OOH Publishing Blog

Looking ahead to LBF 2016

Alex Whittleton


It’s that time of year again, when publishers and other industry experts from all over the world gear up for the annual London Book Fair – the second-largest publishing trade fair in the world after Frankfurt. And with LBF 2016 kicking off next month at Olympia in West London, now’s your chance to grab a ticket and prepare for a mesmerising modern-day marketplace of epic proportions.

The London Book Fair, which started life as a trade show for librarians 45 years ago, is now a media mecca on a truly global scale. The event attracts more than 25,000 publishers, booksellers, literary agents, librarians and media suppliers from at least 100 different countries, features 1,700 stand-holders and offers an action-packed calendar of 300-plus seminars, talks and micro-events.

As David Shelley, CEO of Little, Brown and Orion, recently said: “I think LBF is getting more significant all the time…it really feels like a fair to rival Frankfurt. I think certainly, in terms of books, there are noticeably more every year – and more big submissions. I do feel that there is a real buzz about it and that [buzz] seems to be growing all the time.”

So what’s generating the buzz at LBF 2016? Here’s a quick rundown.

New this year

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and to honour his incalculable impact on publishing and the arts, LBF 2016 will launch The Shakesperience – a special focus on the Bard, including performances of his much-loved works.

Also new this year are the Literary Festival Award, the Book Store Award and the Trailblazer Awards, which will recognise publishing talent among the under-30s. These three prizes are part of the event’s International Excellence Awards, now in their third year, which are designed to celebrate publishing innovation and success across the world.

Education focus

After its popularity last year, the Scholarly and Research Publishing Forum will be back at LBF 2016. This half-day event addresses the current opportunities and challenges in academic and scholarly publishing, from the disrupting force of digital technologies to the different approaches to funding higher education. The spotlight, this time, will be on the challenges and trends facing research communication.

You can also expect a reappearance of the education conference What Works? Successful Education Policies, Resources and Technologies, which, this year, will examine the impact of new technologies on the curriculum and education standards.

Future gazing

A hotbed of networking, publicity, rights negotiations and distribution deals, the eagerly anticipated event is – for many businesses and individuals – absolutely critical to making contacts and building future business. Whether it’s a scheduled meeting, an inspiring lecture or a chance meeting in the maze of corridors that works its way between the countless stands, doors tend to open at the LBF; this is a place where plans are made, deals are stuck and people gaze ambitiously into the future.

And that’s why the Out of House team will be there on each day of the conference – to talk about our business, hear about yours and discover exciting opportunities for collaboration. Whether you need support producing your next academic, education or reference title, advice on XML workflows and eBook conversion, or simply want to discuss digital trends and publishing news, we’d love to meet you!

We’ll be there. Will you? Let us know below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks to ActuaLitté for the image.


Frankfurt 2015 – A Global City of Ideas

Alex Whittleton


Mid-October in the publishing calendar can only mean one thing: the Frankfurt Book Fair. The world’s biggest and busiest trade fair for books, which is underway now, attracts thousands of industry experts looking to launch books, talk trends, strike deals and network like crazy. Here, we lift the lid on a 500-year-old event that’s looking resolutely to the future.

For five days every year, the German city of Frankfurt – best known as Europe’s largest financial hub – comes alive with thousands of media types from all over the world. Here, in several vast halls, publishers, agents, authors, booksellers and many other industry experts get together to celebrate and sell books, in all their many forms.

Big numbers

In a spectacular show that puts the London Book Fair firmly in the shade, the FBF involves 7,300 exhibitors, 280,000 attendees and 9,000 journalists, who gather for a book-marketing opportunity of epic proportions.

The fair’s mind-boggling agenda includes some 4,000 talks, readings, demos, panel discussion and seminars, among other things. And that’s not to mention the – literally, countless – individual meetings that take place between attendees from a total of 110 different countries. It’s a colourful event of almost unimaginable scope.

Asia in focus

The book fair’s tagline is “A Global City of Ideas”, and it’s more than living up to that claim. This year, organisers have placed a renewed emphasis on the international markets, with exhibitors from India, the rest of Asia and the Arab world occupying a much more central position in the halls, near the English-language zones. The new layout is designed to allow attendees to tap into the growing potential of these markets much more easily.

As FBF director, Juergen Boos, says: “What we’re doing is mirroring what’s happening in the industry. Asia is a strong growth market and it makes sense for the publishers to be closer to the English-language markets and the Germans.”

In keeping with this Asian focus, the guest of honour at this year’s event is Indonesia, which is taking the opportunity to showcase everything from science fiction and poetry to batik and shadow dance.

Talking tech

As always, globalisation and digitisation are dominant themes at the fair, although the tired fixation on whether or not technology will sound the death knell for physical books is likely to be on the back-burner, thanks to a recent boom in print sales.

The focus, instead, is on evolving mobile technologies – how to keep up with them, capitalise on them and make them work for publishers. It’ll be an interesting debate, especially given the news earlier this autumn about a game-changing new website from India that’s doing just this.

Kids and education

As ever, children are in the spotlight at the fair, where dozens of talks, meetings and discussions are focusing on young readers and learning. More than 900 publishers, technology suppliers and other big players from the education space are thought to be in attendance.

The captivating Classroom of the Future exhibit, now in its fourth year, imagines the learning tools of tomorrow, including 3D printers, fully “immersive”, multisensory workstations and hybrid textbooks (which combine print and digital elements). It’s an exciting vision that recasts teachers and publishers as potential architects of the learning experience, rather than simply providers of information.

As Martina Wolff de Carrasco, who came up with the idea for the exhibit, says: “The goal is to show that education can be innovative and international, and publishers can find new ways of delivering material in the future.”

Future focus

An exciting event for anyone in the publishing business, the FBF is a place where contacts are made, deals are struck and competition surreptitiously weighed up – in lecture halls, at meeting tables or down any number of nameless corridors.

Time and time again, under the glaring strip lights of one of Europe’s largest, hottest and busiest exhibition centres, the bedrock of future business is formed for publishers big and small.

Our very own Mike Payton is at the fair and will be posting updates on our Twitter and Facebook pages. Check in to see what’s going on!

Thanks to Picturepest for the image.


The exam-board shake-up and education publishing

Alex Whittleton

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Another summer, another Government wobble on GCSE and A-Level exams and their future. This time, there’s been talk of a possible shake-up that could see the four independent exam boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland replaced with a single body. Here, we explore the impacts such a dramatic move could have on education publishers.

Last month, it was reported that the Department of Education (DoE) is considering long-term reform of the current exam-board system. At the moment, four independent exam boards – AQA, OCR, Edexcel and WJEC – set GSCE and A-Level assessments. But their futures hang in the balance as ministers toy with the idea of replacing them with a single Government body.

Race to the bottom

The consensus in the DoE is that the furious competition between these boards to try to get schools to buy their papers has created a race to the bottom on standards. The easier the paper, the more likely a school is to buy it because their pupils are likely to achieve higher grades – or so the argument goes.

As Schools minister, Nick Gibb, said: “One of the issues is whether it makes sense to have three or four exam boards competing for market share among schools. We now have commercial or quasi-commercial organisations that are increasingly revenue-driven. There is a case for long-term, fundamental reform.”

The news followed the publication of a report by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) on an investigation into the OCR marking debacle last summer, which very nearly resulted in GCSE and A-Level exam papers not being marked in time. No further action has been taken against OCR, which underwent a restructure to prevent similar problems occurring this year.

Not everyone agrees

Unsurprisingly, the prospect of such a drastic restructure has sent shivers down the spines of many in the education sector, including teachers – who are just about getting their heads around revamped, more rigorous GCSE and A-Levels – and those associated with the independent exam boards facing the axe.

In a statement, Michael Turner, director general of the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), said: “Exam boards do not and cannot compete on standards. There is an effective regulator in place to ensure that this does not happen.”

Others emphasise the safety net of exam-board diversity; in other words, if OCR’s near miss last summer had become a reality, it would have been a far greater catastrophe if it had been the sole provider of exams. Sharing the job means sharing the risk.

The impact on education publishers

So how could this possible restructuring affect education publishers? As you might expect, opinions are divided.

Some industry experts believe that such an upheaval would hit textbook publishers hard – not least because the number and range of textbooks on the market would plummet, thereby increasing competition between publishers for market share.

Other, more upbeat, predictions include the views that education publishers will rise to the challenge and prosper, students will benefit from improved textbook content and booksellers will no longer face the challenge of stocking the right titles for schools in their local area.

As Colin Hughes, managing director of Collins Learning, said: “Essentially it would level the playing field, which might free up publishers to compete straightforwardly on quality – and that would surely be good news for teachers and learners.”

A boost for smaller publishers

As a final thought, we’d like to end on these words from Lis Tribe, MD of Hodder Education, who made the point that smaller educational publishers would be likely to benefit from the exam-board restructure.

“If there was one board, it might level the playing field and allow smaller publishers to compete better. With three to four boards it is complicated, you need to know which board you are publishing for – smaller publishers can’t afford to publish for all of them.”

Watch this space for further coverage of what – if it goes ahead – will be the biggest overhaul of the exam-board system in a very long time.

How do you feel about the prospect of a single exam board? Let us know your thoughts below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks to BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives Canada for the image.


Everything you need to know from the IPG Spring Conference

Alex Whittleton

IPGSC books and iPad

Earlier this month, the Independent Publishers’ Guild spring conference (#IPGSC) took place in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside. The popular three-day event allows people from across the “indie” book business to share experiences and expertise, put faces to names and generate future business. Naturally, the OOH team was there – here’s the lowdown.

The IPG is the leading trade association representing independent publishers in the UK. The burgeoning community is made up of 560 members of all shapes and sizes, from big-name brands such as Faber & Faber and Bloomsbury to dozens of smaller enterprises, including one-man bands, startups and packagers.

Known for the excellent “advice, benefits and information” it offers its members, the IPG helps businesses to navigate the publishing industry, with its endless challenges and opportunities, not least in the digital space. One of the best membership perks is the annual conference, which typically features more than 25 sessions, including talks and break-out discussions.

At this year’s conference, which took place in the first week of March, speakers included everyone from data specialists to marketers, retailers and publishers.

Here’s everything you need to know:

Shifting power

The running theme of the event was that digital technologies have transformed the publishing business, giving content creators and users more power than ever before. Phil Ollila, Chief Content Officer at Ingram, summed it up perfectly when he said: “There’s a power shift – from publishers and retailers to authors and readers”.

A similar idea came from Sandy Grant of non-fiction publisher Hardie Grant, who explained: “We need to transform our relationship with authors – we have to justify our existence. Self-publishing can look a lot more attractive if we don’t bring enough to the table.”

Books and Facebook

Georgina Atwell, formerly of Apple iBooks and founder of Toppsta, the new review and recommendations community for children’s books, explored the role of Facebook as a discovery and promotion tool – particularly among non-traditional book-buyers. Atwell also reminded publishers of the benefits of well-written, regular posts on the social-media site.

Linked to this were more general discussions about the wealth of online opportunities for indie booksellers.

The power of video

When it comes to getting the most out of your content, video came up time and time again as a great way to repurpose and promote books. “Video is causing the greatest disruption for… books than any other digital change,” said James Woollam of F+W Media. “This isn’t something that is unattainable… Producing TV can be pretty low cost, and you can turn it into sales quite quickly.”

Other opportunities for slicing and dicing content for online platforms were discussed at the event. In fact, it was agreed that this type of forethought should be built into any publishing strategy from the outset, though Bloomsbury’s Eela Devani had a word of warning: “It’s not about using technology for the sake of it – it’s got to be about the content.”

A boost for bookshops

James Daunt and David Prescott, CEOs of Waterstones and Blackwells, respectively, both discussed the gathering momentum of high-street bookshops: Waterstone’s has bounced back from several challenging years and Blackwells aims to grow sales of its trade and academic titles. Also, more power is being devolved to individual stores, which can only be a good thing for indie publishers.

Daunt also discussed the success of current children’s publishing, which has driven the growth of Waterstones recently. Children’s titles now represent nearly 30 percent of all books bought, with picture books doing particularly well.

Words of wisdom

We’d like to end this blog with the words of Peter Usborne, founder of the renowned children’s publisher that shares his name, who closed proceedings with some pearls of wisdom on the indie-book industry as a whole.

“Aren’t we lucky?”, he said. “There are millions of people doing things not a tenth as interesting as publishing… it’s given me years and years of unalloyed fun and pleasure”. We couldn’t agree more!

Did you go to the IPG conference this year? Let us know below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks to Owni /-) for the image.


The rights and permissions machine

Alex Whittleton


Behind much of the colourful, compelling content we consume on a daily basis, there’s a story involving rights, permissions and conversations about copyright. More essential than it is exciting, perhaps, the rights and permissions machine toils away behind the publishing scenes to gain access to the third-party photos, illustrations and text extracts that bring so much of our book content to life. This week, we’re taking a closer look at this much-overlooked part of the publishing process.

It may not fire your imagination in the way that other conversations about content do, but clearing permissions for the reuse of third-party materials is – and has always been – a vital part of the publishing process. The copyright for much of the engaging material we often take for granted in books – as well as in eBooks and on websites, of course – is owned by a third-party who chooses whether or not they will grant the rights to their intellectual property.

It’s only fair, then, that formal requests for reuse are submitted to these rights-holders, who – if all goes according to plan – will probably grant permission. It’s worth noting that if a publisher goes ahead and includes the chosen material in their publication without clearance, then they are likely to be infringing copyright and committing a sueable offence.

An essential, ethical process

So essential is the permissions-clearance process in conducting business ethically that publishers nearly always employ a member of staff or an entire team – depending on the size of the organisation – to ensure that full authorisation is obtained and the whole process runs smoothly. Budgets are set to cover the fees for the cleared materials, and online project-management tools, such as SmartSheet, are frequently used to track clearance progress and add source details, reference numbers and credits.

Some large organisations have ongoing relationships with the biggest and best picture libraries – including Alamy, Shutterstock and Getty 360 – in order to drive down reuse costs and automatically cover certain rights, including print and electronic, world all languages, unlimited print run and ten-year term. These agreements also often feature royalty-free deals at special rates, so that publishers can use content multiple times at no extra cost.

The whole process can work the other way, too, with publishers being asked to grant permission for their content to be reused by others. But in whatever direction the deal goes, efficiency and economy are key.

As Kevin Stewart, publishing-contracts consultant and tutor at The Publishing Training Centre says: “The Permissions Administrator is tasked with ensuring that the best mix for your company is achieved to make the work of dealing with permissions as smooth and profitable (or, at least, cost-effective) as possible.”

Permissions for project success

Given the repercussions of a failure to adhere to copyright law, many publishers actively worry about the clearance process. Not only can whole projects derail if the relevant permissions aren’t granted in time or prove too expensive, but the use of content without permission can result in legal action being taken against the perpetrating publisher.

In short, the way that permissions are cleared has the potential to make or break a project, or even an entire brand. And that’s why the process is so stringent, with multiple sign-off stages, meticulous tracking, regular catch-ups and top-notch communication.

Here at Out of House Publishing, we have a specialist permissions team to do the leg-work when it comes to requesting access to third-party content for your titles. If you don’t have the time or energy for the nitty-gritty of copyright issues, or just need a little support with clearance, please do get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you!

Do you need any help with your permissions? Get in touch below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks to Kate Ter Haar for the image.


5 takeaways from Digital Book World 2015

Alex Whittleton


Did you get to the Digital Book World (DBW) conference in New York last month? If you couldn’t go – or just couldn’t attend all the talks and panel discussions you wanted to while you were there – then keep on reading. Below, we give a rundown of some of the most interesting and inspiring news from this annual celebration of digital content.

New York’s key winter-publishing event, DBW attracts representatives from all the major publishing houses, as well as many smaller businesses and tech startups. Around 1,500 people were thought to have attended the three-day conference this year, which is known for its busy calendar of events, including lectures, seminars, workshops, round tables and an awards ceremony that honours innovation throughout the industry.

The event covers several categories (or “tracks”, in DBW speak) – global, marketing, data, transformation, education/kids, technology and new-business models – and features talks from illustrious industry figures. This year, the bar was raised higher than ever as key-note speakers from both Amazon and Apple – the two most disruptive forces in publishing – took to the stage: a first for any international publishing conference.

Given the huge scope of this exciting event, it would be impossible to capture its every newsworthy twist and turn. Instead, we’ve chosen our top five takeaways from DBW 2015:

1. Amazon in focus

Russ Grandinetti, Kindle VP at Amazon, described the company’s resolve to address concerns that authors – particularly “indie” authors – are losing out with its new subscription service, Kindle Unlimited. He insisted that the subscription eBook model is here to stay, and also talked about Amazon’s dual role as bookseller and publisher. Later on at the event, the future role of the industry giant was the subject of fierce debate among attendees.

2. Subscription eBooks soar

Many other DBW delegates endorsed subscription eBooks as a winning formula both for businesses and consumers. One of these was Big Five publisher Macmillan, who recently added 1,000 of its backlist titles to the two most successful subscription-eBook services, Oyster and Scribd. The move speaks volumes about the industry’s growing confidence in the model, which was also a dominant theme at last year’s DBW.

3. #LaunchKids

Digital-publishing guru Mike Shatzkin hosted a day-long programme that focused exclusively on children’s publishing. Encompassing everything from digital storytelling to Google’s classroom tech, #LaunchKids explored the intersection of children’s publishing and edtech. On the day, Nielsen announced that children are starting to read books at younger ages, due to the ubiquity and accessibility of devices.

4. iBooks boom

In his talk, Apple’s Keith Moerer, Director of the iBooks Store, announced that since last autumn’s iOS8 launch – which made the iBooks app more widely available to users – the tech giant was gaining a million new iBooks customers every week. That’s big news, especially for those of us in education publishing, since the app’s interactive functionality is the ideal framework for illustrated-reference content.

5. “Gamification” in education

Closely aligned with wider discussions about coursebooks and online learning platforms was the concept of “gamification” – giving content a game-like dimension as a way to engage reluctant learners. Education publisher Scholastic was a dominant voice in the debate, having already adopted this approach with huge success. It’ll be fascinating to see where this mix of education, technology and gaming will take education publishing next.

Did you attend DBW 2015? Tell us about your experience below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks to F+W for the image.


Out of House title a “book of the year”

Alex Whittleton


The Spectator is a British institution. The right-leaning weekly magazine, which has been in continuous circulation since 1828, is a fixture in British cultural life. Popular, original and bold, the publication is – for many people – the go-to place for interesting insights on politics and the arts. It’s fantastic news, then, that a book we produced last year for non-fiction publisher I.B.Tauris was cherry-picked to appear in The Spectator’s recommended reads of 2015.

In early 2014, the team here at Out of House managed the production of a brand-new title for London-based reference publisher I.B.Tauris; the title in question was The New Emperors: Power and the Princelings in China, which was published last summer.

Written by Kerry Brown, Director of the China Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and former head of the Asia Programme at Chatham House, this fascinating book profiles the men who run the world’s newest superpower – those at the upper echelons of the Communist Party of China. It’s a truly accessible, eye-opening examination of the power struggles that define elite politics in China.

The main thrust of the book was summed up brilliantly in The Guardian: “Brown unpicks the mind-numbing complexity of China’s power game, riven as it is by competing interests, regional and factional loyalties, and the pursuit of the pharaonic wealth that is the prize for the few who make it.”

Critical acclaim

Unsurprisingly, given its incredible insight into an otherwise secret world, Kerry Brown’s groundbreaking book has received plaudits left, right and centre, in everything from The Spectator to Britain’s bestselling broadsheets.

In The Spectator’s 2015 books feature, China expert Jonathan Mirsky recommends Brown’s book as a must-read title of the year: “Brown, who was once at the Foreign Office, has written the best study I know of the ‘ruthlessly successful multinational corporation’ that is the Communist party of China, and its leaders, whose money, contacts, relatives and women have propelled them to the top.”

Other reviews describe it in just such praiseworthy terms: it’s a “scrupulous and valuable” read, according to The Telegraph, and “a rare example of informed, forensic inquiry”, according to The Guardian.

Trade titles at Out of House

Our work with I.B.Tauris – an independent trade publisher known for its distinctive reference list – marks a slight departure for the Out of House team. Since opening for business in 2007, we’ve occupied a niche in packaging Education and Academic titles. But in the last year or so, we’ve broadened our scope to include more trade titles, managing a total of 14 books for I.B.Tauris in the past year alone.

Our diverse portfolio in this category includes such compelling, relevant titles as Land of the Turquoise Mountains: Journeys Across Iran, Boko Haram: Inside Nigeria’s Unholy War to Brexit: How Britain Will Leave Europe (this last title comes out at the end of this month).

And we’re starting 2015 as we mean to go on: by building up this relatively new trade list alongside our more established programme. We’re very well placed to respond to the unique pressures of this kind of work, with its fast turnaround times and stringent quality control.

Have you read The New Emperors? If not, be sure to add it to your 2015 reading list – let us know your thoughts below, or on Facebook or Twitter.



Education publishing in 2015 – top 7 trends

Alex Whittleton


At the beginning of the year, we love nothing more than to indulge in a bit of future-gazing. Which trends and innovations are likely to gain momentum in the months ahead? What’s in store for publishers, educators and readers? Below are the fruits of our speculation – our top seven predictions for education and scholarly publishing in 2015. Unsurprisingly, technology takes centre stage.

Edtech evolves

Edtech is a subject we’ve touched on already in this blog – and no wonder. Arguably the most exciting development area in the industry, the intersection between education and technology is evolving at incredible speed. Check out our two blogs on this burgeoning business, which explore exciting collaborations between tech talent and publishing giants Pearson and OUP, respectively. What’s next, we wonder? We’ll have to wait and see.

Textbook innovation

Recent changes to the national curriculum have resulted in a glut of new publishing at GCSE and A-Level. The new version, which involves less standardised assessment, offers schools a refreshing amount of freedom when it comes to choosing teaching resources. All this amounts to a more open and competitive market for publishers. Interestingly, though digital is certainly a growth area, much of this new publishing will be in print.

In praise of HTML5

In its newest form, the mark-up language that underpins the Internet looks set to revolutionise publishing. Not only does this clever document format promise a streamlined workflow – increasing efficiency and saving money – but, in supporting the latest tech trends, it’s shaping up to be the most exciting and intuitive way of producing digital content ever – particularly ePubs, which are built using the language. Great news for education and scholarly publishers, who are in for a big ePub year (see below).

Embracing open access

After years of fierce debate between academics, publishers, researchers, libraries and educational institutions on how best to manage open access (or OA, as it’s more commonly known), the world is finally getting to grips with the model – particularly the economics of it. With this in mind, 2015 is likely to see publishers embrace OA and, with the rise of mega journals and the online communities that support them, an improved peer-review process seems inevitable.

iOS 8 and iBooks

Apple’s recent release of iOS 8 hailed a new era in education publishing. Why? Because amidst its array of flashy new features came a pre-installed version of the brand’s signature eBook app – iBooks. The move has made access to interactive non-fiction content, for which iBooks is best known, easier than ever. No surprise, then, that educational publishers are exploiting this exciting platform like never before.

Self-publishing settles in

Thanks to the power and reach of digital technology, publishing has become one of the most democratic industries around – as the eBook self-publishing boom of recent years so vividly attests. Content is now more accessible and shareable than ever. It’s a trend that’s here to stay, in every category from trade fiction to academic publishing – with many authors balancing their “indie” output alongside traditional publishing deals.

Outsourcing in overdrive

With more pressure than ever on publishers, the outsourcing of production – which often involves using an offshore company – has become par for the course. This very practical response to a highly pressurised publishing climate has been gathering pace over the last few years, and looks set to continue in the coming months – especially for academic publishers, who are feeling the squeeze acutely.

Do you have a hunch about what lies ahead for education and academic publishing? Let us know your thoughts below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks to lrs08e for the image.


Publishing’s power partnerships

Alex Whittleton

Publishing Partners

Two heads are better than one, so the saying goes. And when it comes to the world of 21st-century publishing, that adage has never seemed so relevant, as exciting new collaborations between major industry players and other – often brand-new – organisations are breathing new life into the world of books and learning. Here, we take a look at the latest of these – a partnership between Oxford University Press and rising “edtech” star Emerge Education.

A month ago, Oxford University Press (OUP) and Emerge Education – “the accelerator for education start-ups” – came together to form an impressive new publishing partnership. The objective? To improve education outcomes across the globe by breaking new ground in the world of edtech (education technology).

What makes the alliance so fascinating is that these are – at least on the face of it – two very different organisations. One is ancient, while the other is brand new; one is predominantly print, while the other is defined by technology. Nonetheless, they share a huge amount of common ground.

An enduring brand

Founded in 1586, OUP is one of the oldest publishing houses in the world. Its long and illustrious history contributes a sizable chunk to our cultural heritage in this country; so much so, in fact, that its name alone symbolises permanence and authority in today’s notoriously transient world.

But that’s not to say OUP is outdated – far from it. It might have been producing books for well over four centuries, but it has its sights set firmly on the future. In recent years, the publisher has acquired an impressive digital list, which includes the catchily named Kerboodle, an online resource for secondary schools, and the Oxford Learners Bookshelf, an app that allows students to access course material on their tablets. In this way, OUP seems to straddle the past and future in a pretty miraculous way.

A fresh new initiative

And then there’s Emerge Education, which is cutting edge, through and through. Newly launched and temporary by design – its business “accelerator” programmes are only three months long – the innovative initiative is the pinnacle of the modern.

The aim of its London-based course is to equip edtech entrepreneurs with the expertise, customers and investment they need to innovate and evolve learning tools and resources. As CEO Jan Matern said: “Emerge Education’s start-ups have the ambition to create a positive impact on education across the world.”

A meeting of minds

So how will the partnership actually work? While the ambitious new enterprises on the accelerator programme will benefit from OUP’s vast body of scholarly content and global reach, OUP will be free to make use of some of the most exciting innovations in edtech. OUP has also sponsored a 300-m-sq central London working space for the businesses. All in all, it’s set to be a win-win.

As Paul Riley, director of channels and partnerships at OUP, said: “This partnership provides OUP with opportunities to combine its high quality content with ground-breaking technology. Such activity will allow us to develop innovative products and services that improve the lives of teachers and learners globally, disrupting education for the better.”

The teamwork trend

The union between OUP and Emerge Education is the latest in a long line of relationships that are being forged by publishers and institutions, initiatives and corporations. And it’s an industry trend that seems to be most apparent in scholarly publishing – an area that’s innovating at a rate of knots.

Just over a year ago, for example, we wrote a blog on a similar collaboration between the education giant Pearson, and a handful of edtech businesses. Another similar venture, this time between Pearson and the University of Exeter, is the long-running Skills for Writing programme, an evidence-based approach to accelerating progress in writing.

In short, this kind of cross-organisational teamwork is now an industry-wide trend – and it’s benefitting organisations, teachers and students everywhere. Who will team up next, we wonder?

Which publishing collaborations inspire you? Let us know your thoughts below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks to Bindaas Madhavi for the image.


HTML5 – the language of 21st-century publishing

Alex Whittleton


HTML, the mark-up language that’s used to create websites, might be 20 years old, but its newest incarnation has only been around – in an official capacity, at least – for a few weeks. And it boasts a whole host of smart new functions that make it ideal for expressing feature-rich content. Here, we take a look at the software that’s widely thought to be the future of digital publishing.

HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the very fabric of the Internet. In its most basic form, it’s a series of tags that describe how to present and structure content. The tags are then read by web browsers and converted into audio or visual content accordingly. These are the web pages that we see every day.

Over the years, there have been countless iterations of the language – in fact, it’s still evolving and will continue to do so. But in its cleverest and most current form, the language supports the latest trends in technology, from the rise of tablets to the demand for embedded video and audio content.

Digital content made easy

So what does this mean for the publishing industry? First and foremost, that HTML5 could provide publishers with the most exciting and intuitive way yet of producing digital content – particularly eBooks, which are already made using HTML.

Up until now, the book-publishing process has comprised a handful of stages that use different software. Sanders Kleinfeld, Director of Publishing Technology at O’Reilly Media, explains this traditional publishing model in the following way: “You author in a word-processing application, typeset and design in a desktop-publishing application and finally convert/export the content for print”.

So by producing an eBook, you’re effectively adding another conversion stage to the end of an already long and relatively disjointed process. With HTML5, on the other hand, we have the opportunity to rid ourselves of the digital “conversion” process altogether. Below, we explain how.

Going, going, gone

The digital-conversion business has been booming over the past decade. With the rise of digital publishing, countless companies have launched around the world with the sole purpose of taking print content and converting it to digital forms. This new breed of business has been so prolific, in fact, that digital conversion – including troubleshooting, clean-up and finally, output – has become a mini-industry in its own right.

But it’s a time-consuming and costly process. And with society’s tech obsession hurtling ever onwards, there’s a pressing need to find a less cumbersome, more streamlined workflow. Cue HTML5, and the “single-source workflow” it promises; in other words, one set of documents are used from cradle to grave, eliminating the need for conversions of any kind. Several leading lights in the industry are already trying it out.

A case study

The US company O’Reilly Media is one such proponent of this newly streamlined workflow, which has HTML5 at its heart. To showcase their idea, they built Atlas – a publishing tool for writing, editing and illustrating content that offers one-click print- and digital-publishing options. By standardising the formats of both source and output files – using HTMLBook, their own version of HTML5, for both – PDFs, ePUB and Mobi files are easier than ever to create.

“With this build functionality, Atlas effectively eliminated any cost or time entailed in the ebook conversion process, making it possible to release content into the market early and frequently”, says Kleinfeld.

Other highlights of the platform include the option to apply “themes” to alter the design – again, at the click of a button – and a user-friendly, collaborative interface to make in-text editing a breeze for contributors, be they authors, editors or production staff.  All in all, it’s a smart and simple way to churn out high-quality content in digital formats.

The bigger picture

In summary, the publishing possibilities brought about by HTML5 are massive. Not only is its development encouraging a “digital first” approach to content – a prerequisite for successful publishing today – but it’s increasing the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the entire publishing process, allowing more creativity and agility than ever before.

Although the trend for using this innovative document format in publishing is still very much in its infancy, we’d bet our bottom dollar that in a few years’ time, creating content in HTML5 will be as routine a practice as using Microsoft Word and Adobe Indesign is right now. We’ll have to wait and see…

What’s your view on HTML5 in publishing? Let us know your thoughts below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks to Zhao! for the image.


iOS 8 – the Apple of our eye?

Alex Whittleton

iOS 8 blog

A few weeks ago, tech giant Apple released its latest operating system, iOS 8. This major update to the world’s most famous software came with a series of smart new features, from health and fitness widgets to family file-sharing. But for anyone in the publishing world, by far the most exciting development was Apple’s decision to make its signature eBook app – iBooks – available to all. Here, we explore how such an important step could impact reading habits – and education – across the world.

Released alongside the original iPad back in 2010, iBooks didn’t properly hit the headlines until early 2012, when it was relaunched with an innovative education focus. The new version of the software made way for digital textbooks, which could, for the first time, display interactive diagrams, animations, audio and video. At the same time, Apple released iBooks Author, an easy-to-use tool that allows anyone to create and share their own enriched textbooks.

Until now, users have had to download – albeit free of charge – iBooks from the App Store. But with the newly integrated version, every Apple customer with the latest operating system will automatically be one step closer to accessing this world of digital books, with its bestselling fiction and creatively designed scholarly titles.

Apple versus Amazon

To entice users to buy through the app and get a taste for the incredible reading experience that is – quite literally – at their fingertips, the pre-installed iBooks app comes with an initial sweetener of 54 free titles in 30 countries and nine languages.

Quite how well this freebie will work remains unknown, but a steep increase in the number of paying iBooks customers is expected. After all, there are 650 million Apple users on the planet, and 800 million iOS devices in circulation; even if only a small fraction of these users starts buying titles through iBooks, Apple’s share of the market might soon be set to rival the greatest of all digital booksellers, Amazon.

iBooks and education

As we’ve already seen, iBooks has an undeniable educational leaning – its interactive functionality is the ideal framework for illustrated-reference and education content. The experience of swiping, tapping and scrolling to view everything from animated pop-ups to videos is engaging and highly intuitive, and it’s making learning more absorbing than ever.

And according to Apple, browsing, downloading and paying for these titles – and then exploring and sharing their content – has never been easier:

“Students can find these…in the Textbooks section of iBooks. They can download a sample or purchase the entire book with one tap for a fraction of the price of a paper textbook. Textbooks purchased from iBooks are immediately available on the student’s bookshelf, alongside their other books. They can even get alerts when publishers update content, and download new updates to textbooks at no additional charge.”

Testing the water

For publishers who want to dip their toes into the interactive eBook world offered by Apple, the beauty of iBooks Author is its usability. Whether you’re a natural programmer or a complete and utter technophobe, pretty much anyone can sit down and produce something interesting, inspiring and informative – as long as they have great content to hand. And the least risky, least expensive and most popular way to do this is to repurpose tried-and-tested print or online content.

So which brands have exploited this impressive functionality over the last few years? Cambridge University Press, Hodder Education, Pearson, The Open University, Collins – to name just a few. But despite this long list of early adopters, schools and other learning establishments have continued to favour print titles as a learning resource.

iBooks forecast

For us, and for others in the field of education, there are two key questions. Will the pre-installed iBooks app, with its newfound influence through iOS 8, encourage a surge of interactive educational eBooks? And will more schools adopt these digital textbooks as their top learning resource?

It’s early days, of course, but with society’s galloping tech trend in just about every other category, as well as Apple’s enduring popularity, it seems plausible – even likely – that ambitious educators will put even more confidence in this exciting platform. After all, who wouldn’t want to tap into such a huge new audience, which is ready, waiting and poised to download?

Have you got iOS 8? Let us know what you think of iBooks below, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks to Tom Raftery for the image.


Books that win prizes

Alex Whittleton


It’s always gratifying to see a book you’ve worked incredibly hard to produce hit the shelves for the first time. But it’s even better to see that same book win an award – and a much sought-after one at that! This summer, one of our flagship academic titles – produced last year for Cambridge University Press – won just such a prize, and we’re seizing every opportunity we can to shout about it!

Every year, the Society of Legal Scholars (SLS) – which has been representing teachers of law in higher-education establishments since 1908 – awards two prizes for exceptional books written by scholars in the early stages of their careers. The Birks Prizes for Outstanding Legal Scholarship are judged by the President, the Vice-President and the Immediate Past President of the society, with the advice of several other experts in the field, and are a fabulous feather in the cap for any ambitious legal scholar.

The winning title

Judging Social Rights, which puts forward a powerful case for constitutionalising social rights, was written by Dr Jeff King, a senior lecturer at University College London. The 400-page tome took 5 months to create, from cast-off to completion.

Rob Wilkinson, who ran the project here at Out of House, said: “Working with Jeff King was a real pleasure and I’m thrilled that we were able to produce the book to our usual high standards, thereby playing a small part in Jeff’s thoroughly deserved success. To have our name attached to the prestigious Birks Book Prize is a real honour, and hopefully we can help other legal academics fulfil their literary ambitions.”

Future gazing

Legal content is an exciting area of our business, and one that we’re looking to build on even more in the coming months and years.

As our Managing Director, Jo Bottrill, said: “Congratulations to Jeff King on winning this prestigious award. We are delighted to have supported Cambridge with the production of this important book. Managing legal content is an important strength and we look forward to supporting many more prize-winning titles in the years to come.”

Fingers crossed.


Huge thanks to Jeff King and the team at Cambridge University Press for making the process of producing this impressive title so rewarding, and to the brilliant Adele Furbank, who compiled the index for the book.

Thanks to Emmanuel Huybrechts for the image.


Pearson’s plan for a literate planet

Alex Whittleton

Literacy blog pic

Earlier this week, the education-publishing giant Pearson launched an exciting five-year campaign designed to boost literacy around the world. Project Literacy is an innovative online resource for individuals, organisations and communities to share and consume tips, advice, stories and news on the evolving opportunities – and challenges – in the field of literacy.

The basis of this imaginative new tool is an interactive map identifying the planet’s most inspiring literacy projects and initiatives. With the “inspire us” function, users can identify and describe the literacy endeavour that motivates, impresses or excites them the most. The results are then attached to expandable red pins on a browsable world map.

But that’s not all. The other key feature of this smart new site is the “challenge us” function, which encourages people to post their thoughts on the literacy goals they believe the Pearson project should focus on – supporting areas of the world that lack resources, perhaps, or ideas and innovations that need public attention.

As it says on the website: “Your contributions will have a direct impact on how Project Literacy takes shape in the coming years. We are committed to finding and putting resources, expertise and reach behind extraordinary projects and initiatives that stand to make a real difference in people’s lives and learning.”

Levelling literacy

The terrible truth is that there are still huge numbers of people out there who find it difficult to read and write – 800 million people, to be precise, or one in ten. And those people can be found in the least-likely quarters. In America, for example, 32 million people lack this very basic skill; that’s more than 1 in 10.

Even here in the UK, as the BBC recently reported, an “alarmingly high” proportion of adults lack the ability to read and write. Then there are areas of Africa, Asia and South America that have consistently low literacy rates. Although, overall, world literacy has improved in the last few decades, the rate of improvement has slowed in recent years. Without such a fundamental skill, people find life incredibly limited and learning opportunities few and far between.

So the long-term goal of Pearson’s project is to create a more literate world; to give everyone an equal opportunity to learn vital language skills and enrich their lives through learning and employment. In short, the project is laying the groundwork to level literacy across the land, by bringing together partners who can work together to improve the lives of millions.

As Pearson’s CEO, John Fallon, says: “We are inspired by the power of collaboration. To achieve anything worthwhile we must bring together the most talented people and give them the resources to get on and solve the challenges in front of them.”

Words and the web

Pearson’s project is being launched at a time when another form of literacy – the ability to understand and use technology – is at an all-time high. Even in the most deprived areas of the world, where books are all but absent and literacy rates low, many people have access to the Internet. Incredibly, mobiles are now more ubiquitous than books.

As the Project Literacy site reveals: “Over 90% of the world’s population has access to a mobile network.” What’s more, it goes on to say, reading on a smartphone is now much cheaper than using an old-fashioned book. Couple all this with the fact that the online world offers access to a superfluity of educational content and learning tools, and you have an impressive bedrock of material upon which literacy and learning can flourish.

The Internet, social media and mobile technology in general – these are some of the most democratic educational forces in the world today. It follows, then, that the powerful relationship between literacy and technology should be exploited to greater educational gain than ever before – to kickstart a planet-wide reading revolution.

And we think Pearson’s Project Literacy is the perfect place to begin.

Which literacy projects most inspire you? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter. – and don’t forget to post them on Project Literacy’s brand new site, too!


A placement with Out of House

Jo Bottrill

Georgia Walters, a student on the postgraduate publishing course at Edinburgh Napier University, describes her work placement in Stroud.

I travelled to the land of Laurie Lee for my placement with Out of House Publishing, a publishing production company based in Stroud, Gloucestershire. The company’s appeal for me lay in their provision of a comprehensive project management service for the academic and education publishers they work with.

I was warmly welcomed into a sunny office on my first day, and was invited straight into a project meeting with a large global education publishing house, for whom Out of House will be managing a series of history textbooks.

Having expressed a keen interest in experiencing the project management workflow from manuscript through to final deliverables, I happily got stuck into the various tasks that each stage involves: it was great to be given the opportunity to make a real contribution to the finished products, as well as practice my editorial skills. It was inspiring to see the level of detail exercised for every title: I was particularly impressed to see a red circle around an incorrectly-italicised comma in an 8pt index!

I was able to work on a wide variety of titles, covering art history, economics, world history and sociology, and I would like to thank the team for taking the time out of their busy schedules to talk me through a number of key learning points, including education publishing, processing new titles, and the various electronic formats for final deliverables, such as XML, LaTeX, ePub and MOBI.

My desk - with Kayleigh on guard duty

Other highlights included afternoon ice lollies, and making friends with the office dog, Kayleigh – I knew I’d settled in when she started napping under my desk! It was a thoroughly worthwhile experience and I would like to thank the whole Out of House team for their time and guidance throughout the placement.


Free for the taking – how our low-cost/no-cost culture is shaping the economy

Alex Whittleton

free sign

Every now and then, you come across an article that really, really makes you think. One of our recent favourites is a New York Times opinion piece by the American economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin, which explores the fate of capitalism in a ‘sharing economy’ – defined by the proliferation of free goods, usually shared online. Below is a summary of his fascinating argument, and, crucially, how it relates to the world of scholarly publishing.

We have all benefitted from freebies online. In fact, you probably make use of them more regularly than you realise, without even thinking about it. For one, there’s the vast array of videos, music and other content you view on social-networking sites and YouTube on a regular basis. Then there are peer-to-peer file-sharing networks – from Napster in the early days to the current BitTorrent model – which allow you to share books, music, films and video games with people anywhere on the planet, often without paying a penny.

Add to that open-source software, which allows users – among other things – to build their own websites, and also (offline) 3D printers and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – a free form of higher education – and you’ll see that our world is absolutely awash with either ludicrously cheap, or entirely free, goods and services.

So what does Jeremy Rifkin have to say?

In his article ‘The Rise of Anti-Capitalism’, Rifkin discusses what he terms the ‘zero-marginal-cost economy’ – an environment in which unit costs are being driven down so much that goods are becoming either very cheap, or free. They are bypassing traditional markets and are therefore no longer subject to market forces; in other words, the ‘sharing economy’ is shaking the foundations of industry upon industry.

Rifkin goes on to discuss The Internet of Things – an impressive new technology infrastructure that will underpin our daily lives by connecting everyone and everything. Sensors attached to everything from natural resources to the electricity grid to offices and homes will feed Big Data back to the platform, which will greatly accelerate efficiency, driving marginal costs down even further in the future.

Rifkin wonders how the economy of the future will function in a world that’s more ‘about shared access rather than private ownership’. The answer, he says, lies in civil society and its non-profit organisations – a sector that’s booming in the current climate. Non-profits tend to promote community sharing, contribute a huge amount to the economy and offer a wealth of job opportunities in the fields that ‘strengthen social infrastructure’ – a boon for a labour market that’s being hit hard by a trend for automated, workerless factories and offices.

How all this relates to scholarly publishing

As we’ve touched upon already, books and higher-education courses are becoming available in free, or nearly free, forms. Without a doubt, the ‘sharing economy’ is shaping the spheres of book-publishing and education as much as any other.

Arguably, though, scholarly publishing – with its digital, shareable forms, from open-access books and journals to eLearning websites and apps – also supports the ‘communal’ character of civil society. In many ways, it does just what Rifkin says The Internet of Things does; it ‘optimizes collaboration, universal access and inclusion’.

To sum up, then, publishing – particularly in its community-led, niche, scholarly forms – is moving with the times at a galloping pace, feeding back into the new economic model that’s driving its transformation in the first place.

The challenge for us all is to contribute in a meaningful way, and for our contribution to mean enough for people to pay us for it.

To hear Jeremy Rifkin discuss this topic in more detail, tune into Radio 4’s latest episode of Start the Week.

What are your thoughts on the explosion of free, shareable content online? Where does this leave publishing as an industry? Let us know below, or on Facebook or Twitter.



Literature, literacy and World Book Day 2014

Alex Whittleton

WBD image

Today is World Book Day (WBD) – an annual celebration of all things bookish that sees libraries, classrooms and bookshops all over the country come to life with the chatter of book-lovers, much-loved authors sharing writing tips and costumed characters from popular fiction. Now in its seventeenth year, WBD has become part of our literary heritage – and not just as a reading frenzy for those who already love books (though it is that, too), but also as a powerful tool for boosting literacy.

Recognised in the UK and Ireland on the first Thursday in March and around the world six weeks later, on April 23rd – a date that weighs heavy with literary significance, not least as the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and death – the event is an international phenomenon designed to get people excited about reading.

Its social and cultural value is clear from the support of UNESCO, which describes the day as “a worldwide tribute to books and their authors”. And that’s really what it is – thousands of book-related events take place all over the world to mark the occasion. It’s a great opportunity for bibliophiles everywhere to renew their love of literature, and also for youngsters and adults who are yet to discover the pleasures of reading to be inspired.

Reading in the digital age

That society enthusiastically embraces the written word on WBD is a sign that in our highly technological world, reading hasn’t lost its appeal. In many ways, in fact, the digital boom can be seen to have encouraged reading and writing, with eReading devices and literacy-based websites boosting accessibility to content, the productivity of publishers and, for many, an appetite for reading.

Perhaps this is because the profoundly meaningful, timeless nature of great literature – or, more generally, of storytelling – offers an antidote to our throwaway, digital culture. Reading, in this day and age, allows us to slow down, calm down, step into the past or imagine the future, ponder the lives of others and learn lifelong lessons; in other words, through books we can hold onto a little piece of permanency in an increasingly transient world.

Lifting literacy

Despite this modern-day explosion of content and the appeal of a quiet read, however, literacy in the UK is lagging behind other countries. Towards the end of last year, the BBC reported that fewer young people are reading in their spare time; this article was followed up, only days later, with another that drew attention to disappointing literacy level in British pupils.

As the National Literacy Trust director, Jonathan Douglas, said: “Our research not only reveals that children are reading less and developing more negative attitudes towards reading, but also that there is a clear correlation between this and their performance in reading tests.”

But it’s not just children struggling to read and write, as Cathy Rentzenbrink, owner of the literacy-focused website Quick Reads, explains in her recent article in The Bookseller. There are vast portions of society who find it difficult to read, for one reason or another; people who lack this truly fundamental skill, and who, as a result, find even the simplest day-to-day tasks a daunting prospect.

The power of stories

The art of storytelling is part of the very fabric of what it means to be human. It’s a way of making sense of the world, an outlet for the imagination, a source of information and an incredible social lubricant. In short, it’s as old as humanity itself, and sits right at the heart of the collective character of our species. But some people are missing out.

With this in mind, WBD is much more than just the domain of wordsmiths – though, of course, it’s a fabulous opportunity for book-lovers everywhere to shout about the wonders of their dog-eared favourites. It’s also about nurturing the skills of those who need it most, inspiring and empowering young and old, whether they’re seasoned readers or just starting out. It serves to remind us all of the enduring power of stories and to reacquaint us with some of the greatest characters in literature – characters who will stay with us for life and teach us some of the wisest lessons we’ll ever learn.

As Julian Barnes, in his novel Flaubert’s Parrot, said: “Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren’t.”

When did you fall in love with reading? Let us know your thoughts below, or on Facebook or Twitter.


Digital Book World 2014 and the rise of subscription eBooks

Alex Whittleton


Attracting a dazzling array of techie talent and examining some of the greatest industry innovations of our time, the annual Digital Book World (DBW) conference is one of the most exciting dates in the publishing calendar. This year’s event, which took place last month in New York City, was the biggest, buzziest and most boundary-pushing yet.

In this blog – a follow-up to our last DBW post, which discussed the merits of metadata – we’ll be looking at a new business approach that created a lot of buzz at the event. It’s called the subscription eBook model, and it’s gathering pace, fast.

The eBook empire

The rate of growth in eBook sales might be slowing slightly, but digital editions are still flying off the (cyber) shelves; at the same time, traditional print-book sales are stagnating and high-street bookshops are closing. For the moment, at least, eBooks rule.

So the question on everybody’s lips at DBW 2014 was how publishers can breathe new life into the eBook market to ensure an upward trend in buying habits. It’s a million-dollar question, but a handful of startups seem sure they have the answer in the form of subscription eBook services, which promise more downloads, more often, while keeping both customers and publishers happy.

Bang for buck

This new breed of online business was represented at DBW 2014 by Entitle, Scribd, 24symbols and – probably the most famous of the lot – Oyster, whose sites allow users to browse, download and read fiction (as much fiction as they like, in fact) for a nominal monthly fee. They are like the TV- and film-streaming site Netflix, only for books, and they seem to offer huge bang for buck.

Figureheads from all four businesses spoke on a panel at the conference, persuasively pushing the business case for the model. Not only is it good for readers, who can devour limitless titles without encountering any paywalls, but it’s also a winner for publishers, who benefit from the set-up enormously.

‘As soon as someone reads a book in Oyster, we pay the publisher’, said Matthew Shatz, head of strategy and partnerships at the New York-based company. So publishers are paid in exactly the same way as they would be in a typical retail model.

So far, so good

Crucially, confidence in subscription services are growing by the day. At DBW 2014, Oyster announced that it had managed to secure $14m in investment – no mean feat in these testing financial times.

The company already has a catalogue of 100,000 titles from more than 500 publishers, and is available on iPhone and iPads in the US. And thanks to this recent cash injection, the company now plans to increase the size of its team and release an Android app.

It all sounds good – for trade publishing, at least. But what does the eBook subscription trend mean for our business at Out of House, and for academic and education publishing in general?

Scholarly subscriptions

The truth is that the snowballing popularity of subscription eBooks will have an impact on all streams of publishing. As Tim O’Reilly, CEO of the technology-media outfit O’Reilly Media, said: ‘…there’s pretty clear evidence in many fields that it’s what consumers want.’

In some ways, academic publishers are actually ahead of the game, because of their association with the library market, which operates largely like a subscription service, taking on and lending vast quantities of content. At the moment, a huge proportion of this content is physical books, but increasingly, libraries are offering eBook lending – and that’s without the monthly fee that defines the trade-eBook subscription services.

There are also plans at most of the big academic publishers to bring journals (which are solely subscription-based) and books more closely together. What form this move will take is still largely unknown, but it goes to show that the early adopters of the subscription eBook model won’t be leaving their scholarly counterparts very far behind. In fact, they may even find themselves racing to catch up…

Would you sign up to a subscription eBook service? Let us know your thoughts below, or on Facebook or Twitter.



Digital Book World 2014 and the merits of metadata

Alex Whittleton


Last month in New York City, publishers were looking to the future. At Digital Book World (DBW) 2014 – the largest conference of its kind in the world – everything from social-media marketing and metadata to eBook subscriptions and the self-publishing boom were on the agenda. This exciting event has certainly come a long way since its first, tentative steps getting to know the iPad back in 2010…

The running theme of the two-day annual get-together in the Big Apple was the galloping pace of change in publishing – and how to handle it. With dwindling numbers of high-street bookshops, the relentless rise of the industry colossus, Amazon, and the growing popularity of eReaders and tablets, huge change is not only fully underway, but looks set to stay.

Techie themes

Discussions on a range of techie themes were led by a panel of CEOs from publishing houses including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan, who were joined by countless smaller houses and 1,500 attendees from across the industry – some of the brightest minds in digital publishing.

In a special two-blog mini-series, we’ll be focusing on the two DBW themes that are most relevant to our business here at Out of House – in this blog, we’ll be looking at the merits of metadata (which follows on nicely from our last blog on big data); next time, the spotlight will be on the subscription eBook model, and how it’s shaping the publishing landscape.

Big data’s little sister

Metadata is the information (about information) that contributes to big data. It’s big data’s little sister, and retailers and libraries need it to classify content, marketeers use it to push out the relevant information at the right time, and users – often without even knowing it – rely on the stuff to discover and select their next purchase.

As we explored last time, data is important for those who need to ensure their content stands out in the ocean of big data, in order to aid science and technology research. But as DBW confirmed – if any confirmation were needed – it’s also crucial for anybody in the business of content creation, who wants that content to be discovered, bought and enjoyed.

Metadata and you

As we all know, book browsing today is less about wandering down dusty bookshop aisles waiting to be inspired, and more about keywords, clicking, searching and viewing. It’s the stuff that works hard behind the scenes to organise browsing lists and match our searches. We use it to filter our options by subject, genre, author, format, ISBN and price point; you name it, metadata organises it.

It’s not a new phenomenon, by any means, but the digital boom has placed metadata at the forefront of book-selling. Whether we’re talking about print titles in traditional bookshops that need effective marketing, print titles sold online or digital-only content – where the entire experience, from discovery to delivery, is in the digital realm – metadata is more important than ever.

The metadata machine

Attendees at DBW 2014 couldn’t have left the conference hall in New York City any surer of the incredible power of good-quality, well-assigned metadata. It’s no longer an option for publishers, or merely the domain of digital-savvy businesses; no, storing metadata in easy-to-read, accessible formats like XML – as we do here at Out of House – has become one of the keys to longevity for anyone creating content.

What’s clear is that in an industry that’s no longer dabbling in digital, but completely awash with technology, the manipulation of this highly sophisticated data-filing system – the metadata machine – is not only desirable, but tantamount to success.

Is your business putting metadata first? Let us know your thoughts below, or on Facebook or Twitter.


Elsevier, UCL and the “big data” revolution

Alex Whittleton

Blog 3 image

Here at Out of House, in typical New Year fashion, we’ve been trying to predict the industry innovations, trends and partnerships that might define the months ahead. And after the recent opening of the UCL Big Data Institute (BDI) – a collaboration between the global science publisher Elsevier and University College London (UCL) – we have a feeling that developments in data crunching will take centre stage. Here’s the lowdown on academia’s big move towards big data.

Big data explained

The term ‘big data’ refers to the torrent of data brought about by advances in digital technology. It’s the same as old-fashioned data, only there’s a lot more of it, and from multiple, ever-changing sources. We’re talking about vast, unstructured data sets that are so complex they need to be processed by specially designed tools.

The pioneering collaboration between Elsevier and UCL announced last month will focus on cutting-edge research into the analysis, use and storage of all this information. The plan is to develop innovative technologies and analytics tools that will help scientists mine scholarly content and data more efficiently, allowing them to find the most relevant information at speed. Routine tasks, such as forecasting trends, will become easier than ever.

Everyone’s a winner

A mutually beneficial partnership, the BDI will involve a two-way exchange of insights and resources. On the one hand, UCL will receive funding for research projects from Elsevier and have access to the publishing giant’s large-scale technology. Elsevier, on the other hand, will get to work with some of the brightest minds in science, and can use the initiative to build on several of its established projects in web analytics and research.

And if all goes to plan, it isn’t just UK science that looks set to benefit from the initiative; the economy will, too. As David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, said: ‘It’s estimated that the big data market will create up to 58,000 new UK jobs by 2017. Collaborations such as the one between University College London and Elsevier are vital if we are to take full advantage of the big data revolution and stay ahead in the global race.’

Thinking big

But big data isn’t just relevant to scientists and economists – far from it. This unprecedented explosion of information and the impulse to analyse it is having an impact on everyone involved in producing scholarly content; content that, in some form or other, contributes to the vast ocean of data.

If content is to stand the test of time and be useful to researchers, it must be enriched in the right ways; and it is the application of languages such as XML in the production stages that make content simpler to curate, search and analyse. Here at Out of House, our XML workflow lends itself perfectly to publishers who see the long-term potential of their content in the way that Elsevier and UCL do – as versatile, reusable, accessible and sharable.

The recent union between two of our greatest science institutions highlights the transformative potential of information. Whatever your views on the partnership, one thing’s for sure – the BDI is sure to be a game-changer in 2014. Watch this space.

How is big data shaping your business? Let us know your thoughts below, or on Facebook or Twitter.


A learning free-for-all – the changing shape of higher education

Alex Whittleton

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They’re called ‘MOOCs’ (Massive Open Online Courses) and they’re springing up at universities across the globe. Free of charge, open to all and accessed remotely, the courses look set to change higher education forever. Out of House explores this uniquely modern educational phenomenon, and what it could mean for the future of learning.

The idea of using technology to teach students remotely isn’t a new one – the Open University began broadcasting TV lectures in 1969. But doing so without setting course-entry requirements and completely free of charge is groundbreaking.

The brainchild of Canadian educational theorist Dave Cormier and two academics from the University of Manitoba, MOOCs are fast becoming the learning experience of choice for students everywhere. After all, what could be more tempting for a would-be scholar than receiving an education anywhere on the planet without paying a penny – and at a time to suit them? We have to admit, it does sound good.

Gathering pace
MOOCs have gone from strength to strength in just a few years. The first was launched in 2008 by the pioneering Manitoba trio (mentioned above); 2,300 people signed up. In 2011, Sebastian Thrun, a professor at Stanford University, offered a MOOC in Artificial Intelligence that attracted 160,000 students (of those, 23,000 graduated). And the first MOOC from Edinburgh University catered to 100,000 students – four times the campus population.

Thrun has now set up his own MOOC university – Udacity. Another, also based at Stanford, is Coursera, which boasts a jaw-dropping 5 million students and offers 400 courses from 85 universities across all five continents. The MOOC star is clearly rising – and no wonder, when you consider today’s sky-high degree tuition fees and the vast power and reach of the Internet.

A win-win
In many respects, this educational innovation is a win-win situation. Students, of course, are happy to be receiving an educational freebie from some of the world’s foremost academics, while lecturers are delighted to be sharing their wisdom on such a grand scale. And the universities themselves seem to be benefitting from a MOOC-friendly status, which boosts their popularity and renown and, ultimately, increases enrollment numbers on traditional, fee-paying courses.

Anant Agarwal, founder of edX, a non-profit MOOC centre that distributes content from MIT, Harvard and Berkeley, said: ‘It’s the biggest innovation to happen in education in 200 years’.

A way to go
So what’s the catch? As yet, MOOC certificates are not widely recognised by employers or as credits that can go towards full degrees at universities. Sceptics insist that their quality is compromised by untested assessment methods and the lack of an effective cheat-control system. And, of course, many believe that an online seminar or lecture is an inadequate substitute for the energy and creativity of classroom learning.

What next?
But it’s early days, and the MOOC model is a work-in-progress. If we are to see the potential in the idea of virtual learning, we must first accept that it is (and will always be) an entirely different experience from a traditional education. These courses represent high-level learning at its most experimental and exciting, and they’re setting a powerful precedent in the ever-evolving world of eLearning. Only this month, tech giant Google followed suit with the launch of its Helpouts – free and paid-for one-on-one online tutorials across a spectrum of disciplines.

As L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT, recently said: ‘There is a new world unfolding, and everyone will have to adapt’.

Can an online lecture or seminar ever rival classroom learning? Let us know your thoughts below, or on Facebook or Twitter.


Pearson’s perfect partners – “edtech” and the future of learning

Alex Whittleton

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In today’s highly competitive, digitised world, the need to empower educators with great teaching tools and engage students in new ways has never been more pressing. So could a recent collaboration between Pearson, the world’s biggest education publisher, and a handful of education-technology (‘edtech’) companies be about to change e-learning for the better? Out of House takes a look.

This month, the education-publishing and assessment giant Pearson has joined forces with three cutting-edge edtech enterprises in Boston, USA. The aim of the collaboration is to come up with exciting new ways of digitising learning content to overcome some of the greatest challenges in education today.

Pearson’s new partners are the self-dubbed ‘entrepreneurship campus’ Exponential TechSpace, a communal workspace for more than 20 industry start-ups, as well as LearnLaunch, an educational programme- and event-provider, and its sister initiative LearnLaunchX, which focuses on developing young edtech businesses.

The publishing heavyweight will provide market information, product guidance and a mentoring scheme to help support its partners. The edtech innovators will also have access to Pearson’s growing community of software vendors and its web-based student information system, PowerSchool. In return, the industry leader will be working with some of the brightest minds in the edtech arena to embrace changes in education, as and when they arise.

Diana Stepner, Head of Future Technologies at Pearson, said: ‘…we believe that technology has the power to transform education, but also recognise that the industry faces some big challenges that we can’t tackle alone. That’s why we’re excited to be teaming up with Exponential and LearnLaunch…to share our deep knowledge of the education industry with start-ups on campus, while also learning from their dynamic, fast-paced cultures.’

What’s so exciting about the partnership is that it won’t just benefit the organisations involved – far from it. Any significant edtech innovations in Boston are sure to be felt across the wider education community. So where might this development take education publishers here in the UK? We’ll have to wait and see.

What are your thoughts on Pearson’s new partnerships? Let us know below, or on Facebook or Twitter.


The bigger picture



In a production role it is very easy to get caught up in deadlines and keeping things moving. Meeting deadlines is of course a large part of what our customers expect, but there is a danger of losing sight of the bigger picture of what we’re helping our customers to produce. At the heart of our ethos is the refusal to be a sausage factory; we take care to engage with each project we work on so that we are constantly learning and improving, and thus serving our customers better as time goes on.

That is why I jumped at the chance to attend the presentation of one of the books I recently project managed – not just because it was held at the House of Commons, which made me feel a little bit grand (even when standing in the queue with the hundred or so other people attending various events that afternoon), but because it was a chance to get out from behind the desk and actually see the book in context.

There was a lively debate, with talks given by the series editor and author addressing those issues in the book, and how they impacted on policy makers and society. I had a great time chatting with authors, series editors and, of course, those who would be using the book – it was exciting to see what a buzz it was creating. I came away on a high and with a much better understanding of what our customer is trying to achieve with their business.

It is extremely useful to be reminded that all those deadlines are actually books going out into the world. It enables us to remain open and respectful to authors, take pride in what we are doing and, above all, continue to serve our customers to the high standards we strive for.



Converting new content – is there a better way?

Jo Bottrill

I recently had the good fortune of spending a few days with one of the leading production houses in South East Asia. This is a firm that’s big into ebook conversion and processes literally thousands of books a week from print files to ebooks in various formats. What amazed me most about my time with the conversion team was the volume of brand new titles going through this process.

At Out of House Publishing we’re used to operating an XML first workflow which we use to output XML, HTML and various ebook formats at almost any stage in the production cycle. That so many publishers are still converting back list is baffling to me, so I thought I’d highlight four big advantages of running a combined digital and print workflow, rather than converting post-production:

1. Evolving digital products alongside print helps publishers build in greater interactivity and linking to their digital files, and most importantly gives them more time to check and validate these features. Our copy-editors help us check linked cross references to make sure we hit maximum accuracy.

2. Even the very best conversions throw up some errors, be it with hyphenation turnovers, placement of figures or scrambling of special characters. Again, running digital production with print helps publishers iron out these things early on and avoids conversion errors creeping in under the radar post-production.

3. Authors, editors, marketeers and almost anyone else can be involved in digital product development. Seeing digital products emerge iteratively helps us all identify new opportunities for enhanced features, additional content and marketing ideas. These opportunities are not typically afforded to publishers converting back list titles in large batches.

4. Time to market can be faster. Simultaneously output digital and print files and publishers can have digital product out in the marketplace weeks before printed books. And with evidence that digital products help drive print sales this can drive revenue across the piece.

Don’t get me wrong, ebook conversion continues to do wonders for our industry – helping bring backlist to life and improving revenue in a tightening market. I just think there’s a better way for handling new content.

What other advantages do you see from running digital files alongside print? Are you relying on back list conversion and find it works for you – what are the major advantages over XML first?



Open access books

Jo Bottrill

Open Access Content image

Put simply, open access publications provide content that is free for consumers to access. The concept of open access is one that is fast making headway, particularly in scholarly journal publishing, where research funders are forcing more content to be made freely available. This content is not free, of course. New models are emerging for paying for the costs of production – some involve packaging publishing costs into research budgets, others require authors to pay a one off fee to have their article or book published.

Open access is less advanced in the world of book publishing, but there are already several large publishers, and some new entrants, experimenting with open access books. Of note are Open Book Publishers and Bloomsbury Academic,  both of whom provide full-text of their books online. Readers can still pay for more user friendly formats – ePub, Kindle, Adobe ebook and even print.

Why is open access happening now and why is it such a big deal?

Consumers and institutions are demanding more free content; there has been outrage in recent years at the perceived profiteering by many of the large scholarly publishers. We all know that well crafted content isn’t free to produce, but with budgets everywhere under pressure, scrutiny of the business models of scholarly publishers will continue. Critically, research founders are now demanding that the research findings they support are available for free, at least for a limited period. The Welcome Trust has been at the forefront of this, and has even helped fund new life sciences journal publisher eLife.

Although this trend will wreak most disruption on journal publishers, it would be naive to think that the world of books is immune. As the research community continues to work up an appetite for “free”, pressure will mount for content of all kinds to be open in some form. Indeed, publishers may find that open access in some user unfriendly format like HTML drives sales of more popular formats like ePub and print. This ‘try before you buy’ approach is similar to the ‘look inside’ feature from Amazon, and enables publishers to simulate bookstore browsing online. Such an approach will do wonders for discoverability and SEO (surely a monograph delivers keywords in droves).

So, whilst many in the publishing industry see open access as a major threat, there are opportunities on the horizon. New entrants will pop up, experimenting with new funding models, new workflows for production and new methods for disseminating content.  Revenues for the incumbent big publishers may well be under threat, but there are opportunities here for publishers to embrace degrees of openness, and in so doing to open up new markets.

Out of House Publishing is well placed to support moves towards open access publishing. Our XML first workflows facilitate simultaneous multi-channel publication, and our broad editorial expertise across the full range of scholarly subjects helps us respond to the diverse needs of the academic community.




Our freelance team


The team at Out of House Publishing are very proud of the team of freelance editors and proofreaders who support our project management work. With that in mind we’re delighted that Louise Harnby has featured an interview with Out of House Managing Director Jo Bottrill on her blog The Proofreader’s Parlour.


Changing exams in England

Jo Bottrill


The UK Government recently announced plans to scrap GCSE examinations for core subjects in England and to replace them with a new English Baccalaureate Certificate. The first core subjects to switch will be English, maths and science, with pupils starting the new courses in 2015 for examination in 2017.

With the key sales period for school textbooks kicking off in March 2015, examimation boards and publishers need to act fast to deliver quality content in time for this major change. There are three key questions this poses:

1. When will the syllabus for each of the new subjects be released? Only then can publishers finalise authoring teams and develop content.

2. Will this major change accelerate the shift from printed textbooks to digital content?

3. Are new entrants poised to take advantage of the disruption and muscle in on the dominance of the big publishers?

There are undoubtedly opportunities to be seized upon with such a huge revamp to the education system in Britain, but many uncertains remain about how this will work, who will take the initiative and what the precise timeline will be.

Do you have answers to the questions above?


Next stop Frankfurt

Jo Bottrill

Out of House Managing Director Jo Bottrill will be at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, meeting with colleagues, customers, suppliers and friends. Drop us a line to arrange a meeting.
Frankfurt is a vital event in the publishing calendar. We will be tweeting (twitter.com/jobottrill) from the event.


ebook indexing

Jo Bottrill

Google indexes our virtual world. The Google bot makes sure our search results are relevant and accurate. It’s a fascinating system, one you can read more about over at the Google Guide.

In the publishing industry we pay people to index our content. It’s a practice that probably dates back to the Greek and Roman times (Gary Forsyth writes more on this for the American Society for Indexing here). Now that we’re reading more digital content than ever, publishers are starting to question the value of the index. An ereader can search the book right? Readers can use the search box to find any term they want. Well yes, but does that really offer the same value as an index crafted by hand or algorithm? Are the results relevant and accurate, in other words do they take the reader where they want to go? A simple word search of a book on the orchestra might bring up tens of occurences of the word “violin”, hundreds even. But how many point to the really pertinent stuff – the places in the content where the author describes the violoin, defines its role in the orchestra and its history? Maybe half a dozen at most.

My own view is that producing ebooks with smart indexes – taking the reader right to the point in the text where their query is discussed – enriches our content and sets the publishing world apart from other content providers.

As the Google Guide says “PageRank is Google’s system for ranking web pages. A page with a higher PageRank is deemed more important and is more likely to be listed above a page with a lower PageRank”. To make book content, particularly non-fiction, truly accessible to readers we need a similar system in every book. We have it in fact – it’s called the index. Until we have really smart algorithms and tools for intellgient search installed on our devices my bet is on the trusty indexer continuing to guide us through to the content we actually need, when we need it.

At Out of House we understand XML workflows and use them to produce a smart hpyerlinked index in the back of many of the books we produce. Contact us to find out more.



Pagination and ebooks


Jonathan Wolff writes an interesting article in the Guardian about problems with academic ebooks. He comments that ebooks fall down when a group of readers needs to be directed to a particular page, which is a common event in classrooms and tutorials. The lack of page numbers in ebooks makes this difficult and is obviously causing some problems.

The challenge with inserting page numbers is that most readers want reflowable text in their ebooks, rather than the fixed layouts enforced by strict pagination.

The beauty of the ebook is the ability to tailor the layout to the reader’s needs, e.g. re-sizing text, and losing that would be seen as a step backwards. Searchable text and embedded indexing present good ways around this page number problem, but perhaps we need to be thinking of other ways of sharing and citing text, using an anchoring system that moves us away from the printed page?


Three things you might not know about EPUB

Jo Bottrill
epub logo

The epub logo from IDPF


EPUB is the open access, device independent ebook format being widely adopted across the publishing world. Here are three things you might not already know about EPUB files:

  1. Under the bonnet an EPUB file is a  ZIP file containing mostly XHTML along with image, metadata and indexing files that draw everything together. Copy your EPUB, rename it as a a ZIP and take a look inside. You might think of an EPUB file as being a bit like an InDesign package: there’s a single index bringing all of the constituent parts together. If you’ve converted your backlist content to EPUB then remember that in your ZIP file will be all the constituent parts of your book that (rights permitting) you can store in your Digital Asset Management system for reuse elsewhere.
  2. You can open EPUB files in a standard browser. It is just HTML after all. I use EPUBReader for Firefox.
  3. EPUB files carry their own metadata. This enables retailers and aggregators to read, catalogue and index content without the need for additional data from the publisher. An EPUB is a neat little package with everything it needs to get your content out to the market.

Out of House Publishing provides an excellent backlist to EPUB conversion service. More importantly, we understand the value in adopting structured content early on in the production process. Our XML first workflows mean that EPUB, XML and other digital outputs are delivered seamlessly along with print files.

Why continue converting print to digital when you can run both together? Contact us to find out more.


Reinventing the textbook

Jo Bottrill

Today’s Apple announcement about its new e-book publishing platform and tools could well be the gamechanger we’ve long been expecting.

These tools all require digital content of course, and properly structured content has to be the key to really take advantage of the opportunities of digital publishing. Converting your backlist to structured content like XML and EPUB can really help you unleash the value sitting in your PDF and paper assets. And there are plenty of other platforms and formats out there – EPUB is still very much alive and well.

Use XML to future proof your content and you’ll be ready for the next big publishing announcement!

Contact us now to go digital!


BETT 2012 – integrated workflows required


Leaving Olympia, with armfuls of brochures, leaflets and business cards, my mind is teeming after just one day attending BETT. For 4 days Olympia is transformed into an Aladdin’s Cave of educational technology products to inspire teachers and students alike. There’s no doubt that today’s students are supported by a vast armoury of tools whose scope far outstrips that of the traditional textbook.  As I walked from stand to stand, I asked myself ‘Who is writing the content to exploit this technology to the full?’ Faced with pupils who are technically savvy and expect to use technology for learning, it seems that teachers are responding by writing much of the content themselves. The dominance previously enjoyed by educational publishers is under threat and they are responding and rising to the challenge. Gone are the days when publishers would produce a textbook followed by an accompanying eBook of the same, almost as an afterthought, and shoehorn them both into a blended learning product. Australia and Spain are trailblazing – the former driven by geographical factors, the latter by political ones through the Escuela 2.0 program, whose goal is full digitalisation of Spanish classrooms. But to be successful today in this market, publishers have to consider how to maximise the utility of the print and digital media streams from the outset and to do that production workflows need to adapt.

At Out of House we recognise that markets and products are ever changing and we are making sure that we are well placed to support education publishers through the logistical challenges they face. We are developing robust workflows that will enable publishers to bring top-quality products to market at competitive prices.


BETT 2012

Jo Bottrill

The Out of House Publishing team are looking forward to attending the BETT education technology show at London Olympia this week.
Technology provides huge opportunities for educators in the year ahead and it’s important that publishers position themselves to offer the right products. But what can publishers do to take most advantage of these exciting opportunities without breaking the bank?
Getting the most out of offshoring has to be a key factor. Our colleagues in the academic publishing market have been successfully offshoring part, or indeed all, of their production routines for years. With more complex workflows and higher stakes education publishers seem to have been more reticent. That appears to be changing now with big shifts towards sending typesetting and associated functions overseas. The advantages are plenty: reduced cost, greater capacity, and crucially access to technical expertise not always available (or affordable) here in the UK. Accessing true XML first workflows, fast backlist conversion and affordable elearning development – publishers can produce blended resources quickly and efficiently by working with the right overseas partners.
Furthermore, by building production workflows that truly bring together print and digital product streams content can be taken to market without delay. So often we see separate silos developing print and online material with little cross-over. Surely now is the time to bring everything into one unified production team, develop print, online and elearning content simultanesouly and creating a truly blended experience from the point of concept.
We’re looking forward to meeting with publishers and educators at BETT to further explore our ideas for helping this important market develop.


Five reasons to adopt XML in your content workflow

Jo Bottrill

Many publishers are adopting XML in their production workflows. Indeed, in the journals industry XML is pretty much ubiquitous. Jo Bottrill gives five good reasons for adopting XML into a production workflow.

  1. Enrich content. Use your XML coded content to turn flat text into rich web/device ready content – from simple links between elements such as tables, references and so on, to smart embedded indexes and links out to external content – XML can really bring your content to life and make it more accessible.
  2. Repurpose content. Switch on multi-channel publishing at the touch of a button – with content encoded in XML against a well established DTD, your content can quickly be output tailored for any device or format (ePub on a web browser for example).  And, with an extensive, well constructed repository of XML content, publishers can more easily meld material from different sources to produce new products and serve new niche markets.
  3. Improve content. With a greater focus on content structure and taking a consistent approach across various product streams, an XML workflow can help improve the quality of content, presenting  ideas in a more consistent pattern with sensible hierarchies.
  4. Future proof content. XML is the native format for holding content and that’s unlikely to change any time soon. With everything properly coded up in XML a publisher is in a perfect position to quickly take advantage of new ways of reading, new methods for enhancing data and new markets.
  5. Increase sales.Ultimately all of this helps publishers diversify their revenue streams. By offering high quality, rich content, tailored to a niche market and delivered via various platforms and devices the scope for improving sales per unit of content increases significantly. 

Contact us to find out more about how Out of House Publishing can help you adopt XML into your production process.


Onscreen proofreading – a freelance perspective

Louise Harnby

I started my freelance proofreading career in 2005. Having completed my training with the Publishing Training Centre I felt ready to put everything I’d learned into practice and start acquiring paying clients for my proofreading services. At that time and for the next three years only one client asked me to edit Microsoft Word files onscreen; the rest wanted the traditional ink on paper. Good job, too, because I’d no experience of or training in onscreen mark-up and, despite considering myself relatively proficient in IT terms, I was a little nervous about the idea of putting my red pen to one side. I needn’t have been – it’s something I adapted to far more easily than I thought I would, and providing I’m sensible about ensuring that my work station is comfortable I can happily offer onscreen mark-up for my clients when they want it.

In these times of belt-tightening I want to ensure that I remain a proofreader of choice for my clients regardless of the format of the proofs. And things have certainly changed since 2005 – these days, 50% of my workload involves onscreen mark-up. That’s a lot of work I’d have had to turn down if I’d not expanded my skillset to include digital mark-up.

While I still sometimes work directly on Word files, in most instances I mark up typeset PDFs. I decided to create a set of customised ‘stamps’ that I drew myself using Microsoft Publisher (though I could have easily used a number of other pieces of software to do the job); each stamp is a proofreading symbol as defined by British Standard BS 5261. I downloaded these into the full version of Adobe Acrobat (PDFXchange handles these just as well, though, according to colleagues) and now I can mark up PDFs in a way that avoids clunky overuse of comment boxes and, instead, replicates the traditional ink on paper.  Not that the comment box option is always a no-no; non-publishing clients can find our proofreading symbols to be something akin to hieroglyphics so annotating a document in this way is still a useful alternative if I’m working on PDFs.

There are a number of benefits to working this way: I don’t have spend my valuable spare time waiting in for couriers or trawling to the post office. I save money on stationery and the publishing client saves postage costs. Neither of us has to worry about lost manuscripts or transit delays caused by bad weather. And I like the fact that I retain a digital copy of the piece of work that I marked up in case there are any future queries.

It’s not every publisher’s cup of tea and I still need my trusted fine-tip pens and a sharpened pencil on hand, but a requirement for PDF proofreading mark-up is on the increase and we freelances need to ensure we stay on top of this development if we are to remain competitive.

Any proofreaders who are members or associates of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) can have a copy of my proofreading stamps for free. Contact the Out of House team here and I’ll happily send them to you.

Louise Harnby is a freelance proofreader.


Smart indexing for ebook production

Jo Bottrill

We use XML to produce books and digital content for our clients. We’re not XML geeks, we don’t edit in XML nor do we spend hours pouring over pages of code. But, our workflow is centred around XML – it drives the production process, including editing and indexing.

The emdedded indexng workflow we use enables our clients to produce a smart index in their ebooks.

We ask our indexers – and authors indexing their own books – to index in Microsoft Word, using either the inbuilt indexing tool or a third party system. For professional indexers we recomend James Lamb’s Word Embed, which ties in well with existing indexing software such as Cindex or Macrex.

The digitally indexed files are combined with the copy-edited content, everything merging into one XML repository complete with active links between an item in the index and the relevant locations in the content. For the print product the page numbers are dynamic so they can be updated if the text is reflowed. For electronic products the page numbers can be substituted for hyperlinks back to the relevant locations in the text.

Not only does this linking provide rich XML which publishers can use to help their readers mine content – it also helps the production process. Gone are (some) of the barriers to repagination part way through a project. Repurposing content for a new edition or mashing content from various sources? Take the index tags with you and retain a valid index.

Contact us if you’d like to know more about how embedded indexing can be a part of your digital publishing strategy.



Walls around content

Jo Bottrill

So university presses have been told they need to toughen up protection of their intellectual property (RT @aabibliographer: univ presses warned to guard copyright http://t.co/xqx2ILz (@chronicle)(sub reqd)).

It’s the phrase “sub reqd” in the twitter citation above that jars with the contents of the tweet. How apt that this article is behind a pay wall. I don’t have a subscription to The Chronicle of Higher Education, and I’m not going to pay just to read that news article.

Joseph’s Esposito’s freely available presentation slides at http://ow.ly/5gQFd and The Economist’s freely available article on the state of pricing academic content (http://ow.ly/5gjGg) both give valuable background, presenting useful ideas about the evolving models for academic publishers .

The Chronicle Article may well go on to say that university presses need to be cautious about how they protect their content – being conscious of the balance between protecting revenues and building niche communities to whom they can sell premium services. I hope it says something along those lines rather than “build higher walls, use more digital rights management (DRM) and take out more law suits”.

All academic publishers are in the limelight like never before, with the communities they sell to increasingly questioning the value of the traditional publishing model. Opening up content – inviting people to use it, develop it and enhance it – has to be part of the plan for moving forward. Sure we need to protect revenue and we need to protect quality, both in the way content is validated and in how it is produced (that is edited, polished and presented). But we need to balance that with honest and meaningful engagement with consumers and with the evolving way in which people want to consume and interact with content. Evolve or die.


Mapping out the future

Jo Bottrill

Last week our small perfectly formed team assembled for a day of goal mapping. This was an opportunity to escape from the day-to-day, to focus on ourselves and to work out where we are going and what’s important to us.
I’ve been through this process before and found it a remarkably refreshing experience. As our trainer Jenny Stewart (www.onethought.co.uk) said, most of us spend more time planning a two week holiday than we do the overall direction and priorities for our lives. Uncovering what’s important to us and what makes us tick is a powerful thing – there’s so much going on in the unconcious that we’re not usually tuned in to. Taking control, acting positively and with purpose can help us achieve so much more.
Our day was an opportunity to be a bit selfish, to really focus on the self and what we’re about as individuals. I believe that we’ll benefit as an organisation – we need focus, not just on our team goals and objectives, but on our own individual priorities – desires for our own professional achievements, for our the wellbeing of our families and for everything else we do. If we all have that we’ll be more positive, more proactive and confident that every step we take is a step in the right direction.
Our next move will be to repeat the process as a team. We’ll be foncussed on our shared objectives – aligning our goals to real budgets, to real clients and to real work. Watch this space!


XML via Word styles

Jo Bottrill

Tomorrow I shall be hosting a seminar for some colleagues to look at structuring content for copy-editing using Microsoft Word styles. I ran a similar session last year and it was well received. I aim to break down some of the mystery about copy-editing in Word, show some examples onscreen and give my colleagues some confidence to get on and have a play in Word.

We use templates and styles in Word whenever we can. This improves the consistency and structural integrity of the content we process, and it makes our copy-editing and typesetting processes more efficient (copy-editors aren’t labouring away keying in codes and typesetters aren’t spending hours manually mapping those to their stylesheets). We can format particular types of content to make them easier to process (setting briefing notes in a different colour for example). This all helps shift focus to the structural integrity of the content entrusted to us rather than on the minutiae of formatting (the distinction between a the Word style applied to some text and the details of its format bold, italic, font etc. is important to understand). 

Getting the hierarchy right is particularly important when you start to think about XML (as most publishers are now doing). Mapping a template and suite of styles to the DTD (document type definition the XML rules against which the structure of your content is tested) for your content gives a straightforward way of validating against the DTD without having to train editors in the intricacies of XML mark-up.

What tips do you have for marking up onscreen content for typesetting?


ebook “reprints”

Jo Bottrill

So you can’t reprint an ebook right? Wrong. The digital formats give us a fantastic opportunity to constantly update content, offering new improved versions (many see this as analogous with versioning in the software industry). But with this new opportunity come inevitable challenges.
No doubt the content management system allows for many, many updates. Amazon can cope with it, just about. But what about the “workflow”? That carefully crafted set of in-house procedures which just about enables your team to produce 2, 20 or 2000 new titles each year without total meltdown. Somewhere in that group there’s likely to be a reprints team, handling updates and corrections to ensure the next printing is better than the last.
But can these guys cope with an entire backlist in a constant state of update?
To make the most of these new possibilities we need to turn our existing practices on their head and set some new rules.
Question: what are you doing with your workflow to allow for ebook updating?


Local libraries boost niche publishing

Jo Bottrill

UK government cuts are leading to a big shake-up in library provision around the country. Libraries are a vital public service for many in our society. But let’s be realistic – plenty of us haven’t set foot in a library for years.

How can we make libraries more relevant to the communities they serve?

This question has been asked for decades, and, yes, many public libraries have moved with the times. The Birmingham library service, for example, loans e-audiobooks via their website (http://bit.ly/g6BxC2).

I’ll be the first to join those protesting over local library cuts, but maybe there is an opporunity here. For those small local libraries that do survive it will be through the involvement of local groups. Can more community focused services better promote local writers and other cultural endeavours?

Perhaps these local libraries can become a hub for fledgling local and niche publishers and self publishing ventures.

Question: Are there other potential benefits from the public library shake-up?