Sketchy project briefing, messy files, ultra-short turnaround or multiple e-deliverables are all in a day’s work for India-based vendors. The challenge, it seems to PW, is to get them to remember the details, challenges and solutions so that their capabilities and expertise across segments, domains and even languages are noted and recorded for posterity.
Here are some of the notable projects that we uncovered along the way.
A project to add interactivity to a magazine has led the AEL Data team to develop a magazine app. “A separate digital version of the magazine has to be created to render interactivity via hotspots on a mobile device,” says assistant v-p for business development Aditya Bikkani. “The hotspots, which are small areas on a page, are either highlighted or marked with an icon to indicate interactivity, which may include slide shows, videos, and external and internal links. The app also features bookmarking, note-making, annotation and two-way hyperlinking.”
To enhance the digital magazine further, AEL also provides MBaaS (Mobile Backend as a Service), “a computing vertical that makes it easy to develop, use and operate a cloud-based back-end for mobile or tablet apps. We can manage the back-end for the client for a fee, or the client can host, manage and operate it themselves.”
Braahmam Net Solutions
For Braahmam, the biggest challenge for a project involving 600-plus tutorials was to time the delivery to coincide with the official Microsoft Office 2010 launch. “We developed these enhanced e-learning courses—complete with animation, graphics, learning and practice modes, and audio—for Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Access, Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8,” explains marketing communications manager Isha Sahu, adding that the team completed the project within six months. “We integrated Adobe Captivate and Flash to create these engaging tutorials for EMC Publishing, and then developed the player for these courses internally to combine the functionalities of these two software solutions.”
Another project, to convert and digitize children’s stories, required the team to build enhanced content from Flash. Says Sahu, “Some content was converted from Flash and enhanced in HTML5, while some other was directly built in HTML5. The quality standards were the same in both processes, and we delivered 132 stories in less than two months.”
Cenveo Publishers Services
For B2B media and information company Summit Professional Networks, the Cenveo team has paginated several thousand magazine pages, 2,200 pages of its three-volume 2014 Tax Guide and several thousand other pages for its professional publishing division’s books and e-books. Streamlining the production process with offshore project management and design has reduced time to market, cost and workload, which frees their staff to focus on content acquisition and development. The current process flows content directly into an InDesign template and produces both style and structure for downstream delivery to print and digital outputs.
On the STM side, successful completion of its portion of production work for the 18th edition of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine has won Cenveo a full-service management contract for the next edition. “Cenveo will manage all aspects of production for this text, which has been a bestseller since its first publication in 1950. The work will include composition, art, copyediting, proofreading, indexing and management of more than 580 contributing authors,” adds Calilhanna.
Team Contentra recently accomplished a full-service publishing project on two wildly different topics: World War II and the Bible. “Developing research-intensive contents, creating highly designed book pages, procuring rare photographs pertaining to some specific events in WWII, covering the widely-read Bible in 272 pages were some of the challenges that our project team had to face,” explains Subhrajit Dasgupta, v-p for operations. The World War II volume is 80% pictorial with high-energy visuals and contextual maps while the Bible volume has its content rejuvenated to make it engrossing for readers of all ages through the inclusion of nearly 250 colorful and vibrant paintings and artifacts.
A project involving a one-of-a-kind reference book on 3,000 species of reef fish in the East Indies region required the Datamatics team to create an app that functions even when its users—biologists, naturalists and scuba divers—do not have Internet connectivity. “But when the content and images exceeded the allowable limit on the AppStore, we decided to split the app into three volumes as in the print edition. However, the split gave rise to cross-search issues,” explains Krishna Tewari, executive director and global head of digital publishing and retail solutions. The app was then reconfigured in such a way that when a term searched is in another volume, the app automatically checks if that volume is installed on the device. If the volume is available, then it jumps directly to the page. Otherwise, the user is directed to the AppStore or Google Play, where the app can be purchased. “The XML-coded content was semantically structured, which turns out to be the project’s major success, as the indexing and search functions are the app’s main selling points.”
The team also helped to streamline a major publisher’s workflow while meeting its corporate spending goals and strict standards in rights data management. “We use our proprietary asset management system, Right-photo, to efficiently manage the image research portion of the workflow. Researchers can access previous image research and stock collections without leaving the site. This means a faster turnaround for image research and more accurate image metadata capture,” says Tewari, adding that the system is uniquely set up to identify lower cost options, thus reducing permissions costs. “It is also customized to allow nightly SOAP-based data exchange with the client’s rights management system. Our skilled staff read and interpret the contracts to ensure that the rights standards set by our client are being met and reported accurately.”
Kitaboo Cloud was the solution for an American publisher wanting a cost-effective solution to go digital without having to invest in additional hardware. “The publisher wanted to distribute titles to schools and libraries as well as a platform that allows collaboration among end users,” says CEO Subrat Mohanty of Hurix, adding that the legacy content was quickly converted into rich interactive e-books with an almost fully automated process using Kitaboo Cloud. “The e-books are delivered to end users through the publisher’s own-label reader apps for PC/Macintosh, iPad and Android tablets. Teachers and students collaborate on the cloud and share notes using the app itself. The app itself also allows students to submit journal assessments, and teachers to review and comment on them.”
For another publisher, who wants to make use of its existing brick-and-mortar distribution network to sell e-books instead of investing in an e-bookstore, Hurix came up with an access code idea. “Using Kitaboo, the client generates distribution access code that is associated with an e-book license. The access code, which can only be used once, is printed on scratch cards and distributed to the publisher’s retailers,” says Mohanty. After purchasing the scratch card for a title, the end user goes online to download the reader app, enter the access code and download the e-book.
At Impelsys, an e-book library project from Minneapolis-based Brain Hive began with a vision to redefine reading for k-12 schools by offering students and educators on-demand access to thousands of e-books at just $1 per title. “Our software development team worked closely with Brain Hive’s product and marketing personnel to gather vital inputs about the company and its mission, target audience, project goals, challenges and expectations. Then we developed a portal that offers, among its many features, online and mobile e-book reading, engaging social reading and sharing, note-taking and citations, custom collection capabilities, librarian budget management, easy user management, robust reporting and a publisher administration dashboard,” says assistant v-p for marketing and presales Uday Majithia. He adds that k-12 students have spent nearly 3,200 hours reading more than 310,000 pages on Brain Hive since its August 2012 launch.
Similarly, for the World Bank’s World Development Report project, the team kick-started it with information gathering. Then, using iPublishCentral’s custom portal, content going back some 33 years was converted into the specified digital formats. “We added ancillaries and new product options, all without incurring the usual overheads of a traditional online publishing process,” adds Majithia.
For an Australian travel book publisher, Jouve digitized 600 print titles in the last three years, and moved the content into a portal. The content was then structured and sorted by a predetermined hierarchy that allows “drilling down” to a point-of-interest level. The team also enhanced the ePub2 files to allow for greater intractability and complex cross-linking such as connecting different parts of the text to a map.
The team also processed 81 titles to comply with the Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act for another client. The project required subject matter experts to write the accessibility content, encode image descriptive text and create the fixed-layout ePub and ePDF files. The biggest challenge was in making sure that there was no reflow while changing the fonts in the application files, and also ensuring that the first batch of 50 titles were delivered within eight weeks despite multiple rounds of editorial alterations.
For a large journal publisher, KiwiTech developed an iOS/Android app platform solution that provides the ability to quickly generate apps for different journals. “The client also wanted to have the ability to quickly update all live apps for any new feature release or OS releases. So we built a system that was connected to the GitHub repository at the back end and the asset collection at the front end. Once the assets are collected, the generation of the app with the correct profile is completely automated, allowing the publisher to bring in more automation, improve quality and reduce cost while adding more apps,” says CTO Gurvinder Batra.
Building a better book club that allows chat with club members, vote on the next book, schedule meetings and make new friends is the focus of another interesting project at KiwiTech. Explains Batra, whose team developed the book club’s front end on both iPad and Web and a very robust back end to host more than 500,000 books: “The challenge here was to work with Adobe DRM engine to build the reader as well as a complex architecture to manage issues of royalties and taxes, for instance, through a completely automated process. Additionally, we had to deal with varying ONIX feeds from various publishers, and set up an automated ingestion process to add new books to the portal. We used Ruby on Rails for the back end to make the solution stable and scalable.”
Lapiz Digital Services
The volume of manga conversion work at Lapiz Digital continues to increase, and its expertise in this niche segment has become a major differentiator for the company. “We have done a variety of designs for manga, including left-to-right and right-to-left writing modes as well as double-page spreads. Last year, our team handled around 500,000 pages, the highest ever in our company’s history, and we expect more in the coming months,” says COO V. Bharathram.
Developing a highly collaborative and scalable cloud-based platform with offline and mobile support was the challenge from one North American educational publisher. “The platform had to support more than 50,000 registered users with over 2,000 concurrent users at any point in time. Our team also had to establish the production workflow concurrently with the conversion of 200 titles for the initial launch,” says chief marketing officer Rahul Arora. “We started with a blueprint specification exercise to assemble all requirements and to draft the platform architecture. Development technologies and tools were then carefully selected to facilitate greater reusability and to future-proof the platform.” More than 70% of the web platform code was reused for the offline version and Google Docs were integrated to support the ability to view assets in different formats. “The platform currently runs on five web servers, two database servers and one load balancer to ensure non-degradation of performance even if accessed by a larger user base.”
For another client, MPSTrak was implemented to replace a manual production tracking and management process that was slowed down by loaded Excel spreadsheets and paper-based documentation. “Our team had to answer several major challenges, including high operational cost and production process time, data redundancy between internal systems, data inaccuracy, and difficulties in generating operational and performance reports,” says Arora. “MPSTrak with its Peer Review module enables an automated production process that provides various production, operations, performance and financial reports. It makes life easier for our client which has a portfolio that includes more than 2,500 books and 300 journals in the business and management segment.”
Netex Knowledge Factory
Digitizing all of Cambridge University Press’s books for the primary and secondary ELT market—covering text, interactive activities, videos and audios—and making them device-agnostic were the challenge for the team. “We create customized templates for the SCORM-compliant digital content and build HTML5-based interactivities. Then Netex white-label learningApp is used to deliver the titles through AppStore and Google Play, allowing the client to distribute and sell the content via these stores. The production is ongoing, and we are innovating new ways to transform existing books into interactive and dynamic digital content,” says country manager Sumedh Kasare.
Another project, this time for Santillana Global and Sistema Uno Internacional, saw Netex providing a management solution for content, distribution and licensing for schools. “Our learningCentral platform fits the requirement to a T, and now almost 500,000 students in Latin America are accessing the content via our VLE [virtual learning environment] tool, learningSchool,” adds Kasare.
Last year, NETS—Newgen’s Connecticut-based subsidiary that develops educational content for grades k-12—adapted four major science and math print titles for the iBooks Author platform. Instructional designers, editors and production staff at NETS developed storyboards and created more than 2,500 widgets and 7,000 pages of content for the iPad, including interactive graphics, tap-to-reveal animation, embedded and streamed videos, photo galleries and audio.
Over at Newgen’s Chennai production facility, increased experimentation with formats and publication models has resulted in significant changes in authoring processes for one particular project. “It involves books whose length is between that of journal articles and monographs, ranging from 25,000 to 50,000 words. Two years ago, these titles would take nine weeks to turn the manuscript into final files. Last year, it dropped to four weeks as we rolled out new ways of working with authors and new production tools,” says president Maran Elancheran.
With MarkSharks’s “flip classroom” methodology, students learn science by conducting virtual experiments, crafting hypotheses, asking counterfactuals, and finding out answers naturally by changing various elements or variables in simulations and interactive activities. “Similarly, to learn mathematics, students virtually explore and interact with concrete and physical manifestations of mathematical concepts. This allows students to naturally absorb the underlying principles,” explains Aditya Tripathi, CEO of OKS Education.
MarkSharks allows users to engage in peer-to-peer learning or to learn from qualified teachers and subject experts. Adds Tripathi, “Students can share and rate user-generated content, participate in discussions, and access teachers online to explain or clarify the material. MarkSharks incorporates social networking and social bookmarking to foster community learning and to enhance the overall experience. It immerses students in an environment that leads to compelling, entertaining and highly effective learning.”
After delivering more than 200 hours of training material for the engineering and manufacturing segment, COO Vinod Chithambaran knows very well that the key challenges in dealing with the industry. “In most cases, the client’s in-house instructors retain most of the knowledge while documentation is scarce. Our unique capability lies in assessing the resources within the client’s company and create the required content with minimal inputs.” A project from a global rail transportation leader involving electrical and mechanical operations and troubleshooting was a recent example. “Despite limited inputs and data, our team was able to create photo-realistic 3D models and renderings, and build a real-time learning experience. We did the same for a real-estate company and one large chemical firm, where real-time walk-through was combined with assessments, 3D simulations and game-based learning.”
The idea for an augmented reality (AR) pop-up book was planted when a children’s book publisher wanted readers to be able to visualize the content of a print book in 3D format in the print book itself. “After brainstorming with our editorial team, we came up with the concept of creating a digital pop-up where the 3D animation would emerge from the book itself, thereby bridging the gap between print and digital,” says global head for marketing Mohit Ahluwalia of Reality Premedia, whose team conceptualized the app and AR scanning, and created the pop-up content using Maya, After Effects and HTML5. The content was then further optimized to load swiftly despite the layers of animation and 3D effects. “So now the print book comes with instructions on downloading the book app, from iOS or Android stores, and using the app to scan the book pages to view the virtual pop-up animation.”
The team also built a “pulp-free” self-publishing platform for artists and comic book scriptwriters. “We were involved in all stages of design, development, market research and content conversion,” says Ahluwalia, adding that “content creators using the platform can develop mobile apps for their titles and keep 100% of their revenues.”
For a project involving scanning and converting of 500-plus backlist titles from McGill-Queen’s University Press, the team initially wanted to outsource the scanning part to a Toronto company. “But the scanning cost was exorbitant and so we bought two scanners and hired a person in our Toronto office to work on it. That brought along certain challenges as the machines, workflow and staff were new. Our Chennai team had to jump in to audit the scanning quality and get the pages rescanned if necessary. Despite all these, we finished more than 250 titles within six weeks and the client is now selecting the next batch of titles for the project,” says managing director Mohan Thas Shanmugam.
Oslo-based eBokNorden also sent in more than 200 backlist titles for scanning and digitizing into ePub format. Says Shanmugam, “Dozens of proofreaders were deployed to ensure 100% accuracy in the OCR quality. The variety of Scandinavian languages was the main challenge but continuous training has improved the proofreading quality and speed.” The project was completed within eight weeks and more titles are coming in from eBokNorden.
Last year, the scope and volume of work—all on legal content—that came from one of the largest university presses in the world increased by 50%, says executive director Vinay Singh. “Our team is now processing titles with XML-first workflow and applying pre-editing requirements to the content. Aside from customizing various tools for the publishing house, we are also shadowing the client’s project management divisions,” says executive director Vinay Singh.
The team also developed an editorial and production management system for one large French publisher. The Web-based application is currently used to manage and track all publishing and production activities of loose-leaf publications, which may also be extended to include journal production. Explains Singh: “The biggest challenge faced during this development was the data migration from the client’s legacy system to the new environment. This all-in-one solution enables end-to-end workflow from author submission to delivery. It has a centralized mailing system to send auto-reminders to authors and alerts to different users. The tool is user-friendly and provides a complete history and version control while enabling data security at the same time.”
In October 2012, Elsevier decided to pilot two of its journals on TNQ’s Proof Central, an HTML-based inline editing and communication platform. Today, more than 1,100 scientific and technical journals from Elsevier, typeset by half a dozen global typesetters, send the proofs out via Proof Central.
Johan van Slooten, director of global supplier management (direct spend) of Elsevier says, “Proof Central is one of the most exciting technology developments to have been implemented in Elsevier's global production in recent times. We wanted to be sure that authors would accept the new experience and they have been more than encouraging. We now get proofs returned to us by authors often within two hours after we send them out. It used to take at least two days with the earlier PDF process. Author experience apart, we had a clear business case as well. Proof Central showed substantial savings on effort, time and money spent on content integration post annotation. The system cut down content integration errors, greatly increasing our credibility in the scientific community.”
Having a digital version of the Indian Companies Act 2013 made most sense to accounting firm DHC. After all, the whole Act takes up 29 chapters, 470 sections, 7 schedules and over 1,000 pages. “The bulky print version is difficult to carry around, and revisions made reprints costly. So DHC wanted an app, for both Android and iOS, that provides information on the fly. Cross-linking all 800 pages and completing the project within 45 days were the biggest challenges. We did not have anything as reference since no similar app was found in the stores. And while it was relatively easy to create the iOS platform given the limited number of Apple tablets and phones, ensuring proper content display for all Android tablets and phones was a different matter altogether,” says managing director Bimal Mehta of Vakils Premedia.
His team also developed a children’s book app based on Miss Muglee Goes to Mumbai for a nonprofit organization on a budget of $1,000. The first tasks were to scan, convert and color-correct 60 hand-drawn illustrations that were made on full-size drawing blocks. “The app consists of several sections, including read-alone, read-aloud and a game. The voice-over in the read-aloud section was done by the children of the underprivileged school, which posed a problem as they were not professional readers or voice artists. Furthermore, each screen has a fully animated image with music, and finding appropriate music for each screen or page took a lot of effort and time,” adds Mehta.
A job to convert more than 45,000 pages (around 150 books) into XML in 15 days—requiring three times the normal capacity for this client—saw vPrompt working around the clock with several dedicated project managers liaising with the client’s offices in the U.S. and U.K. The project—divided into simple, medium and complex processes—came with elaborate guidelines and stringent quality requirements. In addition, the entire conversion process had to be taken through the client’s proprietary content management system, adding another layer of complexity.
For another client, the team developed a customized application to convert PDF-based source files into multiple outputs. In the process, they reduced manual intervention by more than half, cut down reworks and compressed the turnaround time from two weeks to one.