By Edward Nawotka
AUSTIN: “As a human being who reads, we are moving into a world where people don’t make a distinction between how they read,” says Bob Carlton, vice president of marketing for LibreDigital, an Austin, Texas tech company that provides digitization solutions for publishers. “Information is all complex content with images—and it must be reusable across all formats and categories, from print to an e-reader to an iPhone. As we get into the “early majority” consumers, that is, past innovators and early adopters, people want their content to travel across different devices—and our job is to make sure the reader has an experience that goes across all categories and the products they’ve invested in. People want there to be on-page fidelity with what the publisher created and designed. We provide that.”
When it started ten years ago, the firm was focused on converting books into digital formats. But four years ago, as publishers became more tech savvy, the firm switched its focus to prioritizing the “output” side and how the resulting digital books, magazines and newspapers are rendered on various systems.
“Digital is now being used primarily as a marketing tool to drive digital and print sales. And if you’re the New York Times or Esquire or Pearson, the page layout is the brand. What it will look like and display like is paramount.”
At present, the company is heavily focused on the launch of US retailing giant Barnes & Noble’s new “Nook” e-reader, for which LibreDigital is providing rendering services for the digital magazines and newspapers that will be ported to the device (Adobe is providing B&N with the digitization solution for books). The company’s role in the launch was so vital, that it was one of only a handful of companies invited to participate in last week’s launch for the Nook in New York.
“Our promise is that the magazines and newspapers that appear on the Nook will look better than on the Kindle,” says Carlton. “They will look very similar to the way the publisher designed them.” That said, Carlton is quick to stress that his company is device agnostic and is also working with Sony, iRex, the new Entourage dual screen reader, as well as various reading systems, such as ScrollMotion.
The decision to offer services to multiple platforms and devices is by design. “Publishers want to have content that works above the level of the device,” says Carlton, “There has been lots and lots of attention paid to the readers, to ePub on the books side and NITF (News Industry Text Format) on the newspaper side, but neither of these optimize for a reader. Drop an ePub file into Stanza, for example, and it won’t register chapter endings or the page count in the same way the publisher designed the book. That’s not optimal for either a publisher or a reader. We provide a solution that both presents the content well and is scalable.”
Still, with Gartner Research tracking 17 e-reading devices in development to enter the market in the next year alone, the challenge of working across platforms is daunting. Though much of LibreDigital’s digitization process is automated, there remains no one-size-fits-all solution and many of the company’s 85 employees still devote a majority of their time to engineering questions and content optimization.
“We think that we’re 18 to 36 months away from having a solution where a legacy publisher or a small publisher will be able to come to us and put something out there for the Nook or for a Sony Reader, for an East Coast edition and a West Coast edition of a newspaper, and let readers drill down into a section or article in such as way that it’s a replica of the original. Technologically, that is very complicated. The way that coupling works from a technical standpoint it’s very complex. The idea is, ultimately, that if I can publish my content once, I can publish it anywhere on any device.”
VISIT: The LibreDigital Web site
SHOP: For a Nook