A robust and efficient single-source multichannel publishing system? That's the promise of the XML (eXtensible Markup Language) workflow. Now the question of XML adoption is no longer when or whether, but how soon. There is much urgency to digitize backlists and join the e-book bandwagon, to turn static pages into multimedia e-learning modules to interest the growing MTV fans and video gamers out there, to convert content into NIMAS/DAISY-compatible formats for the learning disabled and to reuse content to maximize its worth. For publishers, the XML workflow means efficiency, neutrality, flexibility, multiplicity, consistency and portability. It means the possibility of creating content once and publishing it in whole or in part in different platforms simultaneously.

The case for XML is overwhelming, and its dynamism has been tested and proven. As to where to do it cheaply and fast, India, with its abundance of vendors and established domain expertise, wins hands down. While the tide of projects from SSTM, k—12, trade and professional publishers sweeping the Indian shores remains unstoppable, the nose-diving global economy has somewhat slowed its momentum. This gives vendors time to take a breather to reassess their current crops of products and services and to find ways to innovate and gain an edge. Some vendors have broadened their services instantaneously through company acquisitions, while a few others have advanced to a hybrid onshore/offshore operational mode through strategic partnerships. And all are moving beyond basic keyboarding, typesetting and backfile conversion—services that have been commoditized and therefore offer little profit. Nowadays, adding value and becoming an extension of the client's editorial team are critical to success and long-term survival. Both vendors and publishers agree on the ultimate goal: to make content accessible anytime, anywhere, any way.

While visiting vendors in India, PW is struck by the growth and innovation that have taken place since our first report in 2006. Size and portfolio aside, these vendors are focused on providing their publishing clients with an efficient XML workflow, automated production processes and comprehensive solutions. This report, featuring 17 vendors, seeks to highlight their complex projects, new technologies and plans for the near future. This subjective review, based on scheduling availability, does not endorse, recommend or promote any particular company or service. Exercise due diligence in determining which vendors best suit your needs before signing on the dotted line.


In the past year, Aptara has secured 30 new major digital publishing accounts and raised its production volume significantly. “We are aggressively building on the success of our e-book conversion projects and helping clients to realign their production workflow with our XML-first multichannel publishing model,” says Mark Witman, v-p of publishing solutions. “We also saw a 300% jump in content throughput by users of our PowerXEditor collaborative authoring tool. Digital publishing, we predict, will continue to be our biggest growth driver in 2009.” XML-based PXE made possible revising a 700-page book with some 350 illustrations and 50 real-world cases on a tight schedule. Says Witman, “The chapters were completely revised three weeks ahead of the two-month schedule, and the authors attributed their speed to the ease of revising using PXE. The workflow was seamless: as soon as a revised chapter arrived, editing, photo research and rights management began. Once copyedited, composition followed.”

Segmentwise, k—12 remains strong at Aptara. “Its steady growth surprises us, since a few competitors have closed down amid the global slump,” adds Witman, whose k—12 teams in Delhi and Boston have tweaked their production processes to handle the increased volume while reducing turnaround time.

Meanwhile, Aptara's expertise in e-learning is proven by its 2008 Brandon Hall Award for Best Custom Content. “Every year, we create customized content for hundreds of e-learning courses,” says Mike Stacy, senior v-p of learning and performance solutions, recalling a recent Web-based program developed to train new users on a highly complex software system. “We integrated an automatic learning agent with an interactive conversation interface that includes 'try-me, show-me' features and progressive knowledge checks. The creative learning design encourages participation and engages learners, making learning more effective. Now our client has acost-effective training course that can be easily updated and modified as the need arises.”


One 25,000-page project in 18 European languages landed on Cybermedia's plate last year. “We had to convert hard copies, PDFs and Quark files into InDesign format for this British publisher. In addition, XML tagging was required, sometimes within InDesign itself—a quite time-consuming task,” says president Hoshie Ghaswalla. “Behind the scene, we developed a lot of tools and macros for tasks such as extracting text from scanned pages, converting foreign characters into UTF-Unicode 8, recognizing inconsistencies in line-by-line matching and automatic tagging.”

For another client, which publishes innovative nonfiction titles for beginning, struggling and reluctant readers, his team created interactive e-books from InDesign and Quark files. This bilingual Spanish—English project also involved voice-overs as well as more than 3,000 Flash pages. “In total, we created about 40 two-dimensional animations and 20 comic books for this 82-title project within 60 days,” adds Ghaswalla, whose e-book projects increased more than 200% last year. “We have developed an interactive reading environment that extends beyond still electronic pages to voice-overs, animations and games. We continue to look for ways to further enhance the quality and interactivity of our e-book products.”

Turning to its digital magazine (DigiMag) services, Ghaswalla says, “We work very closely with clients on monetization strategies for online magazines, but growth has been slower than expected. In the longer term, we expect slow but steady growth.” As the largest specialty magazine publisher in the region, Cybermedia has capitalized on 26 years of publishing experience to offer full-service magazine prepress. “Going forward, we are focused on educational book and magazine segments. Europe is a very important market for us, and we are always on the lookout for niche publishing services companies to expand our U.K. market.”


The acquisitions bandwagon has reached diacriTech. “We have just acquired New Hampshire—based LaurelTech, a k—12 and higher-ed specialist. So now we are a one-stop shop operating on a hybrid onshore/offshore model that is capable of delivering a much wider range of services,” says v-p A.R.M. Gopinath, who also has a sales representative in Frankfurt, Germany, where the demand is mostly for conversion, STM typesetting and XML tagging.

As one of the earliest adopters of InDesign, diacriTech has gone through the teething stages to arrive at an efficient InXML workflow that has been adopted in many successful projects. One of them was a series of eight books totaling 6,000 pages in which “we reduced the turnaround time for each book by four weeks, thereby saving considerable time for the subsequent generation of multiple outputs in PDF, XML, MS Word and e-book,” recalls v-p Mahesh Balakrishnan. “We also assisted one school publisher to migrate from a traditional typesetting workflow to an XML environment. With help from our U.S.-based design and editorial team, we built an editorial and content development tool that automated the publisher's workflow to include XML in their outputs. Our proprietary InXML tool took care of the many challenges accompanying complex style elements, an attribute common to design-oriented school texts.” While the initial setup time was marginally long owing to project complexity, the client was able to significantly reduce the time taken for editorial changes and subsequent revisions.

Gopinath sees increasing demand for more Flash-based animation in such products as e-books and in computer-based training. His team recently converted a math series within three months using ActionScript 3.0, which offers more powerful Flash scripting. “We created a storyboard based on the printed product, taking care to use the same content as in the book, as requested by our client. We then made minor color adjustments to provide the best visual appeal onscreen,” adds Gopinath.


Heard of 2D barcoding? At HCL BPO's Media, Publishing and Entertainment division, the technology is deployed in e-forms that are developed for health care, tax, accounting, law and regulation, and other purposes. Let's look at one recent project that involved more than 3,500 forms with over 10,000 pages altogether. “We needed a range of expertise: knowledge of U.S. taxation and accounting systems, graphic design in Office Suite, creative form design in Photoshop and CorelDraw, and programming in Visual Basic and Java environments. We also needed QA [quality assurance] skills in proofreading and manual testing the forms,” says president and CEO Ranjit Narasimhan. The 2D barcode basically summarizes the inputs made by the form user. “QA and validation are two crucial processes in e-form creation. As such, we have built in a six-level workflow to ensure that 100% first-time quality is achieved,” adds Narasimhan. “By using these e-forms, inquiries to tax firms relating to form filling went down from over 3,000 for the 2006—2007 tax year to around 1,000 in the current tax year.”

In another project, Team HCL provided an end-to-end solution to Ireland's largest newspaper group that included archiving, rights management, extraction, digitization and Web portal development. The combined service offering enabled the client to reap significant cost savings from increased efficiencies and reduced headcount.

HCL BPO is a $220-million 13,000-strong company that offers a diverse portfolio of industry-specific outsourcing services including supply chain management, finance and accounting services, knowledge and legal services, customer relationship management and technical support. It has put in place various certified quality procedures and safeguards, including Six Sigma, PCMM Level 3, ISO 27001:2005 and a seven-level disaster recovery and business continuity plan.

HOV Services

Recognized as a top-tier BPO (business process outsourcing) company by the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals, HOV serves more than half of the Fortune 100 companies and many top publishers. Its acquisition of U.S.-based Lason shot it into the top three of India's BPOs. Serving various sectors including publishing, health care and manufacturing through its global operations in the U.S., Mexico, Canada and China, HOV excels in end-to-end content management services ranging from content creation to archival and support.

Recently, a legal publisher approached HOV to revamp its conversion, taxonomy and indexing processes. “We took over the development and debugging of its PDF bookmarking tool and came up with an XML/PDF tool for better results. We succeeded in slashing 35% of our client's production costs and in managing volume variations—two areas in which its previous vendor failed,” says president Suresh Yannamani of the 12,000-strong company. “For the taxonomy and indexing part, our subject matter experts traveled to the publisher's office to jointly study the requirements, develop the prototype, test batches, assess productivity and quality benchmarks, and devise migration plans. They then returned to India to manage the production process.” For an online information publisher looking for a vendor with an expertise in legal content analysis, HOV was able to deploy its subject matter experts and recommend technology solutions to monetize the client's existing database by creating new e-products. “Today, their content is available seamlessly on various platforms, including e-book readers such as Kindle, Sony Reader and MobiPocket.”

He adds, “We constantly upgrade our technology and processes to improve quality, security and productivity. We have 400-plus software professionals to ensure smooth and consistent service delivery. We also have HOV agents accessing our publishing clients' CRM applications to resolve their end-customer issues through e-mail and Web-chat. In short, we provide comprehensive services that take care of any possible content requirements.”

IBH Process Solutions

No other vendor has as much experience in braille as IBH. “We have just delivered two projects—2,000 pages in grade 1/uncontracted braille and 2,500 pages in grade 2/contracted braille—within the 30-day deadline, including OCR [optical character recognition] scanning and conversion of hard copies,” says Sudhendu Singh, v-p for financial and publishing services, whose team also had to implement BANA (Braille Authority of North America) standards, which have specific rules for different types of material. IBH offers the U.S. market conversion to NIMAS and Section 508 standards for developing braille as well as specialized formats such as DAISY DTB (Digital Talking Book) for text-to-speech conversion.

On the other hand, a U.S. trade and reference publisher came to IBH with 50 full-color titles to be produced annually that include cover and page design. “Our client no longer needs to retain expensive designers and artists. Moreover, since we operate 24/7, we can easily meet the creative and production demands. It's a win-win situation for both parties,” adds Singh.

Currently, IBH offers services in four areas: legal, publishing, financial and health care. “Publishing services account for 25% of our sales, so they get a lot of attention. We are seeing growth in repeat business from satisfied clients,” says CEO Nizam Ahmed, who aims to make IBH a $25-million company by 2012. “Lean management is the key. We're working to increase efficiency and throughput with our existing capacity. We also see considerable opportunities in this economic crisis, especially in the U.S., where small and midsize companies would now consider outsourcing to maintain profitability.” With a good portion of its clients coming from the U.S., IBH is watching closely for any signs of protectionism from the Obama administration. “Any cap on outsourcing is not good for American companies, especially in terms of cost competitiveness, nor for our industry.”


A total of 700 full-service projects in 2008 speaks loudly for ITC's project management expertise. “Nowadays, we get involved even before the manuscript arrives. For instance, we would review sample files from authors to make sure they are using the correct format, house style, etc. In short, publishers expect us to take over more of the tasks that they used to handle at their end,” says operations director Waseem Andrabi. His team recently completed within four months a 2,200-page higher-ed title with five ancillaries, a project that presented them with not only a complex full-color layout with sophisticated art but also multiple authors to deal with.

“Increasingly, publishers are turning to us not just to manage content but also to create it,” says editorial services manager Ben Kolstad. “This is an indication that they are increasingly comfortable and also confident with offshore project management, and so they gladly offload their author headaches onto us. However, their authors, understandably, still tend to get anxious about their works being sent to a foreign land to be molded into their final shape. But rest assured that our project managers will work with both sides to keep the focus where it should be: on the content.”

ITC is also ramping up its design and illustration capacity. It has delivered several design-oriented projects, such as a 528-page full-color book with 640 illustrations. “For such projects, we take an extra step: our project manager will work with the author using a rough draft to ensure that the author's preferences are taken into account,” says Andrabi, who is keeping close tabs on his operating costs while continuing to invest in new technologies. “At the same time, we are in the process of formally merging with our sister company, Cepha, to further synergize our operations. Also on our to-do list this year is to reorganize our sales team to expand our coverage to markets beyond North America and Europe.”

Innodata Isogen

No KPO (knowledge processing outsourcing) project is too complex for Innodata Isogen. Take a recent job that entailed producing marketable Dutch jurisprudence information within the guidelines of European laws, which prohibit the disclosure of any information that could identify the parties involved. “The anonymization process was challenging, since any individual is likely to be cited in multiple connecting documents,” recalls Jan Palmen, senior v-p for publishing practice. For this particular project, the original records were digitized and cleaned up by a team in Sri Lanka (a former Dutch colony), analyzed and edited by a Dutch-speaking team of lawyers in Israel and then marked up in XML by the Sri Lankan team before going to the client for review and distribution.

Another project capitalized on Innodata Isogen's expertise in medical KPO services. “We created the content for a comprehensive medical reference database for primary care physicians,” Palmen says. “To accomplish this, we broke the workflow between our research and writing team in Manila, a nine-member editorial team in the U.S. and two medical scientists in Israel working in close collaboration.” Other than medicine, Innodata Isogen's expertise in science and mathematics is clearly shown in an 80-journal copyediting project. “For this and similar projects that require specialized subject knowledge, we have more than 50 chemists and two dozen editors with qualifications in chemical engineering and biochemistry on hand to handle them,” adds Palmen, whose team is also busy converting more than 100,000 titles, averaging 250 pages each at varying complexity levels, for a leading e-book device manufacturer.

“We are making inroads into the educational publishing market. And as our KPO work becomes increasingly complex and challenging, we are also working on expanding our content authoring and content creation capabilities,” says Palmen, who sees more opportunities in customer fulfillment and customer support positions. Doing more multilingual and non-English work such as the Dutch project is another of his goals for 2009.

Lapiz Digital

Although Lapiz Digital's Boston office is not yet one year old, CEO Indira Rajan is already enjoying closer proximity and increased exposure to el-hi publishers in the U.S., which in turn has raised the company's design and project management capabilities as well as its sales there. “For instance, with a series of k—12 science and math ancillary products, our Boston team created the design template for our Chennai-based composition group to build the pages. The composed pages then went back to Boston for fine-tuning before going out to the client. The level and intensity of integration between our two offices differs from project to project. We look at how best to leverage our teams' capabilities and apportion the tasks accordingly,” says Rajan.

In recent months, Lapiz Digital has experienced about 15%—20% increase in trade titles. “Along with composition, the demand for e-book conversion is also growing,” notes Rajan, who sees more interest in ePub, a format in which she has a well-trained and experienced team. Trade publishers, she adds, are also looking at digitizing and archiving their backlists. She is also seeing more projects coming in from the U.K. and other European countries.

Celebrating her company's 10th anniversary in October, Rajan is looking at the next stage of growth for Lapiz. Training her 600-strong team in niche editorial services such as “distractor writing” (for school books and assessment projects) is one of her goals. “We are assessing our publishing clients' needs in the near future based on their current projects. Preparing and training ourselves to keep up with new workflows, changing industry standards and emerging demands is crucial to building our portfolio and growing further.”


No other vendor offers a broader range of services and solutions than Macmillan Publishing Solutions (MPS). Take your pick: subscription management, magazine production, e-learning solutions, multimedia services, ad production, conversion, e-book platforms and mobile publishing/distribution solutions. Its MPS Global Reader is now available on 80 mobile phone networks in 160 countries. “We have built a broad spectrum of content for mobile distribution for the magazine, film and other industries. And we have partnered with publishers such as Simon & Schuster and Tyndale House and music companies such as the Savoy Label Group,” says CEO and managing director Rajiv Seth, who announced his company's partnership with Australia-based DNAML in October. “Our mutual goal is to accelerate the publishing industry's adoption of both DNL e-Book and Global Reader formats worldwide.”

MPS is aggressively promoting packaged solutions to medium and large publishers. For journal publishers, it offers pre—peer review editorial services, editorial and production services, issue makeup and author management, cover design, print coordination, subscription management and fulfillment, XML structuring, content hosting and content dissemination through the Internet and mobile phones. In the book segment, its acquisition of Compset in 2007 has broadened MPS's expertise beyond the SSTM sphere besides giving it a much stronger presence in the U.S.

“This year, the French, Spanish and Italian markets are our major targets. We are capitalizing on our success in Germany to move into other territories,” adds Seth. “Meanwhile, we continue to focus on optimizing technology for better productivity and process control gains. Our team is working on reducing turnaround time for first proofs by 50% or more, and by the end of this year our advanced multiproduct workflow management and control system should be up and ready for our clients.”


Training and technology topped Newgen's agenda in the past 12 months. “Our goal of continuous training is to optimize our capacity and raise efficiency, thereby creating a solid foundation for steady growth,” says CEO Prabhakar Ram, who saw a 25% increase in throughput without headcount expansion. “If the perception of our industry is one of uneven service levels—both in delivery and quality—then our goal is to debunk that perception and break the cycle for our clients.”

The Newgen Center of Excellence, a companywide training initiative, was rolled out in May 2008. The first 20 trainees were put through a grueling schedule of training, coached practice, self-study, testing and feedback for 10 months. “In January 2009, their first month of supervised real work, 14,000 pages were produced without a single error marked on the proofs returned by the client. Another 50 trainees are now at various stages of training. This training goes beyond understanding of clients' requirements or software usage. It provides insight into the entire publishing industry,” Ram says. “We believe that without understanding the whole production cycle, our employees can't be totally engaged, heart and mind, in their work.”

At the same time, Newgen has helped its clients as well as expedited production with new technology, including building a content management system for a medical publisher, an Adobe AIR application for a client to resize figures and check their suitability for print and free indexing software for authors. Says Ram, “Working closely with clients to develop new technology addressing their needs is part of our partnership approach, which aims for operational transparency. We have been very fortunate in the past six months to have several clients spending three or four days on our premises instead of the usual three or four hours. These extended visits also provided an opportunity to set joint objectives for the next 12 months and to strengthen our partnership.”


A diverse client base is buffering Olympus from the slowing global economy. Only 40% of its business comes from the U.S. and U.K.; the rest is from different corners of the world, including New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands. “We are building a team of Flash scripting and animation experts with the aim of expanding into educational multimedia production. Children's books and ancillaries for e-learning are a focus area, too. More copyeditors will also be hired as we foresee our editorial services expanding,” says managing director Vijay Ayyappan, who recently moved to bigger premises to accommodate his growing workforce (80-strong with 30-odd freelancers).

Olympus started working on multilingual typesetting projects last year and recently completed a five-language project for a European client. The 600-page two-color book of near-A3 size had complex multicolumn tables and various design styles, and the team “struggled a bit with the Russian part but managed to finish it within a month. This success gave us the confidence to undertake the design of an Israeli publisher's bilingual Arabic and Chinese title that requires full-color redrawing and labeling,” says head of operations K.R. Sridharan. Presently, page composition forms 60% of Olympus's projects.

Ayyappan has also extended his company's end-to-end project management services to printing and distribution. Not long ago, his team printed 8,000 copies of a spot-UV multicolor brochure and distributed it to 12 regions. Other offerings include Web services such as dynamic content hosting in XML Schema to journal and magazine publishers, and e-book conversion. “We pride ourselves on having a low-cost yet flexible structure that offers personalized services. In whatever we do, we make it our job to listen, study and understand a client's requirements and, if necessary, to refine and restructure existing processes and workflows to meet those requirements.”

Planman Technologies

At Planman, some 200,000 pages have been converted into DAISY-compliant files for libraries in Europe and Australia. The company has also won a two-year DAISY conversion contract from a public library. “We are now actively promoting DAISY conversion services to major libraries, organizations and publishers worldwide,” says Amit Vohra, v-p of sales. In addition, Planman and its U.S.-based joint-venture partner, settingPace, completed close to 75,000 NIMAS-compliant pages for one publisher last year. “We have also converted MS Word and PDF into NIMAS-compliant XML for books, Web sites and handheld devices.”

As for interesting projects, Vohra recalls a geography series that required 35 ancillaries as well as transparencies. The tasks included designing maps, charts and graphs, and researching and writing original content and enrichment activities. “We had to find reliable sources of information and reference, maintain editorial consistency with the student book, manage the large volume of pages and, of course, meet the tight deadline. It involved the full scope of our content services—design, development and production.”

Library services and newspaper archiving are huge, too. Its team recently transcribed scanned images of bibliographic records in various languages into a customized record format with 99.995% accuracy. “We have been selected by the World Bank to undertake postproduction work that includes conversion of printed pages to XML and e-book formats such as PDF, ePub and MobiPocket, as well as files ready for on-demand printing. Our team converts about 5,000 printed pages into these formats every month,” says director Sourav Chatterjee, whose strategy for 2009 is to consolidate existing businesses through acquisitions. “Our success in winning several major projects in different segments, such as newspaper digitization, DTB production and creative services, should buffer us from the impact of the economic downturn.”


IWB (interactive white board) is a hot topic at Q2AMedia, especially after its successful collaboration with U.K.-based Accelerated Learning, whose IWB program will be implemented in more than 500 schools in Europe this year. “The initial modules—math and science for KS1 and KS2—were rolled out in March,” says CEO Sudhir Singh Dungarpur, who is currently testing the product in India. Britain, he says, “has invested more in IWB per student than any other country, resulting in extraordinary achievements in primary math and science. IWB, we believe, will fundamentally change classroom teaching simply because traditional books simply don't hold much appeal for the MTV generation.” Packed with information, animation and games, the IWB modules also contain audio and video content. In developing them, Q2AMedia draws heavily on its expertise in image research and k—12 publishing. “We are working with an American client that specializes in early childhood education right now. This project involves titles that are laden with high-quality artwork, commissioned photographs and creative stock images.”

School and library book publishing is another niche segment that Q2AMedia serves. Says Dungarpur, “Our involvement often starts with analyzing a library publisher's list, determining the gaps and then making proposals and concept presentations. Last year, we did over 200 projects from conceptualization to print-ready files, even printing in some cases.”

In 2009, Dungarpur sees the company moving toward full-service projects and focusing on larger basal programs. “We want to work with educational institutions and publishers worldwide, advising and helping them to develop content for different media formats and to target new markets.” For this to work, he envisions forming strategic partnerships to tap opportunities in key markets. “We will invest further in the interactive services segment, where we have already developed programs for use across Europe and India. We are upbeat about markets such as India and China, and we hope to work with clients to develop content for these territories.”

Thomson Digital

Uncertain times, notes COO Vinay Singh, offer great opportunities. “While we continue to advocate judicious use of resources, we are also preparing for better times. This may sound clichéd, but when this crisis blows over, only strong vendors with sound business practices will remain to carve a bigger slice of the pie. Thomson Digital intends to be one of them.” For now, enhancing skills, developing new services and increasing market penetration are on top of Singh's to-do list. Training, he adds, is crucial to building a cross-trained team that is capable of handling new workflows and emerging work models.

Singh is also pursuing more language-related projects. “We have started working with several clients on European language projects, and the success has prompted us to aggressively promote this service.” Thomson Digital's language expertise has its roots in Mauritius, where it has a three-year-old production unit. Established to handle full-service French language journal production, this facility has expanded to cover translation, digitization, indexing and abstracting, and book composition. Its strengths, adds Singh, are in copyediting and project management. “We have 50 bilingual English—French-speaking staff who has done end-to-end French book and journal production as well as pure translation and digitization work.” Interesting projects include an English—French dictionary requiring XML conversion of 200,000 pages.

Last year, Singh inked a strategic tieup with New York—based Bill Smith Group, a 25-year-old k—12 specialist. This new partnership, offering a complete content solution from editorial to print-ready files, has generated a lot of positive responses, according to Singh, whose team recently delivered a 521-title k—5 project to an American publisher. “These titles required different levels of service, from simple to complex, and from cover revision to massive page corrections. We handled the composition as well as art creation. It was very challenging to manage and to track the progress of such a big project, but we did it.”


A Flash-based e-book with full features is the latest Vikatan offering. Audio (in DTB format) and video content and high-resolution images can be embedded into the pages without creating a humongous file. And pages can be zoomed up to 1,200% larger. Best of all, it is piracy-proof, says CEO A.R. Nallathambi. Naturally, he is patenting it. “This downloadable e-book is tied to the IP address, making free circulation over the Internet impossible. Users will be requested to validate their IP address and given a secondary access key prior to viewing the e-book.”

Vikatan is offering the e-book service to existing clients at an additional 20% of the typesetting cost. Interested publishers should know that users can neither print nor copy the data as text or image. The e-book (published in .exe format) is compatible with all Web browsers, and its use will be extended to existing e-book readers and handheld devices. There are, in addition, features akin to plug-and-play that publishers can adopt for their e-books.

Over in the city of Trichy, Vikatan is recruiting another 100 staff for the second plant to boost its workforce to 250. “We have pushed back ISO 9001 certification in order to cover both our Chennai and Trichy units simultaneously,” adds Nallathambi, whose team recently began offering NIMAS conversion, workflow development and software-related services. Digitization is another service targeted for aggressive promotion this year. “We have also started a printing division—separate from our existing magazine printing unit—to cater for overseas publishers. It is a modern facility with CtP capabilities, high-speed presses, including one brand-new four-color Mitsubishi, and postpress units. Vikatan as a group prints over two million copies of magazines and 180 books per year. So we have the expertise, which we are now offering to everybody.”

Voice of Experience
It is not every day that PW comes across an early childhood education publisher that outsources to India. But it's nothing new to Teaching Strategies, a leading curriculum and assessment provider for early childhood education programs based in Washington, D.C. The company had outsourced conversion projects to Indian vendors before its first major international development initiative with Q2AMedia. Larry Bram, Teaching Strategies's v-p for strategic initiatives and publisher, talks about his outsourcing experience.

Why did you outsource, and why India?

We needed help to develop more than 30 books in multiple languages with e-book versions in a short time. We were looking for a partner who understood the education market, shared our business philosophy and was capable of high-quality production—and Q2AMedia fit the bill. That it is based in India was incidental.

How did your vendor selection process go?

We started by hiring consultants to help us define our needs and to make some introductions. I also checked out potential partners at the 2008 Frankfurt Fair. We then formally interviewed a handful of vendors and had Q2AMedia bring in a team to meet our staff. Their team took some of our ideas and produced quick samples to show us what they were capable of. That made up our mind.

Were you skeptical about working with a vendor thousands of miles away?

Most of our writers are our staff. So, yes, we were skeptical about our ability to work with an outside team and still produce quality that is up to our standards. But we were thrilled to learn that our partner had assembled a U.S.-based team of experienced children's book authors and publishing professionals to write the books and manage the whole project.

Did you face any cultural or communication issues in the project?

We have not had any problems, since the writers and project managers are U.S.-based. But we do have to learn how to work with one another and keep communication open and transparent. For that, we use the Basecamp Web-based project management software for communication and version sharing in addition to weekly phone calls.

Your words of wisdom to those thinking of outsourcing?

Don't outsource simply to save money. Find vendors who understand what you are trying to do and who are committed to your vision and quality standards. Also, you should look for those who have the expertise that you don't have and who can innovate in ways that you can't.
Advice on E-Learning
Rare is the e-learning company that is 100% focused on the educational segment. But that was exactly what Mumbai-based LearningMate set out to do in 2003. Today, this 190-strong Carlyle Group company boasts a portfolio listing major publishers (k—12 to SSTM) and established educational institutions. CEO Samudra Sen talks about e-learning.

How big is the e-learning market?

In the U.S., an estimated one million k—12 students are considered e-learners—taking a full online course or some modules—and about four million in the higher-ed segment, with growth around 25% and 13% respectively. The global e-learning market, both educational and enterprise segments included, is expected to exceed $52.6 billion by 2010.

What misconceptions about e-learning do you often encounter?

The use of rich multimedia as a substitute for textbooks, or simply putting up study and reference materials online, does not constitute e-learning. Many publishers and educational institutions tend to load their e-learning systems with course materials coupled with drill and practice assignments. These often do not provide a successful or meaningful learning experience. At best, such efforts constitute information or knowledge management.

So what constitutes e-learning?

Processwise, e-learning is no different from the traditional method of learning except for the new delivery medium. Thechallenges to teaching effectively remain the same, but in e-learning the content interacts with the learner in the absence of the teacher. So, critical to the delivery of a successful online learning experience is a pedagogical design that motivates, challenges and provokes the learner's cognitive and analytical abilities.

How has e-learning changed in recent years?

Web 2.0 has made it so much easier to create, structure, assess and manipulate learning content. At the same time, e-learning programs are increasingly tailor-made to suit the specific needs of individual or group learners. Publishers will have to design a content customization strategy that addresses these needs.

How complex can an e-learning project be?

Let's look at two complex projects that our team handled recently. In the first, we partnered with a U.S.-based authoring company to design Web 2.0—based courses in algebra for a leading American university. The online learning experience combines the collaborative features of Web 2.0, such as social networking, with assessments and scenario-based learning. The second project involved content migration from a homegrown system to a new platform for a leading k—12 publisher. We customized the platform and developed more than 34,000 pages of HTML content, 300 online tutorials and 27 study planners within four months. Our team also reworked over 38,000 PDF pages to correlate them to the content in the new platform. Overall, we deployed no more than 20 people, but developed over 15 new workflows to automate the content development and migration process.

Your advice to publishers thinking of moving their print products into e-learning modules?

Look at a print product from a new perspective, and not as reproduction or transformation material. Don't simply create PDFs, PowerPoint presentations, interactive quizzes, test banks or assessments and put them online. That's number one. Think about which part of the product is best presented in a static medium like print and which works better online. Consider the e-learning experience: should it be guided, semiguided, exploration-based or assessment-oriented? Then consider your budget and what it allows. But, ultimately, you must ask: how will the e-learning module improve the learning experience and performance of a student?