Pressing deadlines, tight budgets, and complex requirements are just some of the usual issues digital solutions providers have to face as they move from sketchy project briefs to error-free deliverables. Throw in requests for accessibility standards, responsive design, and scanning of brittle archival documents, and the challenges start to mount. But these solutions providers have a whole arsenal of tools, experience, and subject matter experts to tackle the issues and offer the right solutions. Here, they select their most unique and recent projects, and illustrate the major steps taken in delivering the finished products.
Scanning 40 million pages of answer scripts within seven days was just the start of a complex project for a major client at Aaltech Group. “The scanned pages then have to be converted into PDF files that are less than 10MB in size,” says director P. Shivaalkar, whose team also developed a Web portal to host the scanned pages. “The short turnaround time given by the client was the biggest challenge. Here, our IT expertise and experience is front and center, enabling this project to be delivered on time with zero compromise on quality.”
Cenveo Publisher Services
The Cenveo team recently worked with a global education publisher to develop an HTML5-based flashcard engine that offers flip card-styled content. “The end product combines terms and definitions with all types of media support to enhance user interaction and engagement,” explains marketing director Marianne Calilhanna, adding that the engine also “has complex assessment content built into the application to test knowledge about those terms and definitions learned.”
The entire application, which is WCAG 2.0 AA-compatible, was tested on three different browsers on three operating systems (iOS, OSX, and Windows). “It was also tested by an accessibility certification authority to ensure that the product is easily accessible by differently-abled users. The WCAG 2.0 AA compliance guidelines were thoroughly applied to the engine, including the colors used, color contrast, and settings panel. Then there was the use of large and well-spaced interactive elements or virtual controls, and the reinforcement of texts and visuals to ensure that no essential information was conveyed by audio alone,” says Calilhanna.
The next project from a major educational publisher was about creating and developing core content and supporting materials without hiring authors. “At first glance, it sounded like a cost-saving approach but it was actually more complex than that. Anyone involved with publishing educational content understands the deep and often hidden costs related to publishing and production,” Calilhanna says. “Our client, by partnering with Cenveo to develop and author higher-ed curriculum content, effectively bypassed ongoing royalties and permissions. This has resulted in lower costs and a positive P&L for the publisher, with savings passed on to students.”
For one publishing partner with a time-to-market problem in delivering their frontlist titles, the solution was codeMantra’s Integrated Workflow technology. “The client needed to hit the market by a certain date, but they were falling behind due to author delays and other factors beyond their control,” explains Ed Marino, CEO of codeMantra, adding that “the client needed to compress the production cycle by 30% in order to meet the deadline.” By utilizing codeMantra’s automated Integrated Workflow, high-quality results were produced even as the production process was shortened by weeks. “For this particular project, the automation reduced the overall production cycle time by about 40% and brought about an increased level of author satisfaction.”
In another project, this time for a large educational publisher with quality and integrity issues on digital files coming from their full-service vendors, codeMantra deployed its collectionPoint (cP) platform. “The client’s composition vendors were taking too much time to deliver files to the market, and it became a global problem requiring collaboration between the publisher’s diverse business units and its many vendors,” says Marino. “Our platform integrated the communications and file management among different stakeholders, and in the process, provided complete and high-quality files in record time for the client to meet market demands.”
Continuum Content Solutions
A recent magazine digitization project that arrived at Continuum was literally hard to handle. “It involved creating article level METS ALTO XML for magazine issues dated from the 17th and 18th centuries. These are hardcopy issues that were in fragile conditions with warped pages—making them extremely sensitive to handling. Our team had to recreate segments—and digitally ‘straighten’ the content—without putting more stress on those fragile pages,” explains CEO Amit Vohra, whose team converted over 200,000 pages over a period of six months. “Image scans had to be deskewed and cleaned up prior to processing to obtain better OCR results.”
Then there was another complex e-book conversion project for a leading trade publisher where the team created 2,000 fixed layout ePub3 files from publisher-supplied PDF files. “All files were delivered over a period of five months using ContinuumX workflow. Faster time to market combined with high quality ePub3 files were the main reasons the publisher chose Continuum over other suppliers,” adds Vohra.
For a school publisher requiring rich media-enabled math and science titles across five grades and in three languages, the diacriTech team’s first step was to create age-appropriate storyboards and meet the stated learning objectives. “Our mandate was to gamify the content but not to make it too simple,” says executive v-p A.R.M. Gopinath, explaining that the storyboards had to be approved by the editorial board and the education department, which was partly funding the project, before proceeding further. “The storyboards had to be submitted for approval within 45 days, and the whole project completed within two months—in time for the school season and for the grant.”
“Our conversion software was used to extract the content from client’s PDF-based source files, and then export it into our HTML5 production system instead of working from scratch in order to keep the costs low,” adds Gopinath. “We delivered the project on time, and were told that our client was the only company to get the project approved for all five grades. This not only boosted the publisher in the eyes of the education department, but also increased the print sales of the titles. The client is now proposing the use of our AR and VR solutions to the education department as the next digital innovation project.”
When an actor-based video project for grades 6 to 8 was nearing its submission deadline, Hurix Digital’s publishing client made a last-minute requirement. “The client wanted to add accessibility feature with minimal delays to the whole project,” explains Srikanth Subramanian, president of Hurix Education & Publishing division. “Fortunately, with our experience in accommodating last-minute requests, our team of instructional designers were able to deliver on all the accessibility guidelines for each of the 200-plus videos.”
The next project, on the other hand, is a testimony to the agility of Kitaboo Cloud in adapting to client requirements and delivering the end product at the shortest timeline. “Using this enterprise-grade cloud publishing platform, our team was able to convert 300-plus titles—in Indic languages—from PDF to ePub, in five weeks,” says CEO Subrat Mohanty.
A project to develop a university-level course for engineering studies in Africa was one of the highlights at Impelsys last year. Partnering with a content aggregator, the team sorted out course modules—spread across 250-plus CDs, from installation files to application—into beginner, intermediate, and advanced pedagogy, and then converted them into SCORM-compliant online courseware, complete with interactivity and the assessments necessary for engineering certification studies. “The courses created are now placed on iPublishCentral Learn platform and made available to universities offering engineering studies in Africa,” explains Uday Majithia, assistant v-p for marketing and presales. “In addition to the classroom training, students can now access these device-responsive courses to reinforce classroom learning, thus providing a unique blended learning solution.”
Integra Software Services
A Flash-to-HTML conversion project from a major k-12 online provider that arrived at Integra last year was far from simple. “The client wanted digital learning objects for three subjects—English, Literature, and Math—to be converted from legacy Flash to HTML5 to support their metric-driven LMS, which helps to track student performance,” explains managing director and CEO Sriram Subramanya. “The client wanted to use a bespoke authoring tool for the conversion process, which involved well over 1,600 assets in a very short turnaround time.”
But the storyboards were not up-to-date, and many interactivities had no exact matching alternatives available in the unstable authoring tool. “So our team provided HTML5 output that matches as closely as possible to the previous Flash-based courses, redesigned the Flash-based interactivities to achieve the intended learning objectives, and suggested several improvements in the conversion process to overcome the bespoke tool’s limitations,” adds Subramanya, whose team used Adobe Flash CS6 to extract the media assets, Media Encoder CC to convert WAV files to MP4 format, and Adobe Audacity and Audition for editing audio files. “We ended with a project that met the learning objectives at maximum cost savings within the quickest possible turnaround time.”
Lapiz Digital Services
Recent months have seen more quality auditing of mobile apps at Lapiz Digital. “We check for content accuracy and functionalities of the apps,” explains president V. Bharathram. “Since different developers created these apps, inconsistencies in app performance are inevitable. At the same time, the apps must also match the client’s CMS. But the turnaround time given to our team is particularly short since most of these apps are already available online, and the corrections are required almost immediately.”
For another project, this time covering right-to-left reading e-books, the team faced a different set of issues. “The problem in processing these types of e-books is mostly due to the unavailability of some fonts, resulting in the e-books looking vastly different from their printed editions. In some cases, where the input provided was the hardcopy, getting the appropriate keyboarding and QC personnel are the biggest challenge since there is a limited number of people who are proficient in these languages.”
Evaluating a client’s test banks saw Lumina Datamatics putting its Smart Test Technology to task. “Firstly, we conducted a large-scale semantic analysis to identify duplicate questions from two test banks,” explains senior v-p Gordon Laws. “We also created a similarity score between questions in the banks, which informed editors of the coverage breadth and depth of a topic to help them in determining which bank a question should go to. Next, user response data was utilized to determine which questions were performing as intended, and which were non-predictive or weak. This allowed us to weed out questions that had no predictive validity in the learning environment. By doing all these, we nearly doubled the size of the smaller test bank for a lower cost than if the client had paid to write new questions, which would have given them only a 25% increase in their item bank volume.”
For the next project, the company’s RightsPlatform was used to evaluate if a client was paying fair rates for rights research and if they could better constrain their licensing fees. “With RightsPlatform’s tracking and collaboration tools, we were able to analyze the client’s rights purchasing data to see which suppliers were most often used, and for which types of purchases,” says Laws. “Internal hours expended on managing rights and freelance spending were also examined. From the results, we created a hierarchy of purchasing pathways that allowed our client to maximize preferred vendors while minimizing high-cost selections. They were also able to standardize pricing among their freelance base, expand rights clearance, and lower research fees. Furthermore, by using this tool, the client reached near-100% compliance on data tracking that mitigated litigation risks. In the end, the client saved more than 20% on licensing fees and 25% on research fees.”
The MPS team recently developed and implemented an efficient workflow with rapid turnaround time (TAT) for production editors to review journals prior to sending them out to authors. “This involved setting up an end-to-end workflow around MPS DigiEdit and DigiComp, which offers Cloud-based review and editing of content, with automated generation of PDF proofs from XML and graphics for their journals,” explains CEO Rahul Arora, adding that input files were validated against journal specifications and DTDs with auto-alerts and notifications. “DigiComp also has built-in option for publishers to specify reasons for rejection for further analysis and improvement of the journal content. We have cut down the TAT by half during the transition, and the goal is to reduce it by 75% at page proof stage.”
The next project, involving a centralized composition service for a leading STM publisher, covered about 60% of their portfolio of journals, articles and issues. The MPS team reviewed and standardized the journal layouts in collaboration with the publisher, and set up a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform for automated PDF proof generation; along with covers and issue-based workflow automation, for all the journals in scope. A highly automated workflow, using multiple composition servers and effective queue management and decision-making solutions, was deployed on the cloud for speed, reliability, scalability and efficient resource/BCP management. MPS iTrak was used for workflow tracking, automated routing and alerts, and dashboard reporting. This enabled the publisher to achieve a reduced time to market, release standardized products with improved and consistent quality of XML and PDF outputs, and highly optimized workflow automation.
One major project involving the conversion of hard-copy contract agreements for a large legal publishing firm has kept the Newgen team busy for weeks last year. “These agreements, cumulated over the past four decades, had to be digitized and transferred onto the client’s portal within six weeks,” says Tej P. S. Sood, executive v-p for global business development and strategic partnerships. “We had to analyze the agreements, identify key information, tag the content, extract the appropriate fields, and accurately map it into the platform.”
A dedicated team was tasked with analyzing and segregating the agreements into predefined categories while experienced developers were called in to build the automation tools. Newgen’s automated extraction technology further fast-tracked the process while subject matter experts worked around the clock to ensure the accuracy of the extracted content. “We started populating the content onto the platform during the second week of production on a trial-run basis, and this helped to identify potential issues even as we were tweaking solutions to resolve those issues,” Sood says. The project was successfully completed well within the given timeframe.
Handling XML in InDesign is not always as easy as a click of a button, says business development manager Sanam Khanna of OKS Group. “This is predominantly because InDesign’s default Import XML feature is not geared for complex or long XML documents. For k-12 books with their complex layout and design requirements, our team developed a special workflow that imports and transforms the XML documents into InCopy files, which were then flowed directly into pre-determined InDesign template.”
For another project requiring conversion from PDF to ePub3 fixed layout, the team faced a different kind of challenge. “By default, ePub documents, unlike PDF files, are designed to flow, or reflow, to fit the screen and needs of the reader. This, however, may not work for all document types,” explains Khanna, pointing out that “sometimes the content and design are so intertwined that they cannot be separated. Any change in appearance risks changing the meaning—or losing all meaning—of the content.”
In such instances, fixed-layout documents give content creators greater control over the presentation. “But while there are many PDF-to-ePub3 tools in the market today, very few actually seek to preserve the document layout, which is a time-consuming task,” adds Khanna. “The quickest and most efficient solution is to develop an automation that preserves complex layouts in ePub3 document—and this is the tool that we are now offering to clients requiring such workflow.”
Quick Sort India
For one of the largest Open Access academic publishers in Europe, the Quick Sort India team had to edit, compose and provide XML, HTML, and ePub deliverables within a short turn-around-time. “The client started with two journals, and currently, we are working on nearly 70. Their journals come from all over the world with the content contributed by more than 70,000 high-profile editors in about 28 fields in humanities, education, science, technology, and medicine,” says president A.R. Nallathambi.
Within the past decade, the publisher has gone from 69 articles per year to nearly 14,000. When the Quick Sort India team started working on the project, the production processes were mostly manual with non-standardized styles. “Once we took over, we analyzed the content and set out to standardize the styles for copyediting and composition. We implemented pre-XML workflow, which resulted in multifold increases in quality and productivity. In fact, our productivity has increased 500% compared to 2007, and this is due to the innovative tools that our technical team has implemented along the way,” adds Nallathambi.
Westchester Publishing Services
One full-color textbook with multiple contributors, an art program requiring extensive revisions, and a crash schedule to get it published in time for a conference landed at Westchester recently. “Our team handled the project management, copyediting [including very heavy edits on several chapters], working with artists to replace a lot of the art, managing permissions for some content, composition, proofreading, and indexing. We had the project completed within the space of 14 weeks—on time and at the quality standards that our client is known for,” says business development director Tyler Carey.
Another project, an engineering title from an academic publisher, involved extensive collaboration with a non-native English speaker and covered intricate mathematical models. “For this project, we had to navigate a subject that is not typical for many packagers or editorial houses. We coupled that expertise with our deep understanding of composition on mathematical content, allowing us to be a one-stop shop for a project that—had the client gone another route—they may have needed to leverage multiple freelancers and vendors,” adds Carey.