Aptara: A leader in cross-media publishing

Dev Ganesan, president and CEO of Aptara, a digital e-book conversion and digital publishing company headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, reveals the change occurring in the digital publishing space

22 Sep 2010 | By Sachin Shardul

Aptara (formerly Techbooks) Aptara is a leader in content technology (XML, HTML and SGML). The group specialises in content outsourcing, BPO, composition, and data conversion. Its customers are mainly publishers, information aggregators, professional societies, universities and corporations.

In India, Aptara has operations in New Delhi, Pune, Dehradun and Kerala.

Dev Ganesan (DG) unravels the changes in the digital publishing space in an eMail interview with Sachin Shardul.


PWI: Why is publishing no longer the exclusive turf of traditional publishing houses?
DG: For many corporations, publishing has evolved into a necessary discipline that is being mastered in-house. Today, nearly every organisation is a publisher, whether they sell books, tractors, space shuttles, medical devices, smart phones, or pharmaceuticals. This is equally true for the service industries. Universities, consulting firms, healthcare providers, real estate agencies, translation shops—just about anyone who does anything is a publisher, and now needs to be adept at digital publishing too.

PWI: Are you seeing the benefits?
We’re seeing tremendous benefits being realised across corporations as they replace old school publishing approaches. Large volumes of business critical content are being created faster, more efficiently and less expensively than ever before. And, it’s being delivered—often dynamically—to devices of all types and in formats that provide the robust experiences that today’s digitally-native users expect.

PWI: Does the future belong to e-books for business-to-business applications?
DG: Corporate enterprises are recognising the e-book medium for what it is—an ultra convenient, flexible, device-agnostic format for providing information to customers, prospects, employees, partners and shareholders. Using an XML-based workflow, e-books can be created and personalised on-demand and saved in whatever format the reader desires.

PWI: What are the typical applications?
DG: This means that content-intensive organisations can provide the right information, to the right people, at the right time, in the right format and language—and on the right device, be it an iPhone, Kindle, PC, Mac, Blackberry, Android or Nokia—without making readers jump through a series of technological hoops to get to the content they desire.

PWI: What are the examples of e-book format?
DG: From annual reports, policies and procedures, training materials, marketing collateral, technical documentation, sales literature, analysts’ reports, newsletters, white papers, and presentations—basically any content needed to run a business can be presented in e-book format, and offers readers so much more than simply the digital equivalent of the original content.

PWI: Can e-books can contain a combination of text, images, audio, 3D graphics, and video?
DG: yes, they’re searchable, indexable, findable, embeddable, and printable. And, they include handy features like last page memory (modern day bookmarks), cross-references (hyperlinks to internal and external content), and the ability for the reader to annotate (take notes).

PWI: What can traditional publishers learn from this paradigm shift?

DG: For years, corporate enterprises have looked for ways to trim expenses and become more efficient. As a result, they sought new and improved ways of managing, creating, and publishing content. Those who were most successful moved to a component-based XML authoring strategy that separates content from its formatting information, allowing the content components to be re-purposed on-demand to create new value streams.

PWI: What is the advantage of XML?
DG: Because XML is platform-, browser-, and device-agnostic, it allows corporations to quickly and easily migrate to e-books, selecting the right content and formatting it for the right device type, oftentimes on the fly.

PWI: Why is XML "future-proofs" content and particularly important?
DG: It important because of the pace at which e-reading devices are coming to the market. It’s not yet clear to which devices consumers will gravitate, so being agile and quick to port your content to any new device type is a critical factor for success. With XML at the core, establishing a workflow for the simultaneous delivery of content through multiple channels (print, online and multiple mobile devices) is a simple process.

PWI: How can traditional publishers remain profitable?
DG: In order to remain relevant and profitable, traditional publishers must meet—and hopefully exceed—their customer’s rapidly changing expectations and position themselves to access new markets fast. Publishers who lack flexible XML-based workflows need to quickly establish a plan for creating and managing digital content if they want to deliver it to their changing reader base—on their preferred devices, whenever and wherever they want it.

PWI: Does tapping the emerging e-book markets means reviewing the established approaches and definitions that traditional publishers have relied on for decades? Can we change the way we think about publishing?
DG: Today, everyone is a publisher and the real digital content markets are just now unfolding, with e-books at the forefront. Will the publisher and printer be there to profit from the opportunities?