Publishers cannot afford to ignore digitization, and the process is no longer just about backlist conversion and archiving or shaving costs by outsourcing complex projects. India is the dominant player in the estimated $4.1-billion global publishing BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry. This column aims to shed light on the various segments of the content services industry in that country.

In the U.S., some 22 million people have a disability that prevents them from reading ordinary print, and 70% of these people have learning or cognitive disabilities. That's why the NIMAS (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard) was established, and it now applies to all print instructional materials published after July 2006. All content with text, video, audio or graphic components must be convertible to Braille, large-print, text-to-speech and other specialized formats.

The first step into NIMAS compliance is the hardest, involving the adoption of an end-to-end digital publishing workflow. The best system for this is the single-repository, multiple-output XML (eXtensible Markup Language) workflow, which is deemed the best solution for the simultaneous creation of NIMAS-compliant formats and standard XML/PDF/PostScript files. In essence, NIMAS has nudged elhi publishers into joining their journal/STM counterparts in embracing XML and jumping into the e-deliverables pool.

Given the complexity of the NIMAS process and formats, proper planning is essential. "Publishers need to plan for NIMAS deliverables as part of the overall project schedule. Otherwise, there won't be time to carry out proper quality and conformance audits," said Harish Iyer, associate v-p of business development at Hurix. "It's also important to understand that NIMAS-compliant XML files require additional work and alternate coding. This means that the complexity and requirements of NIMAS must be factored into the process that generates the base content, i.e., in XML, PDF or PostScript."

Soon after the arrival of its first NIMAS project in June 2006, Hurix started an in-house initiative to develop XML conversion tools based on the latest NIMAS DTD (Data Type Definition), specialized validation processes and relevant CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) for content/formatting. According to Bhaskar Sain, associate v-p of publishing operations, Hurix also created tools to automatically generate NIMAS supplementary files, such as NCX, SMIL and OPF, along with the DTB (Digital Talking Book) format required by the National Repository. Sain's team also uses Braille, the DTB engine, to read the file for a final quality check; the e-deliverables are also passed through the National Repository's online validation engine. Hurix recently completed its most challenging NIMAS title so far: a full-color, 700-page k—12 mathematics title containing 5,700 images with about 10 mathematical components per page.

Over at competitor diacriTech, a conversion project involving XPress files took center stage. V-p A.R.M. Gopinth explained, "It was a highly illustrated title with mathematical equations for grades 6—12. We had to convert the equations into images and provide relevant narrative descriptions. The tricky part was developing narrative descriptions that would be easily understood by students of different ages."

Meeting NIMAS requirements is not a simple process. Says Gopinath, "It's not a cut-and-dried conversion process that can be outsourced to any vendor. There are content issues that can be solved most effectively in a valued-added process by knowledgeable companies. It's inadequate to carry out just the NIMAS conversion," said Gopinath. After completing the automated InDesign/XPress/ 3B2-to-NIMAS conversion process, the diacriTech team manually checks each file for content flow and quality, and this requires time and resources.

These projects illustrate one salient point: that NIMAS is now being effectively adopted for complex math and science materials; previously, it was mostly applied to straight text matter. For both Hurix and diacriTech, demand for NIMAS-compliant formats is growing, most of it originating from the U.S. But there are opportunities elsewhere. "Diacritech is promoting the format to publishers outside the U.S. as a social cause and an alternative output for creating new revenue streams," explained Gopinath, a strategy that Hurix also plans to follow.