XyEnterprise Case Study


The name Encyclopaedia Britannica (EB) is venerated by millions worldwide who rely on the many reference publications published under its authority. Since 1768, Encyclopaedia Britannica has been publishing such important works as the Encyclopaedia Britannica print set, Great Books of the Western World, and the Britannica Concise Encyclopaedia. In recent years, in addition to its many digital products, EB has also introduced several other reference sets for students and young children, including Compton’s by Britannica, My First Britannica, Discover America,and Britannica Discovery Library.

The company long ago established its printed products as authoritative sources of information and its brand as an emblem of human knowledge. However, times change, and so do the means by which society seeks out and obtains resource information. Not only must that information be relevant, precise and authoritative; it must be easily accessible in a myriad of different venues and forms.

The Realities and the Challenges

Over the past two decades, Encyclopaedia Britannica has moved beyond print to establish itself as a leader in digital and online publishing. Yet, while EB’s corporate strategy has evolved to include publishing in a variety of electronic formats, there is still strong demand for EB’s print publications. However, today’s rapidly paced “information market” requires that EB produce its print products in a more timely and cost-effective manner.

The unique requirements for resources and capabilities underlie this challenge. Whether producing printed or digital output, the center of the company’s operation is its massive core database that services all of its products. Maintaining this database is a labor-intensive process. The complexity is compounded by the numerous contributors and editors constantly “touching” and revising the data. Strict documentation of each revision is vital, as a simple revision in one area can mean multiple revisions across the database and in numerous publications.

Encyclopaedia Britannica’s complete database editorial system, NPS, is based on FrameMaker®+SGML (an Adobe® product) as the primary editing tool. However, a number of other specialized and proprietary editing, manipulation, and management tools have been developed by Encyclopaedia Britannica to work with FrameMaker+SGML.

Lisa Braucher, Senior Manager of Encyclopaedia Britannica’s technical division manages the company’s database (specifically the SGML structures within the database) and oversees all the data management and workflow involving its operation.

“With the pressing revision requirements of the printed encyclopedia, we recognized that we were using a really ugly ‘patch process’ to take the product to publication and distribution,” says Braucher. “Additionally, a significant portion of the encyclopedia needs revision every year, so we knew this would be an ongoing issue.”

Braucher and the entire EB team realized that they needed a more sophisticated method for publication of the printed products. One key would be a page composition system that interfaced with a SGML database, as well as with the various components of their NPS editorial system. However, it had to be cost effective to implement, have no impact on present database structure and procedures, and provide no discernable disruption of workflow.

The XyEnterprise Solution: XPP

Braucher recalls the process of finding a solution to the print publication dilemma.

“We studied several commercial publication products. We looked at one company for 18 months but found that their product was a bit too cumbersome. It simply didn’t provide the ease of use we were looking for.”

When Braucher and her team investigated XyEnterprise and its XML Professional Publisher (XPP) software, they quickly realized that it met their primary criteria: the ability to extract and automatically implement complex indexing from page files, as well as support a large variety of page files.

Anyone who’s ever opened an Encyclopaedia Britannica knows that it contains a complex blend of text and graphics. Until the 1970s, EB’s staff had to virtually lay out every page manually, and a single change in content could have meant countless manual changes across multiple volumes.

Because the SGML content in EB’s database is generically “tagged” (that is, encoded with critical information about its nature and purpose within the document or publication), XPP can automatically apply predefined style sheets and automate the page layout process. Some examples:

  • titles, subheads, columns, and other page elements are automatically placed
  • headers and footers are automatically generated as needed
  • graphics can be generated automatically and set to a predetermined place on a page
  • rules and boxes can be automatically formatted and sized

XPP’s “batch-formatting” capability eliminates much of the time-consuming effort previously spent on formatting pages in desktop publishing tools. In addition, XPP offers an interface for making last-minute corrections where needed. This match of automated and interactive capabilities is critical for journals and books where the publishing tool must support large volumes of content input and processing, as well as high-end design and graphic placement rules in the final output.

The EB team found that XPP is unique among publishing applications in supporting these dual capabilities. XPP’s ability to integrate with FrameMaker+SGML and EB’s other proprietary database tools was another key factor in the decision.

The Results

Soon after EB’s staff began implementing XPP in March 2005, Braucher knew they had made the right decision.

“The training went smoothly and it was clear that the integration of XPP with our editing workflow would be virtually seamless,” says Braucher. “The system’s user-friendly interface made it easy for our personnel to learn about XPP’s features and capabilities, and they’ve become proficient in preparing materials for composition and publishing.”

“This capability gives us a tight means of control over our database and the ability to keep track of editorial efforts and changes that have been made on every data item,” says Braucher.

The first XPP-produced EB product will be the 2006 Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. It’s about 2,000 pages, with short articles, and calls for “batch composition.” Next, XPP will be used to produce a multi-volume encyclopedia targeted at elementary and middle schools. Braucher believes that XPP’s capabilities will give EB an advantage in this highly competitive market.

Another area in which Encyclopaedia Britannica is looking forward to using XPP is the print publication of its geographical and statistical data products. Every year, EB produces a number of important products (such as the Britannica World Data Annual) that provide up-to-date statistical information for educational and other reference users. Currently, EB’s editors do their edit markup largely by hand on galley sheets and send their changes to the composition workstation operator to key in the input.

“We see XPP serving us well in our geographical and statistical publication by allowing us to easily manipulate text and tabular information into multiple columns on a page,” says Braucher.

Finally, Braucher praises XyEnterprise’s support team for their help in integrating XPP with Encyclopaedia Britannica’s production workflow system.

”The technical support we’ve received has been outstanding,” says Braucher. “XyEnterprise has made sure that XPP fits our requirements, rather than trying to warp our processes to fit their publishing tool. Overall, XPP and XyEnterprise are a very good fit for Encyclopaedia Britannica.”