OOH Publishing Blog

HTML5: the language of 21st-century publishing

Author:
Alex Whittleton

6736940485_f949fdc8bd_z

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 sophisticated new features 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.

Share

London Book Fair 2014 – The Lowdown

Author:
Alex Whittleton

logo_tues_weds_thurs_505

For three days every spring, Earls Court Exhibition Centre in southwest London becomes a pilgrimage site for publishers, booksellers, literary agents, librarians and countless other industry experts from across Europe and beyond. The annual London Book Fair – the second-largest book-publishing trade fair in the world after Frankfurt – is a mesmerising modern-day marketplace that has to be seen to be believed. And with LBF 2014 kicking off tomorrow, now’s your chance to grab a ticket and head on down.

Over the last few decades, this one-time trade show for librarians has grown into a media mecca on a truly global scale. The event attracts more than 25,000 people from at least 100 countries; it features 1,700 stand-holders and almost 600 individual meeting places, where back-to-back discussions take place almost seamlessly over the three-day period.

What’s what

The event’s ‘market focus’ initiative throws the spotlight on a particular country or region of note; on its publishing industry, trade links and potential for commercial and cultural partnerships. At LBF 2014, this role is fulfilled by Korea, which boasts one of the top 10 publishing markets on the planet and is considered to be a rising star on the literary scene.

Other highlights include a digital-publishing conference and 300-plus seminars, talks and micro-events that make up the event’s educational programme. Every year, there’s a reliably impressive line-up of speakers, from established and aspiring authors to experienced agents and booksellers to trailblazing technologists. The choice of where to go and what to see is dizzying.

And so is the atmosphere. In fact, the exciting event – at times – approaches sensual overload. In the vast exhibition space, the overhead lights are bright, the lively chatter is incessant and, at every turn, brash, bright logos scream out brand after bookish brand. For anyone with a stake in the publishing industry, the obligatory wander from stand to stand can be an almost intoxicating experience.

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 or education 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.

 

Share

Digital Book World 2014 and The Merits of Metadata

Author:
Alex Whittleton

keyword

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.

Share

Elsevier, UCL and the Big Data Revolution

Author:
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.

Share

Converting new content – is there a better way?

Author:
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?

 

Share

ebook indexing

Author:
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.

 

Share

Three things you might not know about EPUB

Author:
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.

Share

Reinventing the textbook

Author:
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!

Share

Five reasons to adopt XML in your content workflow

Author:
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.

Share

Smart indexing for ebook production

Author:
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.

 

Share