How We Helped Kaplan Cut Down Their Content Export Process from Weeks to Minutes

These days, there are a host of reading devices to include on your content export list, each with their own pros and cons. Collectively, however, they allow you to reach a wider audience. Exporting your content to these readers, then, should be an exciting opportunity, but all too often the process  is bogged down with technical difficulties. In order to manually transform your content from the generic EPUB format into an EPUB that works on all of the platforms you want, you typically need a lot of resources, diligence, and time. 

For Kaplan, one of Inkling’s long-standing customers, that process took too much time. Kaplan wanted the content it produced in Habitat–our cloud-based, collaborative authoring environment–to scale more efficiently to Kindle and iBooks via the EPUB export process. While this was a sizable request, we knew that tackling this challenge would not only solve Kaplan’s current pain point but also offer learnings for future customer exports and  improve our own software. So, we got to work.

The challenge of EPUB exports

Currently, it takes so much time to go from an EPUB-compliant package to something complete and beautiful in either Kindle or iBooks because of a variety of support limitations. Just to name a few examples: MathML, an XML application to describe mathematical notations, has no support in Kindle; iBooks imposes a hard limit on image sizes; and Kindle requires additional navigation information to allow readers to jump to specific locations in the content, such as the table of contents or cover. All of these challenges (and more) were barriers to Kaplan in achieving simple and easy content distribution.

Finding a solution for Kaplan

In order to bridge the gap between the EPUBs produced in Inkling Habitat and those needed for Kindle and iBooks, Inkling worked closely with Kaplan to figure out what needed to be done. As they presented us with each problem, we worked together to come up with solutions. Eventually, after gathering all of the necessary information about their content requirements, we finalized a post-processing workflow, i.e. everything done after export from Habitat but before distribution, for Kaplan to put in place. This process brought their time spent readying content for EPUB distribution from two weeks to five days.

When good isn’t good enough

While this process was certainly a step forward for Kaplan’s content distribution, it remained less than ideal. It still heavily relied on manual processing, and we knew we could do better.

Our content import/export engineering team revisited Kaplan’s post-processing steps and identified many that had the potential to be automated within Habitat. We then built a series of prototypes to validate the feasibility of this automation and generate feedback from Kaplan to make sure that we were meeting their expectations. Using these prototypes, and with the help of Kaplan’s service providers, we found that we could eliminate reader-specific work to reduce their EPUB distribution time down from five days to just one to two.

Easy exports in action

Once the feedback was incorporated and the approaches validated, our team set about building a reliable and extensible solution. We developed the first iteration of an enhanced export framework, or a tool that generates a series of content transformations to fit each output. With the enhanced export framework, we could easily make content transformations at scale, such as converting MathML to PNG images, resizing all images below a certain threshold, or inserting additional navigation metadata. This approach allowed us to build a profile of conversions to fulfill Kaplan’s needs, in addition to generic use-cases for Kindle and iBooks. Even better? We were able to bring the process of readying EPUB for diversion from weeks down to minutes.

Now, our customers can use the enhanced export framework to enable these additional export profiles in their own configuration. On every build, Habitat will also generate the additional packages for each selected profile (For details on how to setup these exports, see the Distribution User Guide). For Kaplan, this means a substantial reduction in time spent distributing content on Kindle and iBooks, allowing them to refocus their efforts on creating the great content they’re known for.

What’s next?

With the framework in place, Inkling will continue to iterate and improve our export options. We’ll also continue working with Kaplan and other customers to identify where Inkling can help make the distribution story faster and easier. This may mean expanding what an existing profile like Kindle or iBooks does, or creating new profiles for other eReaders or formats altogether. We’re always excited to work with customers to make Inkling Habitat more efficient and better suited to helping them achieve their business goals.

To learn more about how Inkling Habitat can fulfill your export needs, contact our sales team for a free demo