XML - the New Frontier of Publishing
by Kayla Schoch, MA Digital Publishing
For some, the thought of coding, scripts, and metadata is as horrible as the thought of being one of the publishers that turned down Harry Potter. However, for Priya Packrisamy and Marcos F. Sanmamed—XML Content Specialists at Oxford University Press (OUP)—XML is more than its daunting, digital mask. For them, XML is an essential part of their jobs that allows them to transform publishing from print to digital.
Like a proofreader who combs through pages looking for errors, the XML Content Specialist does the same. In order for the XML to work properly with its platform, the markup language needs to follow certain rules. Just like misusing a comma can confuse a reader, forgetting a close tag will mess up the digital content. It is Packrisamy and Sanmamed’s job to analyse the XML, figure out if there are any errors and solve the problems.
According to the pair, OUP categorizes their digital publishing in two venues: backlist and frontlist. Sanmamed specializes in backlist digital publishing. This means Sanmamed takes books already produced in print and, after going through them page by page to analyse the structure and content, he works alongside editors and platform developers to turn them into digital content. According to Sanmamed, backlist publishing requires a lot of time and effort. In fact, OUP publishes between 80-90 backlist titles twice a year. And between Sanmamed and his team, that could mean processing upwards of 10,000 pages a month.
Packrisamy deals with the XML frontlist. For her team, the XML is created first and then is then turned into its output products: print, ebooks, apps, and websites. There are numerous benefits in creating the XML first. It reduces the time it takes to publish new titles. It reduces cost, effort, and resources, and it makes the content easily accessible for future products. With frontlist publishing, the issue is the time constraint. OUP publishes about 100 frontlist titles every month. A high turnaround requires extra effort and attention to the markup language.
The two speakers say that the exciting world of XML is somewhere along the spectrum of editorial and IT, acting as a translator between the two. They are the protectors of text, assuring the future of books - preserved forever in the digital world. If you are interested in future-proofing books (and ultimately your CV), keep a look out for OUP’s summer internship in XML Content Specialism.