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We interviewed Francesca Avanzini the Digital Project Manager to learn how Kotobee Author offered Pearson Italy the chance to create fixed layout EPUB books.

The Challenge

Can you tell us a bit about your ebook projects?

Pearson Italy has started creating fixed layout EPUBs using Kotobee. Once exported, they’re displayed on a Pearson-owned solution for an ereader.

What challenges did you face prior to using Kotobee?

Prior to using Kotobee, we didn’t have a way to create fixed layout EPUBs other than by sending our titles to external specialized companies. With Kotobee, we needed to first run thorough tests to verify how we’re going to meet the specific needs of our digital productions. Such as hotspots and icons linked to digital assets on-page, or a digital TOC that didn’t necessarily match the printed one.

What potential solutions did you explore which didn't work out? What was most important to you when evaluating your options?

We contemplated the possibility of working directly using inDesign to create EPUBs, but the workflow was slightly awkward and the final result was not good enough. The impact of a “digital first” like solution appeared too high-based on our current workflows.

“We were seeking a solution adapted to the editorial audience and mindset, not requiring specific technical skills.”

The Solution

How did you hear about Kotobee?

Via an internet search, while looking for a solution.

What have you found unique in Kotobee as a solution of choice (what drove you to choose Kotobee)?

We agreed that we needed a solution that allows us to use PDF as a source file and Kotobee met this need. Also, we were seeking a solution adapted to the editorial audience and mindset, not requiring specific technical skills.

Has Kotobee's support team contributed to your selection criteria in any way?

Yes, we’ve received full support and information from Kotobee’s team. The team was able to provide us with guidance on how to work with sample materials in order to validate our choice.

How difficult was the onboarding process with Kotobee, transitioning from an older system? Did your team adapt easily?

There wasn’t an older system to transition from because previously we were using PDF and not EPUBs to create digital books faithful to their print counterparts. Unfortunately, the editorial team adaptation wasn’t so smooth, and that brought to light some limitations in the workflow that we had put in place (e.g. it is difficult to copy and paste hotspots; we have to create a TOC outside of the Kotobee system, and we have to work directly in HTML code for any activity that requires replicating the same actions all over the book, like changing the color for hotspots).

To be noticed that during our 2020 production, Kotobee’s new releases had quite a negative impact on our usual workflow. More specifically:

1. The change in the EPUB structure and file organization.

2. The encoding of the external links to assets.

Is there a particular aspect of Kotobee that you rely on the most?

It converts PDF files into EPUB files with fixed layout, and it lets us add hotspots through a quite intuitive interface.

“We’ve received full support and information from Kotobee’s team. The team was able to provide us with guidance on how to work with sample materials in order to validate our choice.”

The Results

What metrics do you use to measure the success of your decisions? Has Kotobee affected those in any way? Any numbers (or student feedback) here would be useful.

Metrics are usually official adoptions of school books on one side, and resources spent in the production work on the other. The special situation in 2020 regarding the adoptions in Italy makes these numbers irrelevant to measure the success of this change. On the other hand, we have to report, unfortunately, a negative note: the editorial teams involved reported that the EPUB creation process through Kotobee plus the needed adaptations to our ereader are not really cost-effective compared to other flows that we have in place.

In what ways is your competitive advantage enhanced?

The possibility to provide digital books faithful to their print counterparts with all the accessibility features available and links to digital assets in the page context.

The Future

What are your project's plans for the future?

Pearson Italy is planning to extend the solution and use it on more courses, that’s part of the editorial plans. In the meantime, our business has to provide AA compliant products, so EPUB is needed for both the fixed layout and accessible content.

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