Dechunk, dice, splice, and repackage—what works for publishing content now applies to vendors’ own solutions. After all, one publisher’s size, genre, operational needs, and service requirements differ from the next, and savvy vendors know that customization and personalization is the only way to go. As a result, workflow and content solutions in the form of modules, platforms, apps, and subscription models—mostly cloud-based, seamless, device-agnostic, and intuitive—are now de rigueur.
But with technology coming fast and furious (and often not cheap), implementing new, unique, and robust workflows and solutions often looks better on paper than in reality. There are many obstacles, big and small, lying in wait. Ironically, at the crux of it, technology poses one major stumbling block.
The Technology Conundrum
The variety of digital platforms in the marketplace means that publishers are often trying to figure out which one will work not only in terms of generating revenues for them, but also in doing so cost effectively, says Indira Rajan, CEO of Lapiz Digital. “Potential technology disruptions require us, as the digital solutions vendor, to ensure that any digital content produced is as technology- and future-proof as possible.”
The shelf-life relevance of the software solutions needs to be carefully estimated as part of the investment process, says Vinay Kumar Singh, executive director and CEO of Thomson Digital. “The capabilities of a technology in resolving publishing issues have to be evaluated as well. For example, there is still a debate about the pros and cons of blockchain in the publishing world, even though the technology has been relevant and yielding positive results in other sectors such as consultancy, finance, retail, and other transactional areas.”
Skepticism in embracing a new technology is normal, says Uday Majithia, assistant v-p of technology, services, and presales at Impelsys. “It takes some effort and discussions on our part to show the value of technology. But it is undeniable that digital technologies bring along operational efficiencies through automation while enabling experimentation of new business models.”
Consumers are digital-savvy and want content access on the fly, in smaller bytes, and all interlinked, while content creators are playing catch up. “This is partly because consumers have constantly evolving usage patterns that require platforms that can easily evolve,” Majithia adds. “And in the absence of such platforms, publishers may not see the desired ROI and are therefore skeptical.”
Additionally, publishers have also been experimenting with various tools, but not all have been able to provide value. “The problems may lie in incorrect identification of company goals or choice of the right technology, or issues related to the organization’s current technology stack and implementation of the new tools,” Majithia explains, adding that “the lack of uniformity, cross-functionality, and awareness has created distrust about the value of these technologies.”
Convincing potential publishing clients to adopt newer and better technology is always tough. “Some publishers are still stuck with the traditional way of working, while some others, over a period of time, have developed isolated tools or proprietary in-house workflows,” says Nizam Ahmed, founder and CEO of DiTech Process Solutions (as well as 3ClicksMaster). “There is also the perception that certain software will only work for one publishing segment. For instance, humanities and social sciences publishers often think that platforms adopted by STM publishers will not work for them.”
The fear of change is holding back the publishing industry, says Yakov Chandy, managing director at TNQ Technologies. “Our push to move to HTML-only articles through HTML typesetting, for instance, is held back by the need to keep producing PDFs, which is perceived as the format authors and readers love and will not do without. So, change that is sure to come via completely connected and interlinked articles or books has yet to happen.”
Chandy also finds that technology products are still hard to sell. “Most publishers believe that the services they pay for should include the technology products that vendors have created. This is an issue as good technology products need to be constantly developed and paid for.”
Then there is the customer’s expectations of technology versus what vendors such as TNQ Technologies can do for them. “With the use of AI and ML [machine-learning] technologies in our workflow, we have solid offerings that are useful and attractive to new clients. But increasingly, publishers now need full-service outsourcing, a transition that has become a challenging activity for the sales process,” Chandy says.
Defining the Digital Path
Since finding the perfect digital roadmap is not a simple task, adds Singh, of Thomson Digital, “publishers need consultancy, support, and partnership to work on realizing the digital results. The cost of digitizing is one of the biggest factors for publishers to consider. It is a long-term strategic investment and may be a fiscal challenge for some publishers.”
The academic and education segments are facing not just a digital issue but also other market concerns including adoption, usability, and efficacy. “Major publishers have been moving in the right direction for quite some time now and making the right investments,” says Sriram Subramanya, founder and CEO of Integra Software Services.
Digital has different meanings for different segments, Subramanya adds. “For the academic segment, they can create e-versions along with print, or just e-versions. For the education segment, it is about hitting the right balance of delivering unique experiences in using products that are available in both print and digital. Their digital versions are not copies of their print products, and a lot of time and effort have gone into reimagining the digital product’s learning experience, efficacy, and learning outcomes. Large publishers are able to make the right investments and have the market size to realize their ROI on their digital initiatives.”
There is very little that is holding publishers back from going digital at this point in time, says Atul Goel, president at Cenveo Publisher Services. “In fact, many clients are eager to go digital-only, overlooking that there is still demand from the market for print.” For now, Goel finds that streamlining the number of products being published, especially from higher-ed publishers, “means that our team is providing more and varied services for larger individual products.” Accessibility, he says, “remains a secondary consideration even now, rather than the concept we have been advocating of content being ‘born accessible.’”
In the STM/scholarly segment, the movement toward AI and NLP-based editorial workflow has been obvious, says Vidur Bhogilal, vice chairman of Lumina Datamatics. “Some parts of the industry are implementing workflow technologies like STEM and online editing, while general trade publishers are not making any changes except for wanting multiple outputs. In the education segment, the market is feeling its way along what models will eventually drive new forms of value: Should they be focused on subscriptions, rentals, or micro-transactions? Should they greatly lower the price of content while up-selling services? All these issues are still being sorted out, and each of these affects how every client is doing business.”
Additionally, the digital learning industry, as a part of the edTech space, is particularly quick to evolve: SecondLife, adaptive learning, intelligent tutors, MOOCs, machine learning, and augmented reality/mixed reality are all advancing rapidly. “The business or instructional value of some of these technologies may not yet be proven, but companies often respond to market pressures and invest in both the technologies and training,” says Goel, of Cenveo Publisher Services, adding that there remain multiple conflicting standards within the digital solutions industry.
However, many publishing clients who bet heavily on digital have successfully monetized their content. “But those who ventured in half-heartedly are not as successful,” says A.R.M. Gopinath, executive v-p at DiacriTech, adding that “for many medium and small publishers, how to potentially deliver the content to their clients in a secure and commercially viable manner remains the big question. Needless to say, choosing the right partners not only for converting files but also for delivering the content to the right market is key to success.”
Of Data and Privacy
When it comes to metadata, there is still much to establish from the outset, says Goel, of Cenveo Publisher Services. “Publishers still tend to rely on Word document manuscripts as the authority for all information instead of detailed header files. So information is sometimes missed, or manual intervention is required, instead of realizing the full benefits of automation.”
Funding statements, for instance, are often inconsistent, possibly because peer-review systems do not enforce metadata standards for funder identity. “If this is not caught during the production and proofing process, the data can be missed or corrupted on its way to aggregators and registration agencies such as HighWire and CrossRef,” Goel adds, pointing out that author names and formatting of article titles are also subject to error in untagged Word files.
For Mohanty, of HurixDigital, IP protection (vis-à-vis digital-rights management) and multichannel access to content are two main publishing issues. “Publishers are concerned about the copyright violations and online piracy associated with digital platforms, and their concerns are totally understandable. So we offer DRM protection for content to allow publishers to rest easy with the knowledge that their content is safe on our Kitaboo platform.”
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) restrictions “have made Lapiz Digital tread carefully and, as a result, have slowed down our sales process. We have changed our approach with existing and new prospective clients in the EU in order to comply with GDPR,” v-p Meena Prakash adds.
Adhering to and complying with IT regulations is one thing—handling privacy is another. “At Lapiz Digital, we have previously handled the personal information of our clients from some of our other businesses for many years,” Prakash says. “We have exercised great diligence in information security. Adapting and applying the knowledge we have gained over the years to the current European scenario was, however, a bit of a challenge. Handling data during a business process is quite different from when one encounters it for making contacts in the course of business development.”
Integra Software Services, for instance, has been busy conducting workshops across its offices to ensure staff sensitivity and critical compliance to GDPR. “This regulation is very much an extension to our long-standing emphasis on data security and maintaining confidentiality of proprietary information. We are also signing mutual GDPR agreements with our customers,” Subramanya says, adding that his company has a well-established personal-information-management system.
The Urge to Merge (and Control Costs)
Consolidation of small publishers, mostly through acquisition by bigger groups, has resulted in a massive volume of work heading to larger vendors. “This is a problem: the bigger vendors are often unable to match the service-level expectations of small publishers, which typically require more hand-holding and personal attention. This reflects negatively on the outsourcing industry and, in the longer run, may adversely affect the industry growth,” adds Gopinath, of DiacriTech.
Mergers and acquisitions are definitely shrinking the customer base, says Goel, of Cenveo Publisher Services. “Societies migrating to commercial publishers to run their journal programs present a similar problem. At the same time, the vendor base is highly fragmented, making it easy for clients to work with multiple service providers.”
For Bhogilal, of Lumina Datamatics, the aggressive consolidation and cost-cutting exercise on current businesses are in full evidence. “New forms of business only see experimental volumes. Theoretically, the spending in new digital products and solutions should exceed that of traditional publishing models. But what works versus what doesn’t is still being explored, which means that publishers are understandably hesitant to commit to vast numbers of new products that would generate new forms of service.”
Rising costs—of paper, printing, and shipping—and vendor consolidation definitely have an adverse effect on experimentation with new channels, such as AR/VR, says Tyler Carey, chief revenue officer at Westchester Publishing Services. “Our company is relatively shielded, since editorial and production offerings have not experienced the volatility that printing companies or publishing supply chains—let alone emerging technologies—are facing.”
But as publishers continue to consolidate their vendor relationships and cluster around big technology platforms, Maran Elancheran, president of Newgen KnowledgeWorks, sees growing opportunities—and a necessity—for vendors large and small to collaborate. “Publishers are increasingly looking for unique and imaginative solutions to give them the edge in a hugely competitive marketplace, and so vendors that can work together in the best interests of the publisher will have an edge that could unlock a new level of innovation in the industry.”
Cost pressure, Elancheran adds, “is a reality that we have lived with for many years. It goes together with the agenda to automate and is a necessary part of addressing the structural efficiencies in the industry. In many ways, we have been victims of our own successes in this regard, and the constant drive for efficiency is enabling us as an industry to embrace change and to continue to drive forward academic and educational endeavors around the world.”
Rising production and distribution costs along with a plethora of digital avenues have created a fundamental shift in the business model, says Mohanty, of HurixDigital. “For instance, in the U.S. higher-ed publishing sector, the rise in demand for affordable study materials has created a need for alternative delivery and monetization models. New digital initiatives and platforms along with content-delivery techniques are driving the change in that market.” (Mohanty and his team published a white paper, “Can U.S. Higher Education Publishers Leverage a Subscription Model?,” with references to models similar to Netflix, Spotify, and the New York Times in March.)
Working It Out
For smaller publishers, navigating the speed bumps has affected their ability to explore alternative technologies and platforms as core needs have been in flux, observes Carey, of Westchester Publishing Services. “So by providing as consultative a solution as possible for publishing clients, Westchester continues to explore partnerships with best-in-market vendors to help augment what we can offer our clients, such as the work that Fablevision and Learnosity do to support our educational clients with their digital needs.”
Having a 50-year history in providing top-notch market editorial and production offerings for printed products has been beneficial to Westchester. “We tend to have an advantage when clients begin exploring digital products,” Carey adds. “Providing digital solutions for products that also have a print component is a natural extension of what we do, rather than a competitive digital-only offering. Where we see our clients wresting with challenges is usually in defining what digital products will have the most ROI for them.”
One textbook publisher that Westchester works with, for instance, was encouraged by their marketing department to create customized digital editions for every textbook platform in the market. “But for a publisher their size, it may have made more sense to focus on just investing in the platforms that will generate the most revenue and exposure for their products,” Carey says, adding that this is where his company’s consultative stance helps to realize clients’ visions, by delivering the best possible products for print and digital, and working with them to define where they are trying to go.
Building trust and confidence is often the biggest hurdle in starting any new relationship. “It takes time to develop trust, and we can only do it through experimenting and proving ourselves on those first few projects,” says Elancheran, of Newgen KnowledgeWorks. “Although our technologies and services are often transformative for publishers, we never underestimate the confidence that production and editorial staff need to have to risk switching vendors and workflows. Even with existing clients, introducing new workflows and efficiencies can be worrisome when established processes are tried and tested.”
Meanwhile, publishers are looking at converting their production operations to profit centers and searching for partners to help them reach those goals, says Ravi Venkataramani, cofounder and CEO of Exeter Premedia Services. “With business models changing rapidly, publishers are looking for digital solutions partners that will support them through these changes, primarily to provide technology solutions that will streamline workflows and enhance author experience.”
To Poach or Not
Staff poaching remains a big issue in the highly competitive digital solutions industry since its early days. “Today, the poaching is mostly for employees with some initial experience of between six months and a year, and not the more experienced operations people,” says Rajan, of Lapiz Digital.
Hiring issues are here to stay, Rajan adds. “But once they’re hired—be it a fresh or a lateral hire—getting them to understand the culture of the company and the corporate work environment is a major challenge. Attracting, retaining, and engaging the millennial workforce, and bringing them together to build a successful organization, is not easy. But our induction and training programs—all based on the sense of belonging—has been proven successful.”
The fight for talent is mostly about developing capabilities within the digital solutions industry. “Poaching is par for the course when there is a shortage of talent in every market segment,” adds Subramanya, of Integra Software Services.
Poaching is the easiest way to develop digital solutions from scratch, says Ahmed, of DiTech. “By poaching the head of the solutions division, for instance, one immediately obtains the ideas, architecture, design improvements, and so on. But there is one big problem: everybody’s solutions become indistinguishable from one another.”
For DiacriTech, establishing production facilities in second-tier cities is one way of countering staff poaching and reducing employee attrition while, at the same time, improving business continuity. “Unfortunately, the development of new technology and product solutions tends to happen in main operational hubs, which are located in the major cities where poaching is rampant,” Gopinath says, adding that “a sense of discipline among vendors is required to get this sorted out.”
Operational Size Matters
When it comes to ramping up production during peak seasons, operational scale is always an advantage in the digital solutions industry. As a rule, big publishers tend to gravitate toward the big vendors. “But our services and offerings are not confined to big customers with huge volumes,” says Singh, of Thomson Digital, which operates five delivery centers (three in India, one in Mauritius, and another in New York) and has more than 1,500 employees.
“Publishers of any size, work volume, and project complexity will be able to leverage our products and services with the same efficiencies—and our current client roster bears that out. We are aware that the viability of a business depends on work volume and that it may be challenging to work with similar efficiency with medium or small-scale publishers. However, our tools and automation are easily customizable and our efficiency is definitely not volume-based,” Singh adds.
Larger customers have used the company’s scale, size, and financial depth to qualify it for vendor selection, says Rahul Arora, CEO of MPS. “But that is where it ends—at qualification. Great and reliable delivery through a consultative approach powered by market-leading technology is what differentiates us. We make learning smarter, and this precise mission allows us to be focused in enabling customer success through smarter delivery and not just delivering the scope of work agreed upon.”
Ten out of MPS’s top 15 publishing customers are small and medium-size companies. Arora explains, “We bring not only years of experience in innovative publishing solutions, but also high ROI and robust solutions. We are not a marketing organization: we are an operations and technology company. Our work speaks for itself, further bolstering our good reputation with small- and medium-size publishers.”
Cenveo Publisher Services
Cenveo Learning, which provides unified digital solutions for publishers and corporate learning programs, was launched in March. Employing a team of learning professionals with deep experience in instructional systems, as well as visual and technical design, Cenveo Learning bundles educational talent with corporate learning capabilities into a robust end-to-end offering.
Available across devices and platforms, Cenveo Learning solutions include adaptive micro-learning modules, full-length courses, assessment and certification products, gamification, animated and live action interactive videos, and simulations. “We have long worked with publishers, schools, colleges, and universities worldwide on learner-centric, 21st-century solutions for math, ELA, science, social sciences, and other disciplines,” president Atul Goel says. “Corporate learning and development programs will benefit from the application of these core principles to training modules delivered via evolving techniques and systems, including VR and AR, responsive design, rapid development, blended learning, LMS development, managed services, and consulting.”
Rajeev Barowalla, v-p of learning, says, “Cenveo is excited to implement the skills and best practices to improve workplace performance while we continue to create curriculum-aligned and immersive educational experiences. Following our proven approach of combining standards-based instruction with interactive environments, we are confident that we can transform mundane training materials into engaging and effective learning across markets.”
As for Smart Suite, Cenveo’s cloud-based ecosystem of publishing tools, many new features have been added to make it even smarter. A total of four modules make up the platform: Smart Edit (for pre-editing, copyediting, and conversions), Smart Compose (the production engine), Smart Proof (for capturing edits while allowing valid XML round tripping), and Smart Track (which has an easy user interface that logs all content transactions).
“Real-time reporting and validations are now a part of the workflow,” Goel says, adding that one of the latest features includes the fully automated issue-production process. “It cuts down the issue compilation and delivery process to a few minutes from the time the issue-lineup information is received.” Cover processing has also been fully automated. As for the new Smart Reporting feature, customer-driven information such as metadata, stylesheets, and typographic rules are now validated against the process and reported as a proof of compliance.
“Smart Suite 2.0 is an integrated end-to-end workflow that significantly reduces manual intervention while achieving the goal of high-speed publishing with editorial excellence,” Goel adds.
Both large and small publishers have successfully adopted XEditPro Publishing Suite, DiacriTech’s unified editorial and production platform. Now in its third iteration, the platform provides full support for multilingual interfaces and content, and it has a changeable theme.
Enhancements to the platform are many. The security feature, for instance, includes IP-based restrictions for user access and limits those users to the operations they are authorized to perform. The project dashboard, meanwhile, can now monitor project performance at a much more granular level, especially for larger projects with multiple milestones. “An audit trail or log is maintained for all events occurring during the stages of publishing,” explains executive v-p Mahesh Balakrishnan, whose team has added citation autolinking for edited book references to the already available chapter- and article-end reference link. The brand new UI/UX is an enhancement to the previous Word-like editing interface.
“XEditPro version three presents a stable and more responsive platform that has faster rendering of print and web PDF, HTML, XML, ePub, and Word at any stage of the production process,” Balakrishnan adds.
ImmersiveGaze, DiacriTech’s product for the AR/VR/MR realm, is also evolving as a solution for distraction-free headset-based immersive-learning techniques. “New generations of schoolkids mostly have access to smartphones and devices, and so we are creating content and storyboards that have an MR angle,” says executive v-p A.R.M. Gopinath, whose team has developed a series of biology concepts for a multinational publisher and deployed these in a private school as their proof of concept on advanced teaching methodologies.
“We also launched our own game-based physics education module, Vaco from Venus, on the iStore and Playstore. The goal is to help the character Vaco get to its spaceship through solving science-based activities and understanding the concepts involved,” Gopinath adds.
The company’s true XML-first InDesign production solution has also undergone major updates. “InXML now works with the latest version of InDesign and is used primarily for clients wanting an InDesign-based solution. InXML is highly automated with multiple outputs—Word, XML, PDF, ePub, and HTML5—generated at a click of a button. So we are able to fast track projects with ease,” adds Gopinath, whose focus remains on “bringing about cloud-based solutions for design-intensive publications.” Gopinath explains, “We are integrating InXML with XEditPro to achieve this goal, which will see almost all design and editorial work done using XEditPro’s web interface.”
DiTech Process Solutions
DiTech’s acquisition of eAthena in December 2018 has brought about special skills and domain expertise. “This was the first company to develop regional Indian-language e-books for Kindle, and it was among the first few to launch animated children’s e-books,” company founder and CEO Nizam Ahmed says, adding that eAthena, a specialist in capturing medieval handwritten documents, has worked very closely with several U.K.-based organizations and universities on such projects. “So we now gained a foothold in this specific domain and acquired new niche clients. There is huge potential in this area, and we want to further grow this going forward.”
Then there is 3ClicksMaster (3CM), a separate company developed and owned by DiTech that offers a cloud-based automated cross-media publishing platform of the same name. The 3CM platform combines three separate processes: creation (which covers copyediting and XML conversion), design (autoflowing-created XML into InDesign or predetermined DTDs), and publishing (creating print PDF, XML, ePub3, and HTML5 on the fly). Customizable, flexible, and editable, the 3CM platform is designed for web, print, and mobile content. Several global nonprofit organizations have adopted 3CM for their publications.
Recently, 3CM started offering a new module for end-to-end journal-publishing requirements. “JMaster allows the users to publish their articles at the click of a button. It provides a unique set of features for seamless journal publishing, such as automated DOI generation, online copyediting, author packet generation, auto-issue building, and email notifications for production managers and authors. There is also a math-type editor for equations and formulas,” Ahmed says, adding that JMaster, which can process approximately 500 pages per minute, has the ability to produce extensive publications with highly complex layouts.
Aside from that, JMaster can process Unicode data and comes with copyediting rules for all languages, thus enabling multilingual publications. “Production managers can track the status of their journals in the 3CM platform, allowing for better planning of print and digital products,” Ahmed says. “Since JMaster is easily configurable, it delivers quick solutions to specific requirements without quality compromise.”
The success of 3CM, which was established in 2016, has prompted Ahmed to focus on his company’s ability to provide technology solutions for end-to-end publishing services. “We want DiTech Process Solutions to be known as a technology-solution provider rather than just a service provider.”
Exeter Premedia Services
Kriya, Exeter’s cloud-based publishing platform, continues to focus on its goal (and slogan) to “deliver happy authors.” “It is being enhanced functionally as well as technologically to ensure that its workflow and capabilities provide a superior experience for authors, publishers, and all users of the system,” company cofounder and CEO Ravi Venkataramani says. “We have added significant new capabilities across the spectrum of publications—journals, books, abstracts, newsletters, and directories, for instance.”
For books, the team has built a dedicated cloud-based solution on Kriya that streamlines the entire life cycle of book production. “The solution comes with all the features that make Kriya an efficient publishing platform,” Venkataramani says. “These include an integrated content-management system for versioning and storage/retrieval for revised editions, versions, supporting files and metadata; XML-driven automation; proof-and-edit on the flow; and intuitive interfaces.”
The core new capability is a stronger book-planning and project-management module. Additionally, Kriya for Books also provides a dashboard view of titles in production and enables the publisher to have complete control and visibility into the entire process. “This is particularly important given the longer production cycles and complexity of books compared to other publication formats, such as newsletters or journals,” COO Sowmya Mahadevan says, pointing out that Kriya has a subscription-based pricing model for different formats.
Kriya is built with the ability to support custom workflows based on client requirements. Mahadevan explains, “We look at any customization request as it applies to our philosophy of converting production to a profit center. We carefully consider and implement such requests and share the results with our community. As a result, Kriya is always evolving per industry needs and not based on specific client needs.”
As for the time needed for a publishing client (or stakeholder) to get comfortable and up to speed with Kriya, Venkataramani says that the publishing platform is built to be as intuitive as possible. “We are constantly challenging ourselves to improve the user experience. We have added guided workflows, enhanced user interfaces, navigation tools, help guides, alerts, and notifications. These have enabled our authors to use Kriya with little to no training and to complete their review. Our publishers also have a similar experience and are able to get up to speed with Kriya very quickly.”
Kitaboo, HurixDigital’s flagship product and interactive e-book platform, continues to undergo enhancements to reflect changing industry needs and the latest technology. “We have added augmented reality and created Kitaboo AR to stay ahead of the digital publishing curve and help our clients to deliver more varied content on digital platforms,” CEO Subrat Mohanty says, adding that Kitaboo AR “has seen considerable traction among publishers and enterprises, a few of whom have signed up for customized development of the AR feature.”
Kitaboo now has more than six million users in 25 different languages across 20 countries. “Over the years, we have added new features and upgrades based on the latest AI/NLP technologies and development, resulting in Kitaboo growing from strength to strength,” Mohanty says. Aside from having a client roster of who’s who in the publishing industry—including Grupo Anaya, Gyldendal, Macmillan, McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson, and Profil Klett—Kitaboo is known for winning multiple industry awards, especially the Brandon Hall Group Excellence Award for six consecutive years since 2012.
As for Kitaboo’s payment gateway, it is a bespoke feature that is built based on client requirements. “Kitaboo can enable a PCI-DSS-compliant payment-solution integration for e-stores and online commerce. This helps publishers reach out to consumers directly and monetize their content seamlessly behind a pay wall,” explains Mohanty, whose company also offers a comprehensive K–12 digital content library with more than 2,500 science and mathematics videos.
These instructional learning nuggets, he says, are based on a global K–12 curriculum, developed by experts in various subjects, and approved by teachers. The videos have been tested in classrooms worldwide, and they can be customized to the language needs of various markets along with the English-language edition.
Then there is Kitaboo Insight, HurixDigital’s mobile-first training platform for enterprises, which continues to gain traction among training and development teams in various organizations. It enables enterprises to deliver training content to employees via mobile devices while helping to create interactive digital content that is tailored to organizational goals.
Recently, Mohanty has created a new team (Hurix Technology Services) to focus on AI and NLP-driven content solutions and products. “In the longer term, our focus is on offering scalable cloud solutions, mobile and web applications, QA testing, managed cloud solutions, and Big Data analytics to publishers and enterprises.”
At Impelsys, projects with key partners such as the American Heart Association and Laerdal Medical have strengthened its goal to build a company whose larger mission goes beyond making a profit. “We want to be an entity with a purpose, which is to make an impact by spreading knowledge through technology and making the world a better place for everyone,” says Uday Majithia, assistant v-p of technology, services, and presales. “We want our technologies to touch as many lives as we can and help people to learn and grow professionally and personally.”
The company’s platform iPC Scholar (previously known as iPublishCentral Scholar), for instance, has been adopted in emerging markets such as the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. In the U.S., a prominent oncology society is now building an authoritative LMS that can support a blended model of professional learning for its members, which include nurse practitioners, doctors, and clinical support staff.
“This solution, based on our core iPC technology, will be an online university that supports individual plus institutional business models in which partner hospitals can assign relevant courses for their employees,” Majithia explains, adding that “it will host video- and assessment-based courses, discussion forums, and podcasts on the first development phase. The next phase will see the platform hosting the society’s e-books and also a separate skills-assessment platform.”
As for iPC Health, it is now helping in the up-skilling and professional development of more than 2,000 healthcare personnel across multiple hospitals in India. “The platform is enabling these hospitals to enhance patient safety and healthy care outcomes and, in turn, promoting standardization of care across different facilities in the country. From doctors to nurses to ambulance drivers and security guards, iPC Health is already touching thousands of lives at different levels by facilitating holistic development of healthcare establishments,” Majithia says.
Both iPC Scholar and iPC Health are undergoing continuous innovation and development. New feature enhancements and a complete microservices-based architecture are among the product updates in the coming months. “Impelsys Innovations Lab will also be launched later this year,” Majithia adds. “It will be a collaborative platform for our technology leaders and engineers to work alongside our partners and clients on cutting-edge technologies such as AI, Big Data, analytics, and blockchain to push the envelope and keep innovating.”
Integra Software Services
Cloud-based authoring platform iAuthor, which has NLP capabilities, is the latest solution from Integra. “A number of journal publishers are piloting the product to re-engineer their workflows by onboarding some of their authors and editors in the iAuthor environment,” company founder and CEO Sriram Subramanya says, adding that the publishers are able to see real-time results. “There is a turnaround-time reduction of up to 30% accompanied by efficiency gains, which translates into significant savings in production costs.” Currently, more than 1,000 journals adopt iAuthor.
“Many publishers have started to implement digital-first and digital-only products in order to reduce cost and time to market, and making the final products more accessible price-wise,” adds Subramanya, whose company operates from 10 offices in six countries (including India).
Integra’s Digital Solutions Center of Excellence, with its 300-strong team, is helping publishers make a smooth digital transition. “We offer end-to-end digital content management, including instructional design, content development, 2-D/3-D graphics, animation, audio/video services, AR/VR, HTML5 development, assessments, and accessibility-based content,” Subramanya says. “Most of our platforms and products are assisting publishers to re-engineer many aspects of their workflows and achieve digital-only workflows.”
The market, he says, is still in flux. “While we see OERs and MOOCs competing with traditional publishers, we also see big education publishers such as Pearson and Cengage innovating their business models—for example Cengage Learning’s Netflix model for higher-ed content. There are other socioeconomic factors affecting the education segment, but the education publishing segment is highly resilient.”
In recent months, more publishers are requesting systems and platforms through which they could see metadata through a simple user interface during the content-production stage, and verify the metadata accuracy prior to product distribution. “So we have updated our tools to extract the appropriate metadata and display them to authors and publishers within our platforms,” Subramanya adds.
As a part of its CSR initiative, Integra has been building classrooms and refurbishing infrastructure at a 135-year-old rural school—founded by Subramanya’s great-grandfather and managed by Subramanya as a nonprofit—benefitting 1,200 underprivileged students. Integra has set up IT and science labs to enable students to start learning computer and science skills from an early age; Integra has also provided scholarships for those struggling financially to continue their education, and it has launched a school website to bring together its alumni and collectively contribute to the betterment of both the school and students.
Accessibility-related services were the most sought-after solution at Lapiz Digital last year. “Then there were requests for e-book conversion, composition, digital services, interactive whiteboard development, and e-learning,” president V. Bharathram says, adding that AR/VR is more popular among his corporate clients. “Cost remains the deciding factor in whether we adopt HTML5 for e-learning, go for a less complicated e-book, or simply use an editable PDF as a solution.”
Content creation and rewriting is another area in which the Lapiz Digital team has been doing very well in recent months. “We are basically ghostwriting blogs and books, and most of these projects involve technical research content in areas such as engineering, technology, and the internet of things, which require web mining and are quite straightforward. We also work on tests and assessments, create question banks for various subjects, and write alternate texts for accessibility content,” Bharathram says.
The team has been working on auditing other vendors’ works for many years. The auditing projects, Bharathram adds, “revealed common content errors related to spacing and entity issues as well as formatting errors and missing links. The concept of ‘first time right’ is yet to sink in with the younger workforce, and so there is an urgent need for more training to overcome negligence and to provide error-free products and content.”
Meanwhile, publishers are becoming more focused on capturing the correct metadata. Bharathram explains, “We know the importance of having the correct metadata, which are extensively used to search, identify, collect, and trace resources of all kinds. Publishers are increasingly going for semantic metadata, which describes the resources or objects at a granular level and makes the content search more effective and efficient.” The metadata input and output are validated through automation tools that collect data based on client requirements. For some customers, the team uses a purpose-built web engine that utilizes crawlers to search for all metadata and generate the raw output. Specific algorithms are then used to index and validate the metadata.
Going forward, Lapiz will focus on two new business initiatives involving e-commerce and analytics. “Though we started working on these two last year, there will be a lot more push in terms of investment in technology and resources in the coming months. An aggressive push in e-learning is also on the table,” Bharathram adds.
Among the latest solutions from Lumina Datamatic are MARS (Manuscript Assessment & Reporting System), Rights Platform (enhanced with blockchain technology), ExpertSource Pro (powered by Smart Test Technology), and the RightsPlatform Marketplace. “Our custom solutions address specific publishing issues, while our new solutions, such as MARS, help to improve the overall efficiencies of the journal peer-review process,” vice chairman Vidur Bhogilal says.
Its market-leading RightsPlatform tool, for instance, has been upgraded to automate the rights-acquisition process. “It is the chief source of auditable transactional details for dozens of clients. RapidRightsChain, backed by blockchain, now enables instant transactions,” Bhogilal adds. “Authors, editors, and designers can quickly and easily approve their image, send their rights requests with one click, and receive licensing grants without leaving the system or performing additional data entry. This dramatically lowers acquisition costs and increases creators’ control in the process.”
Two of the world’s largest STM/scholarly publishers now have all their visual assets on Lumina Datamatics’ RightsPlatform Marketplace. “We are currently facilitating access to collections of materials and implementing taxonomies that help drive more targeted searches in specialty areas,” Bhogilal says, pointing out that the platform manages more than two million assets.
Meanwhile, the latest version of ExpertSource now matches clients with freelancers on tens of thousands of tasks, including complex math and science writing as well as editing, proofreading, indexing, and fact checking. “When freelancers sign up, we use LightPayCoin to reward their activities. Clients are also rewarded for rating freelancers and their ongoing participation on the platform,” Bhogilal explains, adding that clients “can exchange LightPayCoin rewards for freelance services, award bonuses to high-performing freelancers, or bank their rewards for more speculative projects that are harder to fund.”
Now that publishers are busy reorganizing not just their business models but also cost structures and the way services are delivered, Lumina Datamatics is focused on understanding the shifts and reinventing itself to fit evolving client needs. “Our goal is to leverage technology to solve client’s pain points. For instance, we are developing platforms for pre-manuscript screening to enhance peer-review efficiencies, improving copyediting capabilities via contextualized processes, and supporting publishers’ new Open Access ecosystem,” says Bhogilal, who is establishing Lumina Datamatics as a core supplier for educational publishers and collaborating with them across their businesses in different geographies.
MPS has entered another phase of growth, according to company CEO Rahul Arora. “Our focus has expanded to include all forms of learning. Now we view content as global and all-encompassing, from educational to science and scholarly to professional development to learning within an enterprise.” And MPS’s ability to author, develop, manage, produce, and deliver content through smarter technologies and workflows is what binds it all together.
“Our vision is to power the competitiveness and differentiation of our customers by making the process transparent, real-time, and always focused on the learning outcomes,” adds Arora, whose company’s Vision 2023 plan centers on three strategies—leverage, diversify, and disrupt—and through further developments on its three platform ecosystems (DigiCore, Magplus, and Think360).
Modules within the cloud-based digital publishing platform DigiCore have been enhanced and expanded. For instance, DigiXML now accepts a broader scope of normalized input files for advanced structuring and XML generation, and new validation and QC tools to unlock machine learning. DigiRights (a rights and permissions platform) has been integrated into, and now offered as an additional module of, DigiCore.
As for the e-commerce ecosystem Think360, which MPS acquired in April 2017, enhancements include integration with ERPs and CRMs with the bidirectional flow of data, PCI compliance, multifactor authentication for payment gateway integration, flexible invoicing with custom templates, and dynamic report generation through advanced analytics, custom KPIs, and customizable dashboards. The company’s business intelligence module, MPSinsight, is now equipped to generate Counter 5 statistics and reports.
The digital and mobile publishing platform Magplus, which is targeted at creative professionals, now has a powerful content-management system, enhanced authoring and production environments, and advanced analytics on user-behavior insights.
The acquisition of Tata Interactive Systems (TIS) in June 2018 marked a significant milestone in MPS history. “We now have nearly 3,000 associates—in 19 cities worldwide—that are working towards making learning smarter,” says Arora, who has added new services in learning solutions (including AR/VR/MR, games, and simulations), consulting services, and platforms (such as the CyberTest assessment engine and the Learning Planet LMS).
“We see a boom in the emerging-technology space, specifically within AR and VR, and we are doing exciting work with customized AR/VR solutions to address client-specific business needs,” adds Arora, whose team’s VR-based program for mechatronics students won a prestigious Brandon Hall Technology award last year.
The focus on reducing production time and costs while increasing production efficiencies has seen Newgen KnowledgeWorks creating several major platforms and solutions.
There is PubKit, an end-to-end journal-management system that incorporates dynamic scheduling with content-automation tools to optimize workflows and task scheduling to meet the needs of each individual journal. “From submission right through to delivery, publishers adopting PubKit have a single dashboard to view the content progress throughout the workflow,” v-p Srikanth Srinivasan says.
Then there is SilkEvolve, which can read legacy content intelligently and know when human intervention is required to validate a decision. “This intelligent ‘guided’ process dramatically improves the fidelity of e-book content to the print original,” v-p Muralidharan Pattabiraman adds, explaining that SilkEvolve embraces all ePub3 functionalities and is capable of implementing enhancements such as audio and video support, SVG, MathML, multiple navigation tables, and many new CSS3 formatting properties. “When combined with our accessibility services, SilkEvolve is perfectly placed to combine fast and efficient legacy conversion with the bespoke content-enrichment processes required to bring legacy content up to the latest WCAG standards.”
As for RedShift, the focus is on transforming the author experience within the content-production workflow. “Authors now have the opportunity to work in their familiar Word or LaTeX environment. RedShift gives authors ownership of the content-production workflow like never before, while retaining the important checks and balances publishers need to ensure high editorial standards and rigorous cost control,” company president Maran Elancheran adds. “By automating the process, we have been able to incorporate machine learning into page composition and constantly refine the templates, thus embedding continuous improvement into the very core of this platform.”
For Elancheran, extending Newgen’s range of services and applying technological solutions earlier in the product lifecycle is becoming an important focus. “Our editorial skills are already being used to support publishers in content development, early manuscript assessment, and author management. Increasingly, activities such as list management, content acquisition, rights and permissions, peer-review management, and product design are coming to vendors like us, and many of these services are being delivered through our hybrid onshore/offshore solutions.”
Such hybrid solutions, Elancheran adds, “are helping new publishing entrants and established presses to confidently grow their lists within their tight operating budgets. Newgen KnowledgeWorks is here to partner them in achieving their goals.”
Innovative process automation is driving Thomson Digital’s business operations. “We have invested in a technology framework based on AI, ML, NLP, Big Data, and cloud integration that gives us a competitive edge in terms of efficiency, speed, quality, and cost-effectiveness while also enabling us to help global publishers to design their publishing solutions,” executive director and CEO Vinay Kumar Singh says, adding that there is a paradigm shift in his company’s focus from service-centric offerings to technology-centric solutions.
“So we have invested these technology capabilities by forming an independent software-solution vertical called DigiScape, a hub for designing and developing workflow and solutions for publishers,” adds Singh, whose team has been using TD-XPS, its flagship web-based digital publishing platform for books, for the past five years. “TD-XPS provides us with the concept of 1P1P [one person, one project], which we then applied and expanded to create UniTouch, our state-of-the-art set of tools and workflow-management systems driven by AI, ML, and NLP, and which consist of modular services.”
Each UniTouch module is designed and developed to aim at a specific service, thereby giving the tool a dynamic and agile set of features. The modules act as plug-and-play decoupled services deployed via cloud for easy integration and accessibility. UniTouch, Singh adds, has helped in improving the company’s internal efficiencies by 80%. “Our deep insight of, and over 50 years of working with, the publishing industry has guided us to create these sets of digital publishing and content solutions.”
As for its New York–based TDI Digital Solutions, editorial and project-management services are one niche solution, offering onshore capabilities where native support is provided for content writing and development, copyediting, proofreading, indexing, and a whole array of content competencies. The hub also provides consultancy and content designing for Fortune 500 companies in various domains to fulfill their learning requirements.
The past three years have seen Thomson Digital invest in further growing its journal division by 20% in terms of manpower and infrastructure. Singh explains, “This is where Coast, our Web-based tool, comes in as a part of our 2020 technology roadmap. Coast provides researchers and scientists with tools to make their work organized, analyzed, and value-added. New features—available within the next few months—will assist researchers in getting their articles accepted quickly by publishers without rounds of to-and-fro revisions.”
Page Central, the browser-based pagination engine from TNQ Technologies, is being further enhanced to increase its typesetting capabilities. Alongside article- and chapter-level online capabilities, the engine now offers the option to produce at the issue level and for print editions. “We have enhanced Page Central’s underlying architecture with an extended set of APIs that will allow for comprehensive integration,” says Gary Scott, v-p of products. “It enables on-the-fly typeset documents to be created within a user’s browser, directly from within an organization’s production workflow and delivery platforms, thus reducing the need to create and manage an inventory of PDFs.”
As for AuthorCafé, this HTML-authoring platform has been validated by the Science Academies of India and now hosts the institution’s summer-research fellowship program. “More than one thousand visitors from all over the world read the reports each week, giving the academies a substantially higher level of visibility,” chief domain officer Shanthi Krishnamurthy says, adding that “a host of other India-based institutions are also engaged with AuthorCafé in various states of their trial programs. The platform now covers academic content such as grant approvals, theses, and dissertations.”
Then there is Proof Central, which has been serving authors and publishers for more than seven years. Two million articles across 2,000 journals, 1,700 books, and 20 major reference works have been proofed using this HTML platform. The latest update includes automated bibliographic reference structuring with PubMed validation, and citation and reference renumbering. There is also the capability to edit a range of structured front-matter elements, an advanced XML editor for nuanced structuring, and real-time collaboration and feedback sharing on proofs.
RevView Central, the latest from TNQ Technologies, is a browser-based submission and peer-review platform built to help accelerate decision-making. “It uses ML, auto-structuring, and data-driven insights to present an attachment-free workflow to fast track the entire process,” Krishnamurthy says, adding that RevView Central was launched in late 2018 with the Indian Academy of Sciences. “We plan to roll this out in other markets in the upcoming months.”
The company, Krishnamurthy adds, “has been moving from monolithic systems to a services-based architecture in recent months. We see this trend with our clients, and so we have embarked on a model of service enablement to allow production workflows to be flexible, modular, and eventually lead to tiered workflows where publishers can choose the combination that works best for their needs.”
Westchester Publishing Services
This year marks a major milestone as Westchester celebrates its 50th anniversary, as well as its fifth anniversary as a U.S. employee-owned company. “Our U.K. operation continues to grow with more university presses, academic, and trade accounts signing up,” chief revenue officer Tyler Carey says, adding that his K–12/educational unit is working with more U.S. publishers as well as starting to onboard new U.K. accounts. To support the needs for a more global perspective on educational content, Westchester has hired Walter Henderson, a classroom instructor and professor of the English language, as its ELT subject-matter expert.
“We have also been migrating more customers to our cloud-based client portal,” Carey says. “Early adopters gave us feedback that allowed us to customize and add new features for journal, white paper, and book-project management, and by ticking more boxes for our customers, adoption on the portal has continued and accelerated. We are quite proud that the portal has been shortlisted for the prestigious 2019 Stationers’ Company Innovation Excellence Awards for technology used by the media industries.”
Almost 150 accounts—and thousands of projects—are expected to use the free client portal by year-end. “Dropbox continues to be a very dedicated partner in our success with the portal. Internally, Dropbox products have made it even easier for us to disseminate client information across our global operation, and to interact with clients and their projects in a more engaging, customer-centric way.”
His U.K. clients, Carey adds, are often more interested in Westchester’s India Direct offerings, through which publishers engage directly with its India-based editorial and production operations. “The five-hour time difference with our Indian offices is probably the major attraction. But we do offer options that U.K. publishers can adjust, including having design, copyediting, indexing, and proofreading in the U.K., India, or the U.S. So we are seeing clients heavily customizing their workflows with us according to their content or preferences.”
As its 50th-anniversary year continues and draws to a close, the Westchester management team is looking at its growth plans for the next five to 10 years. “We are eager to see what our clients, partners, and fellow vendors are doing as we all continue to expand and adjust what we do to suit the changing needs of the publishing landscape,” Carey adds.