Educational ePublishing: 7 Formats To Help You Go From Print To Digital
MAStock/Shutterstock.com

Going From Print To Digital: 7 Options To Choose From

When moving content to digital, if you decide to deliver your courses in a particular format, check whether you will be able to utilize them in the coming years and, even more importantly, how they will be received by the market. We are considering the needs here of two very different stakeholders:

To Be, Or Not To Be? The New Challenges Of Educational ePublishing
This eBook will provide you with all the essentials to move from printed materials to digital.
  • Publishers want productivity and cost effectiveness at scale, at the same time aiming to provide products that will help them to win the market.
  • Students and teachers want a course providing a quick and effective way of learning, and they also expect learning to be engaging and intriguing.

If you want to find a balance between these needs, it is good to know the options to choose from and what publishing processes are behind them.

1. PDF

For starters, there is a PDF file of a printed version. In practice, all currently printed textbooks already exist in the PDF format. The only processing needed might be to adjust the image resolution to diminish the file size of the resulted PDF. This solution is simple, cost effective and compatible with almost every delivery system, but is by far inferior to what ‘digital natives’ expect.

2. Interactive PDF

The next step in digitalization. A traditional PDF might be enriched with multimedia resources like sound and video, hyperlinks or navigation buttons. Such PDF enrichment can be done at relatively low cost and may enhance the effectiveness of a simple PDF version of a course. However, you need to keep in mind that such format will not allow you to track students’ performance. Also, its layout is not suitable for the small screens of mobile devices.

3. PDF Converted To Flash

An original PDF textbook can be converted to the Adobe Flash format. After this conversion, some additional functions can be added using the Adobe Flash tools: improved navigation, embedded multimedia resources, and supplementary interactivities. The process of conversion is automatic; however, the complex source file format makes it extremely difficult for editors to incorporate any changes or improvements (all, even the smallest corrections, must be made by software developers only). There is still no way to track students’ performance and, of course, delivering a course in Flash limits its use to a desktop. Finally, the technology is limited by the lifecycle of Flash, which is coming to an end.

4. Static Background With Hotspots

An original PDF textbook can be converted to the Adobe Flash format. After this conversion, some additional functions can be added using the Adobe Flash tools: improved navigation, embedded multimedia resources, and supplementary interactivities. The process of conversion is automatic; however, the complex source file format makes it extremely difficult for editors to incorporate any changes or improvements (all, even the smallest corrections, must be made by software developers only). There is still no way to track students’ performance and, of course, delivering a course in Flash limits its use to a desktop. Finally, the technology is limited by the lifecycle of Flash, which is coming to an end.

5. ePub

This is a popular and freely available format that can be effectively displayed on mobile devices, eBook readers and desktops. It allows for the addition of some multimedia resources and limited interactivities. There are many tools that help to prepare an ePub publication; unfortunately,  an automatic conversion of a print-oriented textbook  is usually unavailable, especially for complex layouts. Transformation of an existing textbook into a correct ePub format requires extensive manual work. The most important benefit of this format is that it is standardized and therefore allows delivery through many distribution channels. ePub is a popular format, but not fully suitable for LMS-oriented platforms, as it does not allow for performance tracking.

6. HTML5

A textbook can be converted directly to the mobile-friendly HTML5 format. It is a standardized and popular format that provides almost endless possibilities of adding various resources and interactivities. Broad use of eContent is ensured by HTML5 cross-platform compatibility. But bear in mind that, although there are many tools to automatically convert a PDF file to HTML5, complicated and expensive work by web and software developers is needed to prepare the final version. This also results in complications with corrections or updates. And again, there is no standardized way to track students’ performance.

7. XML Version With A Player

A significant step towards interactivity is the conversion of a textbook to an XML file format that may be rendered to the user by a dedicated Player. Such a Player dynamically creates the HTML5 format based on the XML source file of a publication. This format allows a course to deliver data on student’s performance (e.g. number of errors, time spent with a lesson, or a course bounce rate). Also, there are many options to add various resources and interactivities.

Standardized XML source file format eases maintenance of the course and enhances cross-platform compatibility (depending on the Player). This is a future-proofed approach as the publication compatibility with future devices, internet browsers, and operating systems is dependent only on the Player and not the content itself (one Player for all your publications). But on the minus side, there arises a dependence on a third-party controlled Player. Moreover, a course development process may be complicated and expensive if no proper authoring tool to create XML is available. A natural step after the decision to engage in this format is to find an appropriate authoring tool with, preferably, an open-source player. As the selection of a proper tool will have a great, long-term influence on a publisher’s offer, it’s good to spend some time comparing the authoring tools’ pros and cons.

Summary

So what format to choose? The choice of format depends on the planned usage scenario, reach, and ‘lifespan’ of your digital publications. Basic formats may be a good choice when there the need is a quick delivery of a short-term solution. If you expect your digital offer to be future-proof, it’s better to choose a future-proof format. A simple and cost-effective production process may result in complicated and expensive maintenance. Also, don’t forget your users’ expectations – most of them are ‘digital natives’ that take the interactivity for granted. If your courses are really aiming to mark their presence on the market, they should meet the expectations of this demanding group.

To learn more about going from print to digital, download the eBook To Be, Or Not To Be? The New Challenges Of Educational ePublishing.

Related articles:

1. The Future Of Educational Publishers

2. Flipped Classrooms: Why And How To Flip Education?

3. Adaptive Learning In Education: The Next Gen Of Educational eContent

4. How To Deal Effectively With The Growing Presence Of BYOD In Education

Close