Ten years ago, it was all about content conversion and e-deliverables. Today, the digital content proposition is no longer as simple. Smartphone-totting and tablet-hugging consumers demand screens tailored to their preferences, with content custom-made to suit their needs and delivered via a seamless interface that provides a flawless user experience. Some also want to be able to comment and participate in the content creation and development process.
Which means, content now needs to be curated, customized, converged, and cloud-based. Content is definitely moving from mainstream distribution to direct-to-consumer; it is becoming more platform-based and app-centric, with an increasingly digital-only reader experience. So, publishers and content creators/aggregators big and small are racing to achieve faster times to market; to develop a better understanding of their consumers; to serve ever more customized, agile, mobile, and intuitive content; and to monetize engaged readers.
Automation Saves the Day
Many small publishers, says Nishith Arora, chairman of MPS Limited, are leveraging technology to rationalize and automate the author-to-reader processes. “They are starting to do away with ad hoc publishing workflows with manual tracking systems, and with decentralized and disparate systems that are often redundant, tedious and error-prone with ineffective reporting mechanisms. The anticipated benefits from adopting publishing technology platforms—faster time to market, for instance—have driven these companies to overcome the size constraints while encouraging them to think strategically.” MPS’s flagship publishing management platform DigiCore, for instance, has effectively shaved the production time at one small U.K.-based publisher by 50% within a year.
For SourceHOV and its sister company Rule 14, a Big Data specialist, the shift to automation has resulted in more content creation and enrichment projects. The applications for Rule 14 within the publishing environment are tremendous, explains Nakul Parashar, v-p of ECM at SourceHOV. “Rule 14 uses natural language processing and supervised machine learning to automatically extract relevant data—structured or unstructured—from different Web sources and captures the client-prescribed information. We are seeing some very interesting products emerging from direct Rule 14 application, as publishers begin to integrate their legacy information with real-time data to provide a current context.”
Analytics and Mobile Holding Sway
Big Data and analytics, says CTO Gurvinder Batra of KiwiTech, “will play an even more important role in user acquisition to help companies learn more about existing users and recruit new users. M-commerce will continue to grow as mobile payment gets wider adoption. We should also be seeing more mobile-vehicle integration, and more business-related apps as companies turn their focus onto internal data acquisition, performance monitoring and efficiency improvements via mobile platforms.”
In e-learning, analytics and Big Data are hot topics because “everyone wants to measure how effective content is, the efficacy of content, and how students and teachers are performing. The information gathered gives a lot of insights into how content will be designed, delivered and consumed in the future,” says CEO Samudra Sen of LearningMate.
Mobile delivery, Sen says, will continue to be one of the hot topics along with cloud-based curriculum, instructional technology, adaptive learning and competency-based education. “So we are seeing more clients turning to us with projects focused on building solutions with personalized learning capabilities, more advanced delivery mechanisms, and data and analytics.”
Smartphone and tablet users will expect to get more out of their devices, and to have more access options wherever they happen to be at any given time, adds Batra, pointing out that “wearables, which are hot now, will see huge developments going forward.”
Digital is (Totally) in Play
With mobile solutions facilitating learning on the go and semantics adding meaning to content, “the bond between content and technology has gone beyond digital access,” observes assistant v-p for marketing and pre-sales Uday Majithia of Impelsys. “Content is becoming complex and technology-agile.”
And it is not just pure-play publishers needing a digital content strategy in place because as Majithia puts it: “Anybody with content—even manuals or training materials—is exploring ways to enrich the content and deliver it effectively. So content is paving the path for innovation in technology.”
For executive director Vinay Singh of Thomson Digital, the next three years will usher in even greater demand for faster time-to-market, which means that “digital content delivery will be the preferred method instead of print delivery. Wider adoption of smarter and cheaper hand-held devices will further increase the popularity of e-books while lower production costs, greater creative control and better royalties will lure more authors into self-publishing.” Understanding these market probabilities and trends, adds Singh, “is crucial to shaping our company strategies on areas such as e-books, dynamic digital learning resources and rich-media content development.”
Opportunities (and Challenges) Pave the Way
Over at Cenveo Publisher Services, senior director for global content services Waseem Andrabi definitely sees adaptive learning continuing to gain traction throughout 2015, with learning opportunities pushing into new frontiers including virtual reality. More publishers, he says, will consider continuous publication models rather than packaging products and publishing periodically. “The rise of smartphones and tablets as the primary user interface—instead of PCs or laptops—means that content has to be structured for seamless data interchange across media and devices. Such ‘transformative publishing’ requires publishers to constantly evolve and transform workflows to remain relevant. The content itself needs to transform as well.”
But all these emerging opportunities and new market trends, coming together at the same time, can be distracting and often overwhelming. “Publishers are losing the forest for the trees when they focus purely on cost and less on quality,” cautions CEO and chairman Vinit Khanna of OKS Group, whose team is “focused on creating a better product more efficiently so that publishers can grow end-user customer satisfaction, and revenues through product, service enhancement and quality. We encourage them to see that they do not have to sacrifice one for the other.”
Balancing cost and quality has always been a major challenge for any publishing or content companies. For the following 18 vendors—a small sampling out of hundreds of digital solutions companies thriving in India—automation, innovation and persistence are the key to their competitiveness (and survival). Their unique capabilities, if not already evident from the following pages, shine through in the challenging and interesting projects they have delivered and explained in online article Expertise on Display: Projects Showcase.
This review—which remains as unscientific as it was 10 years ago, and not rubber-stamped with our endorsement—is totally discriminating in that it features only vendors that appear on our radar, and caught our eyes with their novel solutions, unique workflows, and interesting proposition on dealing with the constantly changing content, consumer demands and technologies. Whichever vendors you choose as your digital content partners, you must do your due diligence, because only you know what works best for your content and how best to move your company forward.
Cenveo Publisher Services
Marianne Calilhanna, Cenveo’s marketing director, believes tools for researchers and authors are becoming increasingly important. “Today’s researchers and authors are computer-savvy, and they expect to have access to tools that they can use. So when we offered publishers Smart Proof—an online proofing and correction tool that is a part of the Cenveo Publisher Suite—the reception was overwhelmingly positive. At the end of the day, authors simply want to communicate their ideas, and they want to be in control of that communication.”
The Cenveo Publisher Suite, adds Calilhanna, is developed with the core objective of delivering quality content as fast as possible. “What is important to our publishers is editorial integrity, and fast delivery of structured, high-quality content. We push publishing back into the hands of those that matter most—the editors and authors—and with that, the black hole of vendor processing becomes transparent, consistent, predictable, and nonthreatening. Through tools such as Smart Edit and Smart Proof, we put the power in the authors’ hands, and we provide publishers with the confidence that our tools will manage the content structure while the authors manage the content.” The Cenveo Publisher Suite has been proven to reduce turnaround time by up to four days, reduce errors during proofing, and allow for creation of new products and deliverables on the fly within one to three days.
Meanwhile, Cenveo’s Digital Content group is busy designing learning products to help the 21st-century learner succeed. “Online courseware, quizzes, learning apps, games, simulations, you name it. Their quest is to bring learning opportunities to where the learners are. Hence the group’s mantra, ‘design once, deploy everywhere.’ All our e-learning modules are packaged in contemporary interfaces that are smooth and easy to navigate,” explains Waseem Andrabi, senior director for global content services.
As for growth segments, Calilhanna sees “the opportunities in digital fulfillment and content-management archiving, and cloud-based software as a service. Complex project management and custom-built architecture for publishers that cannot afford to hire such resources in-house is also big. These are the areas that Cenveo is working on while continuing to improve our turnaround time to publish quality content with a faster time to market.”
DiacriTech, a niche player implementing a LaTeX environment, has been busy trying various ways to best utilize the platform’s math capabilities to achieve better output for clients. “We have a direct-LaTeX workflow alongside an XML-first system, which enables us to work on author-supplied LaTeX files without disturbing the macros—and yet have XML in the background for quicker digital output without compromising data integrity,” explains executive v-p B. Mahesh, whose team has been using LaTeX for STM projects and K–12 math.
Augmented reality (AR) is another specialized service that DiacriTech offers, especially to publishers wanting to increase sales of their print products by incorporating digital elements. Adds Mahesh, “We have been working on AR in various applications for different industries, and we are now harnessing those experiences to help publishers by providing higher-impact visuals to entertain, brand, and educate. Being a full-service provider means that we have the ability and resources to conceptualize and design AR elements into the workflow, or to transform static print products into visually entertaining content.”
Then there is testing of developed content. “Aside from the usual UI/UX [user interface/user experience] and functionality checks, we also help clients to determine if hints provided in an assessment are helpful enough, ascertaining the content’s complexity, or to check on the validity of an iterative algorithm, for instance,” says executive v-p A.R.M. Gopinath. “We also hire university students on a part-time basis to test and provide feedback on various parameters such as assessment speed, result accuracy, platform intuitiveness, and subject understanding. These results will then be used by publishers to determine if their digital platform or LMS [learning management system] is ready to be deployed.”
Meanwhile, the company’s white-labeled platform, Ssparkl, now has an upgraded interface that is much smarter, more colorful, and intuitive. “The versatility in enabling offline reading via the Ssparkl app, or online reading via the browser, is the biggest strength and differentiator. More publishers have been adopting it, and we are constantly improving the interface based on the feedback that we are receiving from the market,” adds Gopinath, who is looking into expanding DiacriTech’s onshore and offshore services for project management, copyediting, and proofreading.
Multiplatform publishing solution Kitaboo continues to make headlines for Hurix, which was recently recognized by the World Education Congress as one of the 25 best e-learning companies. Last year, Kitaboo won the coveted Brandon Hall Gold award in the category covering mobile learning technology; the year before, it won silver for the best advance in content authoring technology. Awards aside, big names such as Hachette Livre/Grupo Anaya, Gyldendal (Norway), McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson Education, and Scholastic Media have been using the Kitaboo platform for the past few years to leverage mobile technology for interactive learning.
“Kitaboo allows publishers, institutions, and corporations to seamlessly collaborate, share, and publish interactive content in real time,” says CEO Subrat Mohanty, adding that the platform’s capabilities—enhancing content for interactive learning, creating assessments, delivering on mobile devices, enabling social learning, and tracking user engagement—are exactly what is needed in the current technology-based education industry. “The latest version of Kitaboo, which is cloud-based and aptly named Kitaboo Cloud, brings a complete end-to-end e-book solution where the conversion, distribution, and delivery takes place entirely on the cloud. So anyone with an Internet connection and a valid account can access Kitaboo to meet their digital conversion and distribution needs.” Sixteen clients have already signed up to the cloud version.
Kitaboo Cloud’s social learning and collaborative features, explains executive v-p for sales and product solutions Srikanth Subramanian, “allow students to share and discuss subject matter with their peers and teachers, and this is very much in line with what is actually happening in classrooms all over the world. The detailed e-book analytics, on the other hand, allow teachers to gain a quick snapshot of student engagement ahead of time, enabling them to plan for group discussions and problem-solving exercises. Again, this feature addresses the current teaching methodology, as well as the evolving needs of teachers.”
Another cloud-based platform, Dictera, complements Kitaboo by facilitating authoring, management, and publication of e-learning content in HTML5. “We have optimized various features within Dictera for both online and device-based content delivery. Its server architecture has also been revamped to be much more scalable on AWS [Amazon Web Services], making it easier and more affordable for wider adoption,” adds Mohanty, who is looking into introducing Kitaboo and Dictera to training companies, corporations, and institutions.
Flexibility is the hallmark of iPublishCentral, Impelsys’s flagship product that allows publishers to make component-based choices that fit their unique e-book delivery requirements. “Over the years, we have fine-tuned it to proactively meet publishers’ growing demands,” explains assistant v-p for marketing and presales Uday Majithia, adding that the SAAS (software as a service) platform is now in its sixth version, with the new release focusing on Impelsys’s mobile-first initiative to enable publishers to offer readers easy purchase, navigation, and search options of e-titles from their mobile devices.
The next version is already underway, and “it will be focused on further enhancing the reading experience. Other features that will be included are ancillary content support, an enhanced ePub reader, social features such as note and bookmark sharing, and additional reporting tools for administrators,” says Majithia, adding that another delivery-specific solution from Impelsys, KnowledgePlatform, helps users to create customized portals to manage their complex e-content and e-learning modules. These two platforms, he adds, “are built to support the convergence of e-books and learning, and have empowered our vision to spread knowledge through technology.”
Meanwhile, Impelsys’s SEO and social media marketing (SMM) services have been ramped up to aid content discoverability. Says marketing manager Shubha Khaddar: “We help publishers strategize, promote, and market their content on multiple social media channels. We also develop strategies to build a publisher’s brand and content presence through effective conversation with readers. In fact, our SEO and SMM services are specifically designed to get e-books to potential readers. At the same time, we offer effective marketing strategies and help in implementing agile marketing methods that quickly adapt a publisher’s strategy to the changing marketplace.”
The transformation in the publishing world—“from being publishers to becoming educational companies that focuses on learning”—has been keeping Majithia and his team busy devising innovative solutions that accelerate online learning. “The savvy users expect solutions to encompass reading, learning, and everything in between—all available through a seamless single solution. So our solutions now support an integrated learning experience and adaptive learning path—and we are at the right place at the right time to help publishers do just that.”
Integra Software Services
Buying back Baring’s 60% stake in the company was “all about our confidence in ourselves and in our clients, employees, and the marketplace. Furthermore, the radical changes in educational technology and publishing space offer tremendous opportunities, but for us to be able to make quick decisions to take advantage of those opportunities, we need operating flexibility and autonomy,” says Sriram Subramanya, managing director and CEO of Integra, pointing out that during its partnership with Baring from 2006 to 2014, the company grew threefold.
Expansion of its Chennai production facility, for instance, is aimed at meeting those needs. It was set up in 2006 to focus on complex editorial work and value-added services that may require a specialized talent pool out of Chennai, explains Subramanya, who is planning to add another 100 members of staff, including instructional designers, subject-matter experts, and design specialists, all to cater to clients’ e-learning requirements.
Integra has invested over $5 million in honing its digital and technology capabilities over the past five years. Some of the products and platforms that resulted from this investment include iPubSuite (for authoring-to-packaging delivery), iCorrectProof (online author-proofing), iRights (rights and permissions), iAM (digital asset management), and iPubMagic (ePub conversion). Subramanya adds: “The investment is ongoing, and we have carefully chosen areas where we can be the trusted partner to clients.”
Rich media licensing, he adds, is growing fast. “As publishers push to distribute diverse content over many digital formats, there is an increasing need for licensing content such as audio, video, and apps. Strong negotiation skills are required to obtain the best licensing terms and fees for our clients.”
Setting up its own content innovation lab is another way to meet market changes—and challenges. “Research and product development for key areas—adaptive, game-based, and experiential learning; augmented and virtual reality; and testing—is crucial for the growth of Integra and for our role as a strong value-contributor to publishing clients,” says co-founder and human resource director Anu Sriram, who is also working on ensuring continued expertise development in areas such as editorial and project management. “Generational change in our thinking and our approach to meeting market expectations is crucial as digital products continue to gain momentum. We also need to capture talents among the millennials as we move forward.”
Thirteen is a lucky number at Jouve India. “We acquired 13 new French customers in the past two years, and we have been providing them with services such as multilingual composition, template creation in 3B2 and InDesign, and e-book production in ePub and XML,” says CEO Sanjiv Bhatnagar, who has also acquired four new German clients with projects requiring similar services to the French. “We are also on the verge of signing two more from the German-speaking region. So, our French- and German-language projects have grown significantly.”
Not surprisingly, the team’s collective expertise and experience in multilingual editorial processes are further strengthened by JouveEdit, a Word-based online portal that controls and streamlines manuscript development processes. “JouveEdit offers a collaborative framework for editorial teams, freelancers, and authors throughout the manuscript development lifecycle. We have built in intelligent automation for manuscript preparation tasks and for enforcing publisher-specific manuscript standards and styles. There is also automatic file versioning, file naming, and storage, among many other features,” adds Bhatnagar. “JouveEdit is used by one of the world’s largest trade publishers, and its capabilities have been tested and proven. But there is always room for improvement, and the next iteration is in the making.”
Then there is JouveStudio, an automated typesetting service for print and digital based on InDesign. Projects parsed through JouveStudio are simultaneously generated in three versions: paper, standard digital, and enriched digital. “What it means is that clients will get direct access to the combined expertise of our 300 prepress and typesetting specialists via an online collaborative platform. It is a one-process, one-contact platform for production in your language.”
As for key growth areas, Bhatnagar says that there has been a significant increase in projects dealing with content development, which require his team to modify existing content to suit specific digital platforms. “Projects requiring the creation of assessment items to allow teachers to monitor student performance via online platforms are on the rise as well. Indirectly, these growth areas demand HTML5 expertise since this standard offers the most flexibility for content development, production, and analysis.”
The past year has seen a spike in Web-based projects at KiwiTech, causing its Web team to more than double in size. “This year, we see our focus on building complete ecosystems for clients that will include both mobile, and Web-based front- and back-end,” says CTO Gurvinder Batra. Publishing, he adds, is still KiwiTech’s core business, “and industry veteran Byron Laws recently joined our team to provide us with an even better understanding of the evolving technology needs in the industry.” In the medical publishing segment, Batra says, mobile content and apps are going from “nice to have” to must-haves. “Medical research tends to be time-sensitive and the practitioners are very busy. The need to stay informed within their specialties means consuming content—not just text, but also rich images and videos—on the go. Smartphones and tablets with higher screen resolution are perfect for such content, and more than other verticals, this field can afford to pay for both device and content.”
In the meantime, testing is becoming a critical service as devices, platforms, and hardware grow even more diverse. “Each mobile project that we do needs to have a documented test plan covering all aspects of the app functions and user scenarios. The extent of the testing depends on various factors, including the type of application, target audience, network connectivity, and distribution channel. We do UI testing, integration testing, sanity testing, user-acceptance testing, and many more that are all done manually today,” says Rachna Chauhan, director of PMO and testing, adding that her team is currently working on automating testing using various tools.
The company’s new partnership model for startups (see The Startup Model at KiwiTech, p. 16) has provided Mohsin Syed, senior v-p for strategic partnerships, and his team with some very exciting and challenging projects. “Meeting our commitment to deliver best-in-class technology solutions and a great client relationship experience this year means expanding our capabilities in delivery, operations, and sales and marketing. Our headcount is set to grow 25% this year to about 350 people, and we will be relocating to a new office with better infrastructure within the next few weeks.”
Lapiz Digital Services
Software development expertise has been a major focus for CEO Indira Rajan and COO V. Bharathram in recent years. “The main reason is because, sometimes, a client is not willing to outsource the software development part, especially when it is a proprietary or highly sensitive project. So we have scaled up our software expertise, and should a client require a contingent workforce, then we assign these developers to work directly with them,” says Rajan, adding that the software team is about to launch a set of device-agnostic e-tools.
“These are interactive educational widgets that can be used across titles to enhance the reading experience. They are designed in such a way that they are generic and customizable with minimal effort in order to make it affordable for our clients. One of the e-tools—a file converter—can convert legacy Flash files into interactive HTML5, giving clients the ability to reuse existing files in a different format that is compatible with new devices,” explains Bharathram, adding that Lapiz offers enterprise app development services, including mobile strategy consulting, design and development, QA, and marketplace deployment.
In the coming months, Lapiz is set to launch several new products, including a production workflow model—where testing with HTML5 is nearing completion—and a mobile-based learning management system. Rajan says: “We have also developed a Moodle-based content management system that will take advantage of our cloud-hosting capabilities. The features are not limited to Skype and social media integration, and it fully supports educational widgets.”
Lapiz continues to receive new orders for manga conversion. “We have added interactivity in panel viewing of comics, but the biggest challenge lies in making sure that the files and any features added will work in newly released devices,” adds Rajan, whose team has started working on Open Journal Systems (OJS), a workflow for streamlined management and publishing of peer-reviewed journals. “It is something new, and for us, this is part of the continuous learning process. This is how Lapiz has grown in the past: our clients recognize our relentless efforts in upgrading ourselves, and they value our track record of delivering projects on time and within budget.”
A new version of GoClass, LearningMate’s mobile platform for the classroom, with a cleaner and more intuitive website, was launched in January. “The instruction capabilities have also been expanded, and instructors can now lead class sessions via PCs, laptops, or Chromebooks using the platform, which was previously restricted to tablets. For the advanced version of the platform, GoClass Plus, we have rolled out small-group instruction—developed in collaboration with a new program in Arizona—that allows instructors to segment students into groups to explore concepts, improve collaboration and team-building skills,” says CEO Samudra Sen, whose team had partnered with Leading Edge Series to produce a television segment highlighting the benefits of using mobile technology in the classroom.
Meanwhile, LearningMate’s Big Data–driven learning solutions for the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) have been tremendously successful. ADE CIO Mark Masterson says: “Our continued partnership with LearningMate, along with substantial legislative support, has begun to yield amazing results. The team’s technical savvy has allowed Arizona to provide interactive dashboards to nearly 500 districts and charters via a best-in-class secure access system. Their determination has transformed this ambitious vision into a reality that is impacting children in the classroom.” A total of 35 dashboards with 190 different views have been deployed, and are currently accessed by more than 40,000 users.
Common Core is another big segment for LearningMate, where the team is busy redesigning programs and writing technology-enhanced assessment items. “We have been doing a lot of question authoring and writing core curriculum that needs to be aligned to Common Core standards,” says Sen, whose U.S. office has expanded from one person to more than 50 over the past six years.
“We have made being closer to our clients a huge priority. We have people from the editorial world and those from the technology side sitting in one place, allowing us to unite those skills and come to the table with a new and holistic perspective on education. We have made strides in consulting, and in advising clients on complex digital solutions. Few companies can match those capabilities, or offer the diversity of skills that we have,” Sen says.
The latest news out of MPS Limited is its acquisition of U.S.-based TSI Evolve, a publishing services company for the education market segment. “This acquisition further strengthens our presence in North America and enriches our portfolio in the school publishing market, in particular in the reading segment,” says chief marketing officer Rahul Arora, adding that MPS has exceeded $250 million in market capitalization. Both organic and inorganic growth across all MPS business units have been aggressive in recent years, with the acquisitions of Element LLC and EPS in 2013 and 2014, respectively. “We have the widest range of service offerings possible in a solutions provider, and we are in a strong position to meet rapidly changing requirements from the publishing industry,” Arora says.
Meanwhile, solving the biggest issue in publishing—time to market—takes the center stage. “To do that, we need technology,” Arora says. “But results are achievable only if the applied solutions are smart, intuitive, and user-friendly, and the average user is able to leverage it. Our cloud-based MPSTrak has many of these attributes.” He cites the partnership with a U.K.-based leading STM publisher as an example of strategic technology implementation to reduce time to market. “We replaced the publisher’s 12-year-old legacy production management system with MPSTrak, and integrated it with their internal systems for charging information. It was a significant change for a company that produces 80 journals and upwards of 8,000 articles per journal annually.”
Arora’s team has also implemented various DigiCore components such as DigiXML, MPS Trak, and DigiEdit to help one small Australian publisher with manuscript submission, peer review, content creation and management, and production tracking processes. “At the end, it is all about automation, accountability, efficiency, and transparency that lead towards reduction in publishing time and labor cost,” Arora says.
Meanwhile, software development, branded under MPS Technologies, has grown exponentially in the last six months. “Two exciting projects with a leading Australian medical information provider—for the development and implementation of a content-creation system, and content-delivery system, respectively—leverage several modules of our flagship DigiCore platform. We created seamless and integrated systems that provide faster time-to-market workflows,” Arora says, adding that the innovation from the software development unit has broadened the reach of analytics platform MPS Insight into the library market.
“The challenge of getting the right content in front of the right consumer at the right time informed a number of developments at Newgen in 2014,” president Maran Elancheran says.
One of these initiatives was the creation of a Web-based platform that brings together authors, marketing personnel, and others involved in the publication process to collaborate on enhancing the discoverability of books online. “The platform helps authors and publishers to create and manage a professional website, blog, and e-store without the need for any technical background or design skills, and provides social tools to boost digital engagement with readers. Crucially, it makes development of a coproduced discoverability strategy part of the publishing workflow, where various people are already engaging with the content, rather than viewing it as a separate activity. Postpublication, this platform provides a single dashboard view of performance across media and channels,” Elancheran says.
The theme of removing barriers between content and the reader does not only apply to books. Patrick Martinent, CTO of Newgen’s CloudMatters subsidiary, and his app team spent much of 2014 feverishly developing Research Pad, a Web and mobile distribution platform for scholarly journal articles. “The open access edition of Research Pad launched at Frankfurt with a library of 250,000 articles,” Martinent says, “and we are adding new journals all the time.”
Research Pad allows researchers to subscribe to individual journals, set alerts for new content in their field of interest, create an offline library, and share content with collaborators. “The reading experience across devices is seamless, and the use of the ePub standard to deliver articles optimizes the content for different screen sizes,” says Martinent, who is currently discussing white-label versions of the app with a number of journal publishers.
One example from 2014 redefines the “right time.” Round the clock, a team of lawyers and accountants at Newgen review content on more than 4,000 websites—or some 1,500 new developments daily—for changes in legislation or jurisprudence relevant to legal professionals. They then write up summaries, explanations, and annotations for a series of daily newsletters and online products to ensure that clients’ subscribers have the latest information to inform their practice.
One of OKS Group’s biggest developments going into 2015 is its two-month-old strategic partnership with New Jersey-based Superior Media Solutions (SMS). “This partnership provides customers with comprehensive technology solutions—from authoring, collaborative production workflow, digital asset management, to delivery via the full range of media channels. For publishers struggling with digital strategy issues, we can help to simplify the decision-making process, allowing them to focus on developing quality content,” CEO and chairman Vinit Khanna says.
Then there is e2e, the group’s latest offering. A cloud-based workflow system, it shortens the publishing cycle, enhances author experience and involvement, and facilitates print and electronic deliveries. The biggest e2e advantage, says Nigel Wyman, president of OKS Prepress Services, “is its zero reliance on conventional typesetting to generate structured content, create pages, and incorporate author corrections. That offers significant cost savings for online-only titles while also allowing for parallel product deliveries in, say, XML, HTML, PDF, and ePub.” The e2e workflow also addresses the needs of open access publishers, where much of the actual production work rests with the authors. “Our e2e workflow is perfectly poised to take on the early stages of the production activity, from authoring through to editorial. It works tremendously well in keeping production costs in check, which is one big challenge faced by OA publishers.”
Antipiracy services are also new. “Our staff is trained to find sellers of pirated content, take action to ensure removal of the illegal products, and help publishers develop collaborative enforcement strategies with local law enforcement. We understand that effectively monetizing digital content requires a comprehensive strategy, and that should include addressing piracy issues,” Khanna says.
Meanwhile, the first module of MarkSharks, a unique “flip classroom” learning system that harnesses the power of mobile devices to teach high school children math and science, is now available for download via Google Play. OKS Education CEO Aditya Tripathi says, “We are now working with a select number of schools and organizations to test its applicability in different learning situations. What makes MarkSharks so powerful is its use of mobile device features such as touch, audio, video, and accelerometer to really draw the child into the learning process instead of having them passively consuming the content.”
The past year has seen Quadrum Solutions focus on the K–12 segment, with its team busy working on conceptualizing learning programs (including developing the pedagogy, conceptualizing the branding, and developing the manuscript with teachers and subject matter experts), and editing, designing, and illustrating the pages of student course books, supplementary books, and teacher training materials. “Most of the programs have a digital component in the form of CD-ROMs, e-books, or e-learning modules, which we also developed,” says senior v-p Jatin Mehta, who has seen a big jump in business from Africa. His team has turned around one Pearson South Africa project of more than 40 math and English titles in under two months, and is busy collaborating in India with regional and multinational publishers such as Scholastic, Cambridge University Press, and Madhubun Books.
There has been a constant flow of ePub projects from the U.S. and U.K., says Mehta, whose team provided both reflowable and fixed layout formats for Scholastic UK. “We usually work on a series of books of around 10 titles or more, and that fits our scale really well.” But there is a slight slowing down in the U.S. market, which has led to a focus on emerging markets such as Africa, “where the edutainment segment is becoming more popular.”
With a new facility consisting of three offices across two floors in central Mumbai, Quadrum Solutions now houses about 200 people, with another 100 or more working as consultants and freelancers, especially for authoring and illustrating tasks. It is a very creative facility with “Think Bar” (where teams brainstorm and ideate), “Writer’s Hub” (for inspiration), and even a “Green Wall” (on eco-friendly office practices such as recycling and saving energy). “We also organize social events such as teacher panels and workshops where teachers—and, sometimes, publishers—keep our team updated on trends, researches, new content creation requirements and developments, classroom demands, and new teaching methodologies in the education space,” says Mehta, who is busy encouraging more of his consultants to keep up with industry demands for specialized content through the “Virtual Quadrum” platform. “Keeping tab of the latest in the industry, staying ahead with a lot of R&D, and delivering quality products and services every time are the key to longevity in this business.”
Quick Sort India
Chennai-based one-stop BPO provider Quick Sort India ventured into e-publishing domain starting with typesetting in 2004 and STM journal services five years later. “We now have 250 employees with two delivery centers, Chennai and Ooty,” chairman and managing director Venkatesh Kumar says, adding that the Ooty expansion is for a social cause to help the development of the third-tier city, which is located some 540 kilometers southwest of Chennai.
About half of Quick Sort’s business—covering verticals such as publishing, finance, and health care—comes from the U.K. and continental Europe, with another 36% from the U.S. On the publishing side, the book-journal split is about 45% to 55%. The company’s expansion and growth has been fast considering that it remains very much under the radar and works mostly through client referrals. Kumar attributes the success to “the right work attitude, a strong emphasis on innovation, and great business idea application.”
The innovation part has seen the team developing some 60 plug-ins to automate production processes. Its proprietary online authoring system, for example, has a proven track record of improving manuscript quality by 40%. “This is made possible by the system’s intelligent pattern recognition capabilities, which identifies specific client styles and alerts the editor to ensure style continuity. So, the editing becomes simple and quality-driven. Then we have Quickflow, a proprietary component-based HTML5 workflow that is compatible with all types of specifications, easily customized, and works based on a generic DTD. Such automation reduces the training cost for the company, and enables delivery of cost-effective and high-quality solutions to clients,” company president A.R. Nallathambi says.
A collaborative single-source end-to-end publishing platform has also been developed to ensure a transparent workflow between Quick Sort and its clients. “The interface, which is easily adaptable and customizable to fit different publication styles and templates, allows the stakeholders to work in a sequential, foolproof, and automated process,” Kumar says of the cloud-based platform. “These are all about speed, accuracy, and accountability. Improving accessibility and streamlining processes provide a win-win situation for both Quick Sort and its clients. You can say that we are small in numbers but big on ideas and vision.” More automation and validation tools to further reduce turnaround time and increase efficiencies are in the works. He says that in 2015 the company is exploring new markets and offering additional publishing services.
SourceHOV and Rule 14
Working with legal publishers for the past 15 years has provided SourceHOV with incredible insights into the market segment. “One of the biggest challenges for publishers is producing the headnote—a summary of what might be quite a lengthy court judgment—to an exacting brief more quickly and cheaply in the face of rising volumes of court documents,” says business development director Gary Rodrigues, whose company has invested in state-of-the-art machine-learning tools that significantly reduce the time taken to create a headnote.
That’s where sister company Rule 14 comes into play. “The artificial intelligence engine that powers Rule 14 is able to continuously monitor large data feeds, applying pattern detection to time-intensive classification tasks such as data relevance, topic identification, and sentiment analysis. In headnote creation, our goal is to minimize the level of human involvement. By extracting all the key elements automatically from the judgment, and then having an editor focus on writing the headnote from the salient information, there is an efficiency gain of over 50%—and sometimes up to 80%,” Rodrigues says, recalling one particular project where Rule 14 monitored several websites for the latest court judgments, and then sent summarized results based on specific client brief to the publisher—all within 60 minutes of publication.
In the financial services sector, Rule 14 has been used to access multiple Web sources to monitor and track specified data points, including officers of the company, general lines of business, company history, and acquisition and merger information. It can also be configured to identify new records or updates to existing records, and then return the results via an automatically generated human-readable output format such as Excel. “Every engagement is different. SourceHOV works closely with the publisher to identify the requirements, and sets about calibrating the rules within Rule 14,” Rodrigues says. “Through a series of iterative phases, the engine gets more refined and gradually begins to ‘learn.’ ”
Rule 14 has been used extensively within SourceHOV’s production environment to scale its operational capabilities without the need to increase head count or turnaround time. “As a BPO organization, it is in our DNA to continuously improve our processes and deliver value to our customers, and, as we understand our publishers’ content better, we are becoming more involved in their product evolution and development,” Rodrigues says.
Being small (and nimble) has worked tremendously well for Swift Prosys, with managing director and founder Mohan Thas Shanmugam busy targeting clients and markets that are often overlooked (and underserved) by the bigger solutions providers. “We have established a roster of clients in very diverse markets such as Canada, South Africa, Australia, Scandinavia, and soon, hopefully, the Middle East.”
But communicating the technical parts of the digitization process can be a daunting task when there are language barriers. With that in mind, one of his project managers took the initiative to learn French for a year to better supervise projects from France and Canada, and to promote Swift Prosys at the Paris and Quebec book fairs. “One French media company now puts through about 50,000 pages a month for online e-paper production, for which the turnaround time can range from one to 48 hours depending on complexity,” says Shanmugam, whose team has rich experience in this segment, having processed and archived millions of newspaper and magazine pages in the past couple of years.
A recent archival project, for instance, saw the team converting trade directories dating back to 1910 for a Scandinavian client. The 120,000 pages were OCR-ed, cleaned, corrected, and converted into XML using RegEx. The final delivery was in ePub2, which was processed automatically from the XML files. “We also had many HTML5 projects in the past year, and that has prompted us to develop a training program on these markup languages, as well as on animation and gaming, where we are seeing more inquiries from different markets.”
For Shanmugan, the lack of resources to establish sales offices in every market that he serves is a good thing as he embarks on a series of partnerships with local companies. “We have partnered with a consulting firm in Italy, for instance, to service government institutions, universities, and libraries in Europe, and with one company in Senegal to further promote our digitization services in West Africa. It works very well because I can rely on my partners who have the local knowledge and network to do their part in marketing and aftersales servicing while my team focuses on the production and technical processes.”
Plans are already in full swing for a new production facility in Morocco, where 64% of the country’s 33 million people are below the age of 34. “More than 20 million of the population are French speakers and the penetration of English among the young is very high. These translate into a huge pool of resources for handling content in French, English, and Arabic,” executive director Vinay Singh says, adding that the Casablanca facility, which is dedicated to LaTeX/TeX processing for books and journals in French and English, will be functional by the end of the year.
The need to keep pace with the dynamic changes in the education industry, especially in the U.S., has also prompted Singh to set up shop in New York. “TDI Digital Solutions offers onshore services that focus on rich media, animation, and gaming, and cater exclusively to the requirements of the North American publishing market. This office and the Casablanca facility are the results of a yearlong strategic action plan, which serves to expand our business horizon and strengthen our market presence in selected territories.”
In the meantime, TD-XPS, its flagship Web-based digital publishing platform, has been expanded to include real-time proofing, a Web-based submission system, and a platform-independent autopagination system. “We have added new functionalities such as semantic tagging of content, Big Data analytics support, and APIs for various databases, including CrossRef and PubMed,” Singh says. “TD-XPS users can build LMS modules from scratch or use its smart apps to facilitate one-click publishing on handheld devices. This platform will continue to grow to support key business requirements for our clients.”
Understanding and anticipating future market requirements is the key, Singh adds: “Our R&D strategy is based on investment in technology to offer solutions, not just services. We emphasize on efficiency through automation in all aspects of work at our production facilities to provide high-quality, cost-effective content management solutions aimed at reducing the turnaround time. In the long term, the goal is to capitalize on our core competencies to provide software solution services to the publishing industry.”
Proof Central, TNQ’s proofing platform, currently supports more than 1,400 STM journals, serving large publishers with hundreds of titles as well as societies that run only a handful. That Proof Central has utility at either end of the spectrum is an additional indicator of its universal relevance. “It is a mature product with a healthy backlog and ample room for evolution. It is also set up for math editing in WYSIWYG and TeX. It supports more languages in the Roman script and is proving to be of great value for proofing books and reference works,” CEO Yakov Chandy says.
TNQ is attempting to make the review process content-centric instead of actor-centric with Review Central. “Instead of files (PDF/DOC) to send, Review Central creates a single URL that everyone visits and works on. The platform reduces reviewer fatigue and provides a fair way to peer review, capturing an essentially complex process with clarity and transparency for calibrated publishing,” Chandy says.
The coming months will see TNQ unveil its authoring platform, Author Café, which will later be combined with a service delivery system to enable the team to work with the research community. Author Café represents the company’s decisive push in taking the entire publishing process into the online space.
In an important first for TNQ, the company recently transitioned 80,000 pages of pure TeX composition, providing full text XML with MathML to one of the most prestigious societies in North America.
TNQ owes much of its ability to handle big projects with unique requirements to a training program that makes more than 1,000 graduates production-ready every year. Its dedicated training facility, with 27 full-time trainers, primarily recruits and trains copy editors, but it also conducts sessions for pagination, graphics processing, data conversion, and proofreading skills. Such rigorous recruitment, induction and training processes have in fact made TNQ the de facto training ground for STM.
Business aside, TNQ is known for many CSR initiatives, especially the annual lecture series that it co-sponsors with Cell Press. Eric Lander, the key architect of the Human Genome Project, was the featured speaker at the recent series, which was attended by more than 4,000 students and researchers.
The Startup Model at KiwiTech
Entrepreneurs, says CEO Rakesh Gupta of KiwiTech, frequently devote so much of their time to raising capital that their vision suffers and their momentum is lost. “The cost of establishing a startup may have declined in recent years, but technology development expenses have increased in the same period,” he notes. “Sometimes, even the most innovative and well-managed startups lack adequate access to technology talents, capital, or networks. In fact, given the extremely low appetite for risk among investors, especially those outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, seven in 10 startups are either moderately or significantly underfunded.”
Recognizing the challenges faced by today’s entrepreneurs, KiwiTech’s founding team—which created the publishing services company TechBooks, or Aptara, as it is now known—has leveraged the company’s decade-long expertise in content and digital technology to partner with selected technology startups. The whole idea, Gupta says, started when one of KiwiTech’s clients, Ruckus Media Group, offered to pay for development costs in equity alongside cash. “We liked that idea but instead opted for convertible note,” he recalls.
Since then, Ruckus Media, which specializes in creating award-winning interactive apps designed to entertain and educate children, has signed up with many more publishers. In addition to various standalone titles, Ruckus apps have delighted children with interactive storybooks featuring favorite brands (Hasbro, Crayola, and SeaWorld); introduced read-along e-book versions of perennial favorites (Curious George, Tom and Jerry, and Scooby-Doo); and created original content with top entertainment names (Butch Hartman and the Wiggles). It has also worked on video episodes from the best in children’s TV and music, such as Sid the Science Kid, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, and Kidz Bop.
“From the Ruckus Media experience, we obtained great insights that served as an extended due diligence on a company and its products and services,” Gupta says. “For our startup partners, we provide in-kind subsidized technology development, enterprise-level contacts, and capital investment.”
Recently, KiwiTech launched a venture capital fund—aptly called Kiwi Venture Partners—that focuses on seed-stage companies in the digital technology space. Besides Ruckus, it has invested in other innovative startups such as Loopster (multiplatform video editing tool), Sensery (CRM system for wealth management), Hello-Hello (language learning app), Librify (social reading platform), PuzzleSocial (social game developer), and Brilatta (hotel housekeeping app).
These partnerships, Gupta says, are also helping KiwiTech’s enterprise clients, “who are looking to stay competitive via innovation from some of these startups. We are leveraging on our own proven entrepreneurial track record with Aptara and now KiwiTech to help others—the startups and our enterprise clients—to succeed.”
The E-Learning Evolution
Universities acquire LMSs. >> CMSs are at their peak. >> Online components are ancillaries to print books. >> Publishers rely on LMSs to deliver and distribute digital products.
LMS adoptions continue in higher education. >> Online courses appear. >> First-generation adaptive testing platforms, simulations, and scenario-based learning emerge. >> Summative/formative assessments go online. >> Content interoperability standards are adopted.
Mobile reading devices appear. >> Digital products gain traction. >> A realignment occurs within the publishing industry: some divisions of large publishers are sold or shuttered, while others reemerge with a stronger digital focus.
Digital-first products and e-books become the norm. >> Mobile reading devices appear in classrooms >> There’s a move toward more scenario-based learning models, simulations, and personalized learning. >> The flipped classroom model is popularized. >> Publishers are restructured for increased digital investment. >> Cloud and mobile solutions become viable for curriculum delivery. >> Social learning constructs enter the education system.
Digital becomes the mainstream. >> Technology-enabled assessments, competency-based learning, digital workflows, and MOOCs emerge. >> Adaptive testing and analytics evolve. >> Efficacy and outcomes measurement in education begins. >> Content, assessment, and data standards are adopted. >> Common Core is introduced. >> New standards prompt computer-based assessments. >> Publishers are reorganized as digital-solutions-driven companies. >> Digital revenues grow.
Text courtesy of Samudra Sen/LearningMate