In their annual digital publishing survey Data Conversional Laboratory, Inc. and Bowker report that 56% of publishers cite quality of digital conversion as a major concern. Here, Out of House MD Jo Bottrill proposes digital first workflow as the answer.

The digital publishing survey from Data Conversion Laboratory, Inc. and Bowker is now in its third year. Now we can start to identify trends in the data. With increasing numbers of publishers raising concerns over the quality of conversions, it’s worth taking a moment to consider how digital books get out to market.

In my role working across academic and education content, I often have the opportunity to spend time with suppliers to the trade, including composition and conversion houses offshore. On the face of it, this burgeoning industry is serving publishers well, with fast and cheap conversion from PDF files for print to myriad digital formats.

What surprises me most is the route to digital that many publishers – particularly those in the trade – are taking. All too often we see conversion houses taking print PDF output for thousands of frontlist titles from publishers and turning them into ebooks. Their automation and efficiency is impressive and these services form the backbone for so much of the digital publishing output that is helping publishers embrace new ways of reading content.

But is there a better way? I have long thought so. Turn to the academic publishers producing books and journals in their tens of thousands and it is much more common to see XML-first workflows, where content is converted to a true structured digital form early in production. Capturing data in this native format early in production has benefits to the production process itself, but it also helps publishers output content for print and all the ebook channels simultaneously and without the need for conversion. Extracting content from InDesign, from a PDF or – worse – from the printed book itself always risks the introduction of errors. Capture data in XML at the start and, with the right supplier, publishers can proof on multiple platforms and output to every conceivable format at the flick of a switch.

At Out of House, we have long understood the benefits of a true digital workflow. Contact us today to find out how XML can help transform your publishing process.