We are living in the midst of an ebook revolution. Almost everyone reads ebooks and we find bookworms hooked to e-readers such as Kindle. Ebook conversion services are now among the most sought-after conversion projects. That’s why we find more and more publishers looking to update their backlist titles.

The Transformation of the Ebook Conversion Industry

The ebook conversion industry has come a long way from the cumbersome processes once employed. Converting physical books to ebooks is a much more cost-effective process with experienced ebook conversion companies around. They have the technology plus the trained and experienced workforce to handle different kinds of conversion projects.

As a result we are seeing more and more publishers, libraries and preservationists come forward to have even old but precious books converted to digital formats so that they can stand the test of time. It isn’t just books that are converted, but ancient volumes and manuscripts as well. While modern publications have been developed with word processors, making it easier to convert them, older publications and physical books from the past present a great deal of challenges. Though OCR technology has contributed to increasing the level of accuracy, it requires the source content to be of a reasonably good quality.

Take a look at the technologies and procedures involved in Ebook conversion.

Issues with Older Books

When it comes to older books, there could be format issues to tackle. Publications from 1970 to 1990 were done on word processors, making them easy to convert. When the content in the source book is clear and of a high quality, OCR technology can help attain significant levels of accuracy.

However, in many backlist titles, we find the source content not to be of high quality. Sometimes there could also be complex equations involved. So, with accuracy at stake, how can these problems be dealt with? Can data conversion services go around these problems?

Quality Issues with the Source Content

Among the source quality issues commonly faced are faded text, archaic fonts, skewed images, indecipherable handwriting and the use of multiple languages in the same book. Some books are not fully flat when opened. That makes it quite difficult to get them scanned. Other books have the bindings so tight that text in that part of the page that is bent towards the gutter is nearly impossible to read. Some books have brittle pages that could disintegrate when opened.

In such cases, it gets harder to get a high-quality scan. This can be accomplished with a more appropriate resolution path. But this requires top level equipment and a greater collaboration between the client (publishers, libraries, preservationists or historians) and the ebook conversion companies.

Deciphering Handwriting

Handwritten documents can be more challenging since handwriting is personal and follows certain standards, there may not be any uniformity in the way letters are written. That makes it hard even for the human eye to figure it out. OCR technology can convert handwritten text, though the level of accuracy could vary. If the document contains handwriting along with damaged text, it could be hard for usual OCR systems to decipher. Alternatively, proofreading could be a better way to convert handwritten text. It does involve the human element and a great deal of effort, but it does ultimately deliver more accurate results. Human beings can figure out the context behind words and sentences and thereby decipher handwritten words and letters better.

Content Quantity and Variety

The quantity of content could pose a challenge as well. Converting a large quantity of content would obviously take  time, but a huge volume with varied content is even more difficult. That’s because the conversion technology needs to be configured and reconfigured for every content specification. Workflows could end up varying, and staff of the document digitization services would not have time to get familiar with the content. Content familiarization is essential for the staff to perform faster and more efficiently, but with varied content that time for familiarization is significantly reduced. So the staff needs to be trained every time a new specification of content is introduced.

With source material that is similar, the staff working on it eventually gets faster at the work because of the time they had to familiarize themselves with the content, without having to learn and unlearn. Document conversion companies can make matters more manageable by prioritizing content that is important and work on that first before turning to something else. Creative conversion providers can find innovative means to increase their efficiency even when there is varied source material involved.

Deciphering Mathematical Figures and Equations

The next big challenge is mathematical figures and equations. As far as coding is concerned, MathML deciphers most kinds of math equations. However, it’s in the distribution phase that the problems arise. That’s because different distribution platforms have different ways of rendering MathML. The end rending sometimes ends up quite awkward. That’s why we find MathML often missing in the final publication though it would have existed in the previous versions. For accessible publications it is essential to have proper MathML, or else there could be whole issues with accessibility. Here too, creative solutions would be required of providers and those that offer the most creative and innovative solutions would have the competitive edge.

Accessibility of Ebooks in the Process of Creation

The final major challenge is making ebooks accessible in the process of their creation. This does away with the need for carrying out any expensive rework in future. Consumers get an ebook that is more useful as a result. While there is HTML coding available that can make content accessibility, the challenge is to use it the right way. There is a certain expertise needed for ensuring the various types of files are accessible.

These formats include Web PDF, MOBI, EPUB and other files. For this, service providers need to add the WAI-ARIA structural semantics to the HTML coding. For those who aren’t familiar, WAI-ARIA refers to Web Accessibility Initiative-Accessible Rich Internet Applications. Experienced ebook conversion companies would be familiar with this approach. Including WAI-ARIA structural semantics need not be burdensome if the providers have already adopted an XML-first workflow. Let’s not forget that there have been many international regulations such as Section 508 refresh that have been introduced recently to enhance accessibility.

So, ebook conversion is one of the most challenging document digitization services. However, experienced providers have the technology, trained workforce, and innovation capabilities to deal with the challenges involved. They can provide a high-quality finished product.