Publishing in the digital environment brings a unique set of characteristics to the publishing process, as to create the final formatted version of the title suitable for various display devices requires careful structuring of content, and requires less of the intuitive characteristics associated with traditional publishing, and needs a more standardised approach, before the creative design elements can come to play. As has been discussed, the editorial and even the authoring process takes on a more technical role, and as such, the workflow process changes from:

The traditional publishing workflow with outsourced conversion for digital formats.
The traditional publishing workflow with outsourced conversion for digital formats.

To a workflow moving closer along the lines of this:

An XML - In publishing system
Publishing to multiple formats from a single source

An efficient workflow system in the digital environment should function to allow for constant revision. For print publications, the proofing cost structure has always limited editorial corrections to the beginnings phase. But in a system where the content and styling work as separate entities, non-structural and -functional corrections can be made up until and even after the point of publication.

Working with the revision cycle

One method to address this type of workflow is using software, here we’ll give a brief run-down of what type of software can be used to address this form of functionality.

Enterprise level operating environments

Adobe InDesign and InCopy

This is a platform designed to fit into the newspaper and magazine industries, where the short lead-times often lead to authoring and editing being done within the design. In an InDesign environment, it is possible to  use a client program called InCopy which is used as a go between for designers, authors and editors. This program runs on the house server and links the text frames within the design to authorised users via InCopy. A sub-editor (for instance) can then open InCopy on their device and edit the text while seeing the confines of the design (which dictate the length of a given article). Meanwhile the designer can see when the text-frame is being accessed and work around it, or make changes, which the editor can see in turn. Thus the familiar and established workflow can be used to facilitate simultaneous working.

Using XML

As has been discussed, XML makes a useful source-language as it can be ported to multiple other languages. XML also allows the format to be defined ahead of time, and made to to be specific towards the type of content you wish to create [1]. Such a system can also be inherently complex however as it relies on a the creation of multiple XSLTs[2]. Maintaining these multiple output sheets can be a difficult task, and a as a result, various XML editors include the functionality to edit these stylesheets collectively.

Software for this includes Oxygen XML as well as PTC Arbortext (which you will be exposed to). These platforms rely on content being authored in XML from the outset. The authoring is managed by the strict DTD controls within the software and so ensures that the structure and (therefore) the validity of the content remains intact. The styling information can then be defined separately and applied to the content based on the tags used.

If the software is well-designed, one all-inclusive stylesheet interface can be used to control the output for all the intended formats, and simultaneous publishing can then occur.

Web-based tools


One interesting system revolves around the idea of using on-line publishing systems such as wikis and blogs. As these are native web-applications, they are ideally suited towards an XML-In workflow. Interestingly, they can also be used to cross platforms. Maxwell, MacDonald and Nicholson (2009) for the creation of the Book of MPub  made use of a custom script called Ickmull which has allowed them to convert XHTML to ICML (InCopy Markup Language) thus allowing for HTML to be ported to InDesign for print design. This type of export is now embedded within the Press Books platform as well.

Such a process allows for editors and authors to work collaboratively on a blog and when ready, send the content to the designer. Because the design consists of text with ICML content (which is marked up content), the style tags are imported into InDesign allowing for universal styling to be applied, as well as any print-specific effects. The separate ICML file can then continue to be edited, without affecting the styling of the InDesign document, only the pagination.

Another manifestation of this can come in the form of Wikis which, based on HTML also allow for collaborative authoring and editing, and support a richly interlinked publication. Not to mention with the open source form of many Wikis makes this a useful tool for crowd-sourced projects.


An increasing trend for the creation of e-books is in the creation of on-line authoring tools for publishers and authors. These tools provide simple CMS functionality and address multiple format export. What is important to keep in mind is the difference between those intended for publishers, and those intended for self-publishing authors. While both varieties can work, the publisher’s a touch on a book is specific crafted, and therefore any sort of service of this nature requires a large degree of customisation, as well protection. These may be suitable for authors as well, but require extra tinkering beyond the traditional role of the author.

Here’s a brief look at a platforms suited to publishers:

  • Press Books: 
    • Used to make this study guide
    • Open Source (based on WordPress)
    • Allows for controlled access (with levels of responsibility)
    • Export for ePub, PDF, ICML, and XML
    • Book is viewable on-line as HTML
    • Supports direct HTML editing
    • In-built validation
    • Free to use
  • Inkling Habitat
    • XML-Based
    • Supports multiple users and commenting
    • Export for iPad (in-app reading), web (requires Chrome)
    • In-built validation
    • Free to author with, but with approximately 30% commission off list price at point of sale.
    • Uses custom XML (S9ML) but exports HTML5
  • PTC Arbortext
    • XML-based
    • Exports to ePub, HTML (varying formats), CHM, PDF, RTF
    • Includes enterprise-level CMS
    • Very strict structuring with support for any DTD or XMLSchemata
    • Highly customiseable styling
    • Expensive, requires on-site license
    • Works best for in-house authoring and development.

Choosing a service

An y workflow pattern must be suited towards the type of work you need to do. For a small independent fiction publisher, working from Word, and exporting to HTML and adding content by hand for ePub can be enough. A tool such as Press Books can work for this as well. Vook however is intended for media-rich titles , and Inkling expects rich multimedia and interaction.

The common thread?

Whether using a software package or hand-coding, content in the digital environment for the moment is fully reliant on mark-up languages, and any chosen processes must support that level of structuring. So long as content is defined, production processes can occur simultaneously, and the content can be ported to multiple formats.

  1. Through the use of DTDs or XML Schemata
  2. eXtensible Stylesheet Language Transformations


Publishing in the Digital Environment Copyright © 2013 by sambuitendach. All Rights Reserved.