The increased use of educational technology by schools and the growing popularity of online learning are pushing even the most stalwart print-centric publishers to rethink their position. In fact, the changes in education provide a platform for publishers to repurpose their content and create a new product line that brings in additional revenues. Today, rare is the publisher that is not creating online versions of its products or providing supplementary Web resources.
A recent 1,800-page title for grades 3 to 10 received by the Delhi-based ITC (inttype.com) is one typical print-to-Web product. The project had English, mathematics and science components with over 1,500 graphics, explained Waseem Andrabi, operations director. “The schedule was very tight: we were given two days to turn the pages around and one day to implement the required corrections before going 'live,' ” Andrabi said. ITC was able to get all the files approved within two rounds, and both print and online components were delivered on schedule.
The majority of projects handled by ITC—known for its full-service project management of STM (scientific, technical and medical), el-hi and assessment products—require print-to-Web conversion or have accompanying Web-based resources that are processed along with the core product. According to Andrabi, the printed pages are usually channeled through ITC automated workflow to allow quick conversion into online material. Timing—when online material is needed—is critical and varies from product to product. Usually, the online material is required by the time the print product is available, and given the compressed print schedule that is prevalent in the publishing industry, there is not much time to prepare the online material. Still, ITC will capture all the changes that are made to the print product. “One simply cannot have outdated information in online resources,” Andrabi noted.
It is not always smooth sailing, Andrabi said. Sometimes, the online material has to be available ahead of the print product, which adds another layer of complexity to the project. Changes made from that point onward would not be automatically reflected in the print version, so ITC's project managers double-check to make sure that the content of the print product matches that of the online version.
Aside from print-to-Web conversion, ITC also offers knowledge-based services in preparing test banks, online manuals, e-books and interactive CD-ROMs, mostly to its North American clients.
Over at Lapiz Digital (lapizdigital.com), located in Chennai, el-hi print-to-Web projects are divided into two categories. One requires mostly conversion from static (printed) to online pages in either XHTML or Flash that fit into a template, says CEO Indira Rajan. The second category involves producing interactive Web pages, which requires knowledge in software such as ASP, Java, Flash, Oracle, SQL. For both categories, instructional design bridges content and technology. “Instructional design translates static content for online delivery, making it work as a piece of instruction and form part of an e-learning course,” Rajan explained. “We usually get two types of e-learning projects. In the first type, the e-learning course is a stand-alone product, while the second type is where we develop SCORM [Sharable Content Object Reference Model]-conformant products that can be used as content in the client's learning management system.”
Testing is a major component of print-to-online projects. Prior to delivering the material to its clients, Lapiz conducts in-house tests focusing mainly on functionality, compatibility with different browsers, as well as conforming to different standards, such as Section 508 and SCORM. Clients then conduct their own tests before releasing the product to the market. According to Rajan, there are usually three or four rounds of testing: alpha, beta, release candidate and gold. The number of rounds required hinges on the extent of alpha errors. In many projects, the beta version is often accepted as gold, she said.
For Rajan, too, speed is critical. To meet its deadlines, ITC has a proprietary print-to-Web workflow, which allows it to be nimble and responsive to time pressures. Lapiz Digital also handles a lot of Spanish and other language projects. Many are similar to the original English version, and in most cases the templates for the English version are utilized.