Publishers today are scrambling to keep profits up, costs down, and users happy. But keeping a secure foothold in the information industry isn’t easy, especially with the increased demands of changing technology and multichannel delivery.
“Some publishers are very good at managing technology and some are not,” says Barry Bealer, CEO of Really Strategies, Inc. That’s one of the reasons the company rolled out its latest product called RSuite Cloud, a cloud-based, push-button publishing system for print and digital products. It’s designed to automate the publishing process, offering output to all major publishing formats in 70 languages without changing a publisher’s existing production systems. “This is for the publisher, whether big or small, that doesn’t have a large in-house staff,” says Bealer. “You don’t have to manage the service; it’s all in the cloud.”
During Really Strategies’ 10-year history, the company has continued to meet the changing needs of its growing list of clients, including IEEE, Oxford University Press, The McGraw-Hill Cos., and The New York Times. And during that decade, the company also expanded its global reach from its headquarters in Audubon, Pa., to offices and development partners worldwide, from Australia to China and points in between.
In the past year, Bealer says Really Strategies has fine-tuned its mission, “which is really about accelerating publishers’ revenue and profit growth by providing better content management.” The bottom line: “If you can’t get your products out, you can’t generate revenue or profits,” he says. “But if you have the right technology in place, you can create new derivative products literally on the fly.”
RSuite Cloud was created with better content management in mind. It joins the company’s two other solutions: RSuite CMS, a content management system designed specifically for publishers, and DocZone, an end-to-end SaaS XML content management system for technical publishers.
For Dan Dube, senior vice president of cloud solutions at Really Strategies, RSuite Cloud is nothing short of revolutionary. “What we’re talking about here is revolutionary,” he says. “Our differentiator is the automated production of a multilingual tool that will print an ebook completely online.” Although there is some standardization in the process of preparing content in RSuite Cloud, publishers can literally push a button to generate an ebook in 70 different languages within seconds or minutes, he says.
Two big factors are influencing publishers today, says Dube: Ebooks are exploding, and there’s pressure to keep costs down. The challenge for publishers is how they are going to continue to make money while reducing costs. In self-defense, some publishers moved their in-house composition systems offshore with mixed results. Dube says that while some publishers reported up to 70% cost savings, the proofs take more time to deliver, and there are inconsistencies in quality, depending on the composition vendor. So the results weren’t always as dramatic as some publishers had hoped they would be.
“Where speed and quality are critical for success and offshore composition has proven not to be the right fit, automated composition gives you some very good results,” says Dube. “With RSuite Cloud, you can get a PDF proof in seconds or a big book in a day or two.” And because the computer is following a predetermined set of rules, the deliverables have a predictable look and feel, with quality assurance.
Rowman & Littlefield and Perseus Books were the first two clients to put RSuite Cloud through its paces. Dube says that last year, Rowman & Littlefield, which publishes humanities books, wanted a more efficient production workflow to meet the demands of its new iPad customers. Its manual book-composition process had been done in India up to then, and it usually took up to 2 weeks for the first of the PDFs to be returned, followed by rounds of corrections, as needed.
Dube says that Rowman & Littlefield went live with RSuite Cloud in July 2010, and it didn’t take long to see results. “We saw the time to produce PDF proofs drop from a week to just a few minutes,” says Stephen Driver, vice president of production services at Rowman & Littlefield. He cites one example of a 1,000-page book that had an estimated 6-week copy editing and proofing cycle. Using RSuite Cloud, the book was done on such an abridged production cycle that it was published and actually generated revenue by the end of 2010, well ahead of its scheduled 2011 delivery. “But the thing they really liked the best was the front end of the process,” says Dube. “Nobody had to change the way they were currently working.”
On the front end, RSuite Cloud seamlessly ingests Word documents and automatically converts them to XML behind the scenes. Editors/publishers won’t see any intricate coding; they use browser-based edit functions similar to Word’s track changes. The RSuite Cloud dashboard highlights each stage of the automated editorial and production workflow tasks. When editors “check out” a document, an icon shows that the file is locked so no one else can work on it until the document is checked back into the queue.
Almost every book publisher that Dube talked to in the last year follows an almost identical editorial production process. Since RSuite Cloud converts Word documents into XML at the start of the publishing process, it makes it much easier to repurpose content down the road.
Publishers can take advantage of the full platform without having to buy it, says Dube, so publishers reap immediate savings. Clients have their own unique address with a private entrance to the system for security, he says. The beauty of working with a browser-based system is in the ability to get the most updated data at any time. When graphics are added to a document, the links are managed dynamically. “If a graphic designer updates that chart or image on page 14, the most updated version of that chart or image is automatically pulled into the document when it’s time to print,” says Dube. Publishers can also choose any number of templates. Since it’s all in XML, the content can be reformatted from journal to ebook or from language to language with push-button ease.
The translation memory is built in at the sentence level, says Dube, whether it’s German, French, or Arabic. The fully enabled professional translation saves data and builds its own internal memory, learning from each translation. Users will need some training to take advantage of all of RSuite Cloud’s functionality, but this is all part of the service, says Dube. The system is also updated every week, backups are made, and if there’s a problem for any client, the system is fixed for all.
In summer 2010, Really Strategies also introduced a radical business model for RSuite Cloud. With the Pay Per Page model, says Bealer, Really Strategies gives users full use of the system at no charge with its standard workflows and style sheets. Publishers are free to generate any number of proofs with a draft watermark during the production process. Publishers will only be charged for the final pages generated from the system and only on a per-page basis. The price structure varies from $1 to $3 per page, says Dube; EPUB and HTML formats are billed at $100 per book.
“Content management is no longer about technology,” says Bealer. “We’ve come a long way.” With this system, there are no major changes for the publishers or the editorial production process. Once the system is implemented, users can pick up wherever they left off without any learning curve involved.
Bealer sees RSuite Cloud delivering on its company mission in helping publishers respond to a changing information environment. “Publishers are now in a position to increase their revenue and their profits because they can manage their content better,” he says.