Transforming Institutional Publishing

The IDPF co-sponsored a one-day conference in Brussels on June 29 with the Interinstitutional Digital Publishing Committee of the EU, an important Europe-wide activity led by a recent IDPF member, the EU Publications Office. It was an invitation-only event designed to provide an opportunity for institutional publishers to hear about important technologies and trends, learn about best practices and success stories, and share experiences. It attracted participants from a wide range of institutions throughout the EU, and even beyond Europe to organizations like WIPO and the World Bank.

Keynote by Markus Gylling of the IDPF

After opening remarks by Harolds Celms, Director of the Official Journals and Publications Production Directorate of the EU and one of the key sponsors of the event, IDPF’s CTO, Markus Gylling, gave an excellent keynote. He traced the evolution of digital publishing through three phases:

  • The Print Replica Phase, dominated by Postscript in the 1980s and PDF in the 1990s;
  • The Device Adaptation Phase, in which reflow was introduced, dominated by EPUB 2 in the 2000s and EPUB 3 beginning in 2010;
  • The Ultimate Adaptation Phase, which we are just entering, in which the user becomes an active participant.

Mr. Gylling stressed that today, adaptivity and user centrism are essential to the work of the IDPF, Readium, and others, as are alignment with the Open Web Platform and a commitment to open standards and the creation of an open platform in general, leading toward the vision of EPUB+WEB which IDPF and the W3C are jointly engaged in.

Mr. Gylling’s keynote was followed by three panels, each with three speakers and a moderator who introduced and guided the discussion.

Panel 1, “Workflows and tools for the future”

Moderated by Patricia Ruggiu, Head of Publications at the EU Publications Office

  • Edyta Posel from the EU Publications Office described their research into tools and technologies that can address the huge variation of needs represented by the diverse publications they produce and disseminate. Their conclusions: XML is at the core; good graphic design is a big priority for them; they require extremely agile workflows that enable content to change during production; they will focus on implementing widely used tools, technologies, and XML models; and they need to publish in design-intensive print as well as online, as EPUBs, and in apps—in all 23 languages of the EU!
  • Melanie Lauckner from the World Health Organization described the sophisticated XML-first workflow by which virtually all of their publications are produced. They began with their journal, which required XML for PubMed Central. Although like the EU Publications Office they consider Word essential for authoring and InDesign essential for print layout, they use technologies that enable them to use XML in both contexts. They now produce the journal as well as reports and books in an XML workflow that generates PDF, HTML, DAISY, and two forms of EPUB for virtually all publications, many of which have abstracts or other content in all five UN languages.
  • Bill Kasdorf from Apex and the IDPF Board talked about The Grand Convergence: how increasingly interdependent publishing standards are creating an interoperable publishing ecosystem. The need for interoperability leads to cross-sector, global collaboration as standards evolve. This is resulting in an ever more interoperable publishing ecosystem based on the Open Web Platform, the clearest vision of which is EPUB+WEB: one file for both online and offline use, in which the same content can exist in two different “states”: packaged for offline and archival use, and unpackaged for online use.

Panel 2: “Discoverability—A big challenge for institutional publishers”

Moderated by Markus Gylling, CTO of IDPF and DAISY

  • Carlos Rossel, Publisher of the World Bank, focused on Rescuing knowledge trapped in publications no one can find. He described the dramatic improvement in usage of their publications when the World Bank developed their Open Access policy in April 2012. Although they provide additional features and functionality in subscription products, all of their content is now freely available on the Web and offered in all possible platforms. A recent survey demonstrated that 87% of those surveyed are more likely to use World Bank publications now, and 75% have shared World Bank publications with others—a major victory aligned with their mission to disseminate knowledge.
  • Nienke van Schaverbeke, from Europeana and The European Library, described how Europeana is collecting and harmonizing metadata from hundreds of cultural institutions throughout the EU. They now have 32,000,000 metadata records for EU cultural resources, 48% of which are freely available. She discussed how they are moving from their previous portal model to a platform strategy. This enables them to create discipline- or sector-specific platforms with functionality optimized for certain interest groups like medicine or fashion, to name two that they are developing.
  • François Barnaud, Head of Marketing for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), described how the OECD publishes not only reports and studies, but also the data from which those publications are derived. They have developed sophisticated tools that enable users—ranging from economics researchers to students working on school reports—to access, query, visualize, and analyze economic data. Their focus has shifted from publishing books to publishing content: one publication can contain 300 discrete objects that can be made available individually or in combination. They currently publish some 850 datasets. This has resulted in an increase in use of their books by 220% over 5 years; chapters by 356%; tables by 667%; and working papers by 248%.

Panel 3: “How does the digital revolution enable publications to be more accessible to all end-users?”

Moderator: Harolds Celms, Director of the Official Journals and Publications Directorate, EU Publications Office

  • Luc Schwartz of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency and Hedda Brasoveanu of the EU Publications Office described the importance of infographics for conveying complex information clearly—and the challenges in making those infographics accessible to print-disabled users. Mr. Schwartz stressed that the issue of accessibility is moving from a medical-centric approach to a human-rights centric approach. This is creating an emphasis on inclusion for the 80–100 million people in the EU who have some form of functional impairment. Ms. Brasoveanu described the process by which complex, highly visual infographics from EU publications are made accessible to screen readers with text and audio alternatives, good structure, and other features.
  • Cristina Mussinelli from the Associazione Italiana Editori in Milan, and an IDPF Board member, described the creation of the “LIA Foundation” (LIA stands for Libri Italiani Accessibili, or “Italian Accessible Books”). Previously, accessible versions were created as one-offs through a very laborious and expensive process. They started working with publishers in 2013 to focus on creating accessible EPUBs as an inherent part of the production process. Instead of having a special version of a book, the person needing an accessible book now gets the same digital ebook that everybody else gets. They have published 10,000 titles so far and are currently adding 400 new titles every month, which are not only accessible EPUBs but which have ONIX accessibility metadata as well.
  • Markus Gylling, CTO of IDPF and DAISY, devoted the closing talk to “Inclusive Publishing: DAISY, IDPF, and the W3C.” He defined “inclusive publishing” as characterized by one set of publishing standards and laws, one set of publishing technologies, and the mainstream distribution of all publications to all people, whether needing assistive technology or not. He described how, in 2010-11, DAISY moved from a specialized format to a mainstream format for accessible content: EPUB. EPUB now offers enhanced text-to-speech functionality, multiple renditions that can synchronize visual, audio, and Braille presentations, and other features that enable assistive technologies to make use of standard EPUBs. DAISY has donated engineering expertise to Readium to ensure that the open-source resources developed by Readium are accessible.

This was a landmark, and highly successful, event for the IDPF. It was important not just for the participants in Brussels, but also in demonstrating the IDPF’s commitment to global scope, application to all types of publications (not just books!), and accessibility for all.

This article was originally published on EPUBZONE on July 7th.

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