The production of our scientific publications follows a proven process with some overarching workflow milestones: copyediting, author proofing, typesetting and pagination. These have long been established and will continue to be the industry standard for the foreseeable future. A central question thus is: how can we make the workflow efficient, customer-friendly, and contemporary on the one hand, and meet current and future format requirements on the other?

Challenges and Risks

Traditionally this process has been done in MS Word and only a flat XML is extracted at the end before the manuscript is fed into a typesetting/pagination software like InDesign. XML is short for Extensible Markup Language and it transfers documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable.

The challenges with this approach are two-fold:

  • In making edits: once an author submits a paper, they see it again only at the proofing stage. Any changes made here are either done directly in Word or as annotations on attached PDF files. This increases the possibility of missing errors, adding new ones, and having several versions of PDF files floating back and forth. Once the paper has been typeset, making edits to content becomes challenging and time- and resource-intensive.
  • In process consistency: in every process step of the manuscript, a different tool may be used to assist the teams. This means that the workflow ends up creating individual competence areas and there is a lack of consistency across various stages.

How XML Revolutionizes the Production Workflow

To solve those challenges, we have created an XML-first workflow for all of our journals and are now working on setting up an XML-first workflow for books as well. This means we are using XML through the whole process and not just at the end. Our publishing technologies partner – TNQ Technologies – receives the original content data for processing and creates a standard structure (unified Document Type Definition (DTD) is a catch-all for all elements of a manuscript) around it that can be read by all tools. All processes including multiple levels of copyediting, structuring, author proofing all happen in a Word/HTML programme, but on top of the underlying XML. The structural integrity of the XML is maintained throughout the process, and it remains hidden underneath the surface.

We are doing away with working on unstructured manuscripts for copyediting and author proofing in our books. Switching to XML-first enhances our efficiency, creates an improved author experience, and achieves a significantly quicker turnaround time. Not least, the final output of this process – a very granular XML – can be used as a basis for many publishing formats and distribution forms, such as HTML, EPUB, PDF, and print. As stated in the first contribution to this mini-series, “A Book Is a Book Is a Book – or Is It?” by Joachim Flickinger, “…the use – and thus the existence – of one format or the other is directly related to both the type of content and the form of use.” With the XML-first workflow, (individual) products can and will be published in exactly the formats that best suit the wants and needs of our customers.

How It All Works – Overview

XML Process

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