure that the converted Flash activity works across these screen sizes without any tangible loss in the user experience.”
To address the above challenge, Hurix deploys Responsive Web Design (RWD) to create the HTML5 activities. “RWD allows the layout to adjust according to the user’s screen resolution and size, and in order for RWD to work, the activity layouts need to be programmed as flexible. Fluid or liquid layouts, proportionally scaled images and supporting media queries help to achieve the required flexibility.
It enables us to offer the best possible experience to the widest possible audience,” says Mohanty.
Tween max, he adds, is used for presenting slightly complex motion-based animations, which are movements of an object across different locations on the screen. “In cases where large complex animations have multiple characters or objects, we convert these animations to MP4 videos and channel them through a player.” The drawback of using videos for presenting the animations, he says, is that external factors such as Internet connectivity and the device’s processing power will determine the time it takes to download the video. So his team employs a combination of the above approaches in Flash-to-HTML5 conversion so that the experience of the animations remains the same as seen in Flash.
Naturally, HTML5 has its limitations. Explains Mohanty, “HTML5 content is most likely to be viewed on tablets, and ‘rollover’ cannot be implemented since tablets do not support this functionality. In such cases, we deploy workarounds like click-to-reveal. Having converting a massive amount of Flash activities over the years, we are familiar with various workarounds that can be used to address different HTML5 limitations.”
Given that HTML5 is still a developing standard, it is not supported by many older versions of popular browsers. For instance, HTML5 standards are not supported by Internet Explorer versions older than IE9. “However, using libraries such as HTML5shiv, HTML5shim and DOM animations, we can make the activities compatible to IE8. We employ user agents to check the browser version on the launch of an activity. Then, based on the version used, the appropriate libraries or scripts are called to play the activity.”
Hurix adopts two different approaches when it comes to Flash-to-HTML conversion projects. Dictera, its proprietary award-winning platform, which is mostly used for authoring content and publishing courses, can be also be used for Flash-to-HTML5 conversion. “In this method, media assets such as graphics, audio and video are extracted from existing Flash files. Dictera then uses its wide-ranging templates to author the screens while offering instant preview and testing on more than 50 types of browsers. Such features have enabled us to convert 50,000 Flash pages within five months for a publishing client,” says Mohanty.