This Weds: Come see us at Providence Geeks!

Later this week, Tizra's presenting at the Providence Geek Dinner:

Wed., Dec 17
5:30-9pm
AS220, 115 Empire St., Providence, RI

We'll be demoing new features of Tizra Publisher, and discussing some of the mindblowing work our CTO Francisco Rosa has been doing behind the scenes. We've been big fans of the Geek Dinner since its early days (we gave a sneak preview of our software at one of the very first ones) and hope we'll see you there.

PS: We also hope you'll bring something for the Geeks for Good canned food drive!

AppGap: Tizra more than just a "great tool for content sellers"

Bill Ives has been writing about knowledge management since the days when for most people that meant color coding your files, so we were really pleased when he agreed to evaluate Tizra Publisher in The AppGap, a blog on the future of work. We were even more pleased when he said "I see this service as a great tool for content sellers."

But we thought his keenest insight was into applications beyond traditional publishing...

[Tizra Publisher] can also be a useful content distribution system for enterprises that need to manage the presentation of their information. This will be especially useful for verticals with a lot of internal content such as legal firms, pharma, and other research oriented enterprises.
Ives saw Tizra's combination of easy and yet precisely controlled content distribution as key for these users, and others needing to share marketing and technical information.

Read the full review.

"How to deliver content digitally without going out of business"

That's how The Chronicle of Higher Education described the quandary many publishers face. We think it's apt, particularly since they also said Tizra Publisher offers "a cost effective new model to try out."

A key reason? We start with the "dreaded PDF" files publishers already have, which means…

Tizra doesn't require an investment in high-priced technology or legions of IT helpers. Presses don't have to convert files to a more flexible XML format or invest scarce resources in custom-designed software.
Read the full article here.

Slater Reinvests in Tizra

In business there's only one thing more meaningful than having someone trust you to make good use of their money, and that's having them do it again! That's exactly what Rhode Island's Slater Technology Fund has done by announcing they'll increase their investment in Tizra.

Slater's been involved in Tizra from the days when we were just a few guys with an idea--initially with advice, and then with investment. They've been a great partner, always pushing us to dig deeper, think harder, do better and ultimately to believe in the potential of what we're doing. Now that that potential is bearing fruit, we're thrilled to see them increasing their involvement.

An AAUP Ebook Partnership, AND, Free, at last!

On October 1st, Tizra will hold the first of a series of joint Tizra/Association of American University Presses (AAUP) webinars, webinars whose purpose is to put our platform directly in the hands of the AAUP membership as quickly as possible.

We’re honored to be the first e-publishing service the AAUP has chosen to sponsor (press release).

We are, after all, a software as a service platform, so we’re also really excited to be previewing our new self-service offerings and plans (yes, including FREE), and giving  hands-on access to a group known for innovation in electronic publishing. You’ll be hearing more as we begin to open up access group by group, or let us know if you want to try out the service for yourself. So,thank you AAUP, and we can’t wait to get started.

MIT Press CISnet Officially Launched

After a period of quiet testing, MIT Press is now rolling out CISnet, a library of more than 160 books (and growing) running on the Tizra Publisher platform.

More details in the press release.

It's been a busy summer...so busy we haven't been able to keep the blog up-to-date. More on that soon.

It's so cool!

I'm a real fan of MIT Press books, and have been for years. Lots of interesting stuff for me in Computer Science, New Media, Electronic Music, and all are well designed, beautiful books, which also matters to me. I have a bunch on my shelves, and more on my "buy someday" list. And this week, we have the public announcement of the Tizra-hosted MIT Press CISnet site.

This makes me feel really good because it's very much something that came from a daydream I had last year. I was up at MIT to talk with the (excellent) Venture Mentoring Service, and stopped in at the MIT Press bookstore after the meeting. As I was looking around, but not quite able to find one volume to buy, I thought that I'd pay right then to have access online, like the ACM digital library. I'd happily pay to browse around, search and use books for reference, and then later I might buy volumes that I really wanted to dive into.

So we approached MIT Press with the idea, and now there's a great electronic library subscription -- less than a buck per book/year of access. Even the pricing is on the order of magnitude of my daydream.

Thank you MIT Press, for doing such a great job!

Time for me to buy my subscription!

TidBITS Signs with Tizra

We honestly didn't intend for this blog to degenerate into a rah-rah series of signing announcements, but gosh, there's been an awful lot of that lately! The latest is TidBITS, a truly pioneering publisher of books for Mac users (and, yes, we described them that way before they became a customer).

Even if you're not a Mac user, you have to appreciate a company that's been publishing online continuously since 1990. For TidBITS, online distribution is the core of their business, not some new add-on. The Take Control ebooks, which they'll be publishing via Agile PDF, were written, edited and designed from the outset as digital products. They're a great example of information packaged and priced based purely on what readers want and will buy, regardless of traditional print constraints like what size clump of physical pages it's economical to manufacture and distribute.

We think this approach makes TidBITS a great partner for us…they're already thinking along just the lines that Agile PDF was designed to support! It's also interesting that they've chosen to distribute their ebooks in PDF—the first format we decided on as well. Unlike many publishers, their reasoning has nothing to do with the fact PDF is an easy byproduct of print production. They like PDF on its own merits—it gives them design control that lets them optimize pages for on-screen reading, yet supports features like linking and searching. We're really excited about what will happen when these features are combined with the those added by Agile PDF.

The Satisfactions of Matchmaking

As a company with a newly launched service we're naturally looking for partners whose services complement ours, and who can recommend us to their customers. At least that's how we assumed it would work. But recently we were in the fortunate position of being able to turn the tables by playing the matchmaker between Bibliovault, a leading provider of highly complementary digital conversion and archiving services, and one of our newest customers, New York Botanical Garden Press.

Founded in 1896, The New York Botanical Garden Press has one of the largest publishing programs of any botanical garden in the world, and, as you can imagine, unique print titles waiting for online exposure. Tizra had already been accepting bulk transfers of book content from Bibliovault on behalf of Duke University Press, making the uploading and data management process seamless.

So when The NYBG Press talked to us about their need for a reliable partner to facilitate print and digital distribution, we immediately thought of Bibliovault. Not only do they have the technical expertise to convert print to digital files optimized for online distribution, but they have an outstanding reputation for preserving valuable print content. It’s a win all the way around, and we’re looking forward to helping The NYBG Press make the most of Bibliovault’s services.

The New York Botanical Garden Press Signs with Tizra

Famed for its plant collections, architecture and setting, The New York Botanical Garden is not only an exceptionally beautiful place, but a place for cutting edge research. The New York Botanical Garden Press communicates discoveries made there and elsewhere, and with three journals, five book series and more than 200 books, it is one of the largest publishers at any botanical garden in the world.

We're thrilled to announce that this renowned institution has chosen to begin making its publications available online with Tizra's Agile PDF. It's pretty exciting when an organization that's been around since 1896 decides to work with one that's been around since 2006. But consistent with their forward thinking spirit, we get the sense they're pretty excited, too.

"I am convinced that online publishing is a key part of our future," said Nate Smith, associate director of the press. "We've wanted to make our books available online for years, but until now none of the options really made sense for us."

I'm sure we'll have much more to say about this partnership in the days ahead, but for now, it's hard to think of a more authoritative endorsement of the hard work that's gone into Agile PDF.

PS: As a bonus, we're hoping we may finally learn a bit more about the obscure Tizra plant, from which our company gets its name!

Yum! Tizra Eats Its Dogfood

We keep talking about how Agile PDF makes it easy for nontechnical users to do sophisticated online publishing. Well, tell a story like that long enough and people start to wonder why you're not doing it yourself. Besides, any product benefits when its designers and builders are also users. Software developers call it eating your own dogfood.

So a few nontechnical members of the Tizra team dug in (with Joya, pictured above, as menu advisor). We did it just they way any publisher would, applying our company branding with the Agile PDF control panel and basic CSS skills, then uploading PDFs. The only difference is we're not actually publishers, so we used files freely available on the web, and of course, we're giving them away rather than selling them.

Voila! The New Agile PDF Demo Site

Screenshot of demo.tizra.com

Take a look. Then drop us a note, and we'll show how you can do the same—and a lot more—with your content. All of us, except maybe Joya, found it quite the best dogfood we'd ever tasted.

The Federation Press Chooses Agile PDF

We're happy to announce that The Federation Press, one of Australia's leading publishers of legal, social and academic journals and books, is now a Tizra customer and partner. It's especially validating because Federation clearly went out of their way, conducting an international search before settling on us, a new company on more or less the opposite side of the globe.

The decision seems typical of the independent, entrepreneurial, and yet pragmatic spirit Federation brings to publishing. With more than 400 books in print and twenty years in business, they're hardly upstarts, but they still place an emphasis on basics like efficient manuscript turnaround and quick order fulfillment. They're also a great fit with Tizra's innovative online publishing approach because of their international audience, and their focus on broadening access to traditionally esoteric topics through clear writing and creative marketing.

We look forward to helping Federation add an exciting new online chapter to their business!

Behind the Screens, Pt. 2--Customizing Site Design in Tizra Publisher

If you’ve seen some of the sites created with Tizra Publisher, you know how different they can look.

But how does this happen? In this second in our series on the Tizra Publisher web based control panel (first post here), we’ll show how easy it is to completely re-skin and restructure an Tizra Publisher site in a matter of hours.

First, a little slideshow of some recent results:

As in the first post, we’ll use the eat.shop guides from Cabazon Books as our example. Founded by a graphic designer, Cabazon has a strong visual identity and has done a great job reinforcing it across its print and online properties.

Step 1: Pick a design
While Tizra Publisher does provide pre-made templates for publishers to customize, Cabazon already had a site design they were happy with, and wanted to carry it over to the new online books site they were building on Tizra Publisher. Screens from the preexisting design they wanted to match:

Cabazon’s original eat.shop homepage

Cabazon’s original eat.shop homepage.

Original purchase page for print books

Original purchase page for print books.

Step 2: Upload images
The first step in implementing the design on Tizra Publisher is to grab the GIFs and JPEGs created for the original site and upload them through the Tizra Publisher control panel, so they can be incorporated into the new web pages.

Uploading an image

Uploading an image.

Step 3: Upload stylesheets
Like most sites, Cabazon’s existing design relied on standard cascading stylesheets for type, layout and other design information. These styles were imported into Tizra Publisher by uploading a CSS file.

Uploading CSS

Uploading CSS.

Step 4: Set up page structure
Tizra Publisher lets users build pages by arranging drag-and-drop Smart Blocks, rather than writing code. There are Smart Blocks for all of the dozens of page components and functions that can appear on an Tizra Publisher site, including Search, Login, Sales Promotions, Commerce, and even advertisements using Google AdWords. Watch the video to see how the components of the page used to display tables of contents for the eat.shop guides were dragged into place. Larger version here.

Click for larger video.

Step 5: We've got a match!
In just a few steps, we've matched Cabazon's design exactly and tied it in with the preexisting eat.shop site. Compare this new catalog of online books with their original printed book catalog back at the beginning of the post.

New online book purchase page

New online book purchase page...compare with original print version above.

Step 6: Experiment, learn, evolve.
So now Cabazon has extended two of its biggest assets—its content and its brand—into a new online presence based on Tizra Publisher.

Next: The really interesting part. Using Tizra Publisher's integrated commerce and content management tools to leverage those assets by unbinding, remixing and rebundling them into a new range of online products.

Behind the Screens, Pt. 1--Creating a Site With the New Tizra Publisher Control Panel

Now that it's public, we're excited to show the new Tizra Publisher web control panel in a bit more detail. To provide a real-world example, we'll show it in use building the eat.shop guides site for Cabazon Books, which went live a few weeks ago. While in practice the process is quick—with initial online selling capability available in a matter of minutes—there's a lot to the software, so we'll break it up over a few posts.

1. Upload a Document When you open your Tizra Publisher account, you're presented with the control panel homepage in your web browser. The cog dropdown provides quick access to key tasks from anywhere in the system. Start by using it to upload a PDF. In this case, it's the full 132 illustrated spreads for eat.shop nyc.




Note how the progress bar informs you as the system imports the file, extracts metadata, breaks the PDF into individual pages, and indexes it for full-text searchability. Apart from the upload, which of course is bandwidth dependent, it only takes a few seconds, but it's nice to know what's going on (beats the "click and pray" approach typical in web content management).

2. Verify metadata To minimize hand entry, metadata such as title, author and table of contents headings are extracted from documents that contain it. Any missing data can be entered through the control panel.



The second screen is a powerful outline editor used to manage table of contents entries extracted from the PDF bookmarks. The entries can be reordered indented, grouped, hidden from end users (but still saved for internal reference), and deleted.

3. Set sales terms Simply enter a price and promotional blurb, or if you want, test more sophisticated options like subscriptions based on variable duration or dates, pay-per-view, concurrencies (the number of users who can view your content at once) or multipacks (any X books from a given collection).

4. Stage and Publish Once the metadata's been reviewed, you can save it to the staging area, where the book can be checked in the context of the full web site exactly as it will appear to your users before being made public. Then click publish and your content is live!

5. Look what you've got! The book is online and part of the your own, customizable publishing web site, with a full complement of browse and search features, plus editable information pages that can be used to say more about the company and its products. Users can find their way to your content via Google and other search engines, see sales offers, buy content and use it over the web, including on handhelds like the iPhone.



Next up: Customizing design to match the eat.shop branding. Then, creating new products by breaking books down into subsections and gathering them up into collections.

The Demo That Wasn't and The Conference That Was

You may have noticed we were pretty excited about O'Reilly's Tools of Change conference, which is still going on through the end of today in New York. This is really the place for people who love books, digital technology and the things they can do for each other. Apparently the ranks of people like this are growing. Eight hundred attended this year's conference, compared with 200 last year, when our CEO David Durand gave his Tutorial on Digitizing your Backlist.

Overall, the show was all we could have hoped for. Underlying the rapid attendance growth is a general feeling that 2008 is the breakout year…the year books start to move online in the way other media have over the past dozen years. David Rothman, an influential blogger at Publishers Weekly had just written us up, and interest in our proposition was high.

We were especially excited because this year we were on the program to give a Lightning Demo of Agile PDF, including the first showing of a new control panel that makes creating a digital bookselling site easy, like setting up a blog or a Flickr account is easy. We'll be posting more details over the next day or so.

Unfortunately, the live presentation didn't go the way we planned. The Lightning Demo format allows each presenter exactly five minutes, which under the best of circumstances would be enough to show a tiny fraction of what Agile PDF can do. As it worked out, however, David's login to the demo system timed out while he was waiting to get on stage, and he barely got out of the gate.

That's the breaks of the demo game, but we were disappointed. We were sure (and subsequent one-on-ones bore out) that we had an absolute killer piece of software to show, and we wanted it to get the widest exposure possible.

We'll make up for it by posting screens from the demo here over the next few days (much more detailed than would have fit in the five minutes), and offering web based demos to anyone who contacts us.

Aside from all the interest from publisher prospects, one of my favorite moments came in a panel discussion including Rothman and Tonya Engst of TidBITS Publishing, a true digital pioneer. In response to the longstanding debate over how much ebooks should cost, she said "exactly as much as it takes to maximize revenue." That brought a murmur of approval from the room...including us. Publishers need to find their own answers to these questions, and we designed Agile PDF from the outset to help with that.

I was also pleased when in the same session veteran consultant Mike Shatzkin noted that based on his legwork almost all ebooks being bought nowadays are actually read on computers, despite the buzz about dedicated handhelds like Kindle. Further, he said that PDF was by far the dominant content format, over reader-specific formats, and he professed to be baffled as to why publishers would not sell the PDFs they already have as digital products.

We're glad to be baffled in such good company!

FEB 11: Catch our Lightning Demo at Tools of Change

Tools of ChangeWhen the first Agile PDF sites launched recently, we promised we'd be saying more soon about how the sites were built. Well, the first public demo is coming up at the O'Reilly Tools of Change Conference in NYC:
The Five-minute Publication Site—Part of the TOC Lightning Demos Series, February 11, 7:30-8:30pm, Broadway Ballroom
As the name suggests, we'll be showing just how quickly a publisher can move from PDF files to a flexible, customizable website selling digital content. And of course, if you've got a bit more than five minutes, we'd be happy to answer any questions. We'll be exhibiting immediately after the demos at the TOC Faire, and happy to talk at any point during the rest of the conference. Drop us a note at info@tizra.com.

Live demonstrations in Washington DC

We’ll be in Washington DC next week, attending the Professional and Scholarly Publishers annual trade show and meeting with local D.C Publishers.

So come find me in the hallways, or I'll come to you in D.C. Better still, contact me (anne.orens@tizra.com) and bring a PDF with you to the meeting. I can provide an interactive showing of how Agile PDF manages your PDF and delivers online content.

For Those Unimpressed By Marketing

This personal blog post by Tizra CTO Francisco Rosa gives the hardcore technologist's view of why Agile PDF is different. He may not be in the marketing department, but it's safe to say he knows our software. He also knows how it matches up against expensive custom systems now in use elsewhere (he built a few for clients like Oxford University Press, McGraw-Hill and the World Bank before coming to Tizra).

We're Live

Congratulations to two publishing organizations that over the past couple of days became the first to go live with sites built using Tizra's Agile PDF:

The first is a fast-growing publisher of printed city guides with an emphasis on creative design and local flavor. The second is a web startup aiming to facilitate information sharing and growth in the burgeoning business of green construction.

As one look at the sites will tell you, they're two very different organizations. But both have taken an exciting first step toward new online publishing revenue.

Better yet, both are doing it their way, with complete control over their own products, brands and strategies. And they are doing it with none of the technology investment or lead time that traditional custom information commerce projects have required.

How? We'll begin taking the wraps off of that part in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, drop a note to info@tizra.com if you'd like to see how you can start selling content right now.