How G-W Increases Customer Satisfaction (and profits) with DIGITAL FIRST Content

Drag-and-drop activity from one of G-W's Tizra-hosted digital textbooks shows how digital-first puts readers first.

For most publishers moving to digital, the best strategy is usually to start with their existing print catalog.  Consultants may deride this as a “shovelware” approach (meaning you’re just shoveling print content online), but the truth is it’s the shortest path to getting live with a good quality product, and beginning the process of learning what works and doesn’t work for your readers.

Once this is underway, however, it makes sense to start thinking more strategically about digital first content.  What do we mean by digital first? We think of digital first content as material that was born digital, i.e, developed from the outset to take full advantage of the possibilities offered by digital delivery, rather than tacking digital features on as an afterthought.

Digital-first content enables publishers to do more for the customer.  For example, educational publisher Goodheart-Willcox (G-W) recently introduced interactive editions of textbooks that include digital-first content such videos, rich animations, interactive diagrams and illustrations, drills such as e-flashcards and games, as well as self-assessments. The company has moved its digital content creation upstream in its production workflow and now begins with digital in mind, teaming book authors and multimedia specialists in close collaboration.

“We are a customer driven company with a rich history of providing excellent quality content,” says Shannon DeProfio, Vice President, Publishing for Goodheart-Willcox. “So when our customers told us they wanted more, we quickly moved to deliver more robust, interactive content that supports their efforts in the classroom and provides a more effective learning resource.”

In support of these efforts, G-W wanted to leverage their strong in-house digital team and subject-matter expertise, while avoiding the distraction of unnecessary software development.  Going beyond their initial efforts to take books online, G-W is now using the Tizra digital publishing software to create interactive editions that bring together a wide range of internally and externally developed digital-first content, including content from its companion websites and online courses.

“With Tizra, we can put our digital assets exactly where they need to be and can control who has access very flexibly,” said Julia Seliga, G-W’s Digital Media Manager.  “What it comes down to is Tizra helps us build the kind of engaging and exciting products customers love.”

So why should you think about digital first?  Here are some points to consider:
  • Digital-first content makes all kinds of content more engaging, and makes educational and professional content more effective.  Readers stay involved longer, and come back more often, helping you to build your online audience.
  • As competition and the pressure to lower prices increase, providing a premium experience through digital-first content allows you to maintain your profit margins and even increase them;
  • As consumers fully adopt digital technologies throughout their day, in the form of games, consumer websites and other high-production-value digital experiences, their expectations get steadily higher for levels of interactivity and rich media;
  • More and more leading publishers are making the strategic choice to provide digital-first content.
To learn more about how Tizra can help you deliver digital-first content or request a demo, contact us today.  Or, read the full Goodheart-Willcox case study here.

Texas Tech University Center Goes Digital and Reduces Print Budget by 80 Percent

CCFCS curriculum materials hosted by Tizra are winning raves from teachers.

After 44 years of empowering teachers with print materials that were aligned with key instructional goals, Texas Tech Curriculum Center for Family and Consumer Sciences (CCFCS) made the bold decision to go 100 percent digital using the Tizra digital publishing platform.


At first, the task seemed daunting.  “We printed out a copy of each of the curricula and some of them were four inches thick,” says center director Patti Rambo.  In addition to a massive quantity of materials for its 33 courses with 300-350 teaching strategies per course, the school also needed to meet aggressive revenue goals and appeal to a diverse customer base.


The Center’s search for solutions was exhaustive until they were directed to Tizra. “Tizra is flexible enough for us to make up the rules as we go along,” said Rambo. “We were able to design our pages so there’s less scrolling, and we were able to color code the courses.”


Tizra provided a user experience that is clear and simple enough to enable busy teachers to find what they need to prepare for classes in a format that is more directly applicable to the classroom. The lessons now include links to PowerPoint slides, videos and other teaching aids.


Based on the Center’s analysis, they are not only meeting their revenue goals, they have also reduced their printing budget by 80 percent.  Longer team, the Center expects the digital transition to create entirely new kinds of opportunities, including the potential of expanding nationally and overseas.


“We are thrilled with the way this has worked out, both financially and strategically,” concludes Rambo.


To learn more, read the entire Texas Tech case study here.

Tizra Upgrade Provides a Crisper, More Interactive E-Reading Experience

In the print world, when you think about a reader’s user experience, you consider factors like the size and weight of a book, paper quality, typeface, layout and design.  Moving to digital, some of these factors still hold true, but others are replaced with concerns such as speed, intuitive controls, cross-platform compatibility, plus as with any human interface, a host of intangibles.  We’re always working to make the Tizra reading experience crisper, easier, and less distracting, because happier readers mean happier publishers.

Tizra reader upgrade makes it easy to enhance content with interactive lightbox effects.

The update builds on Tizra’s ability to provide usability and compatibility across all the most popular web browsers and viewing devices, and is now available to all Tizra customers.

Enhancements include:  


  • Speed -- e-reading should be as crisp, fast and simple as turning a page. Your readers are not going to tolerate delays waiting for content to appear.  Tizra’s new e-reader makes better use of AJAX prefetching, greatly reducing the amount of data that needs to be transmitted with each page flip, and palpably increasing speed.
  • Reliability -- the new e-reader uses an updated version of jQuery mobile as its user interface framework for more reliable performance across a wider range of platforms.  We also squashed a number of bugs in the new implementation.
  • Convenience -- Tizra now supports the use of the left and right arrow keys to turn pages forward or back. A small refinement that makes online reading much less distracting. Other usability enhancements include a more streamlined table of contents
  • Interactivity -- this update also includes support for lightbox popups that allow for image enlargement without leaving the page (see above). The pop-ups can also be enabled for other forms of content such as video, Flash, or HTML, enabling publishers to create fully interactive multimedia experiences.  In addition, the new reader offers enhanced linking options, including the ability to highlight specific regions within the target page, and publisher control over link attributes such as external or no follow links.
  • Control -- lastly, the new reader provides publishers with more control over how their content is displayed, with the ability to upload custom markup elements for better branding and design flexibility, and more options for the sequencing and display of related content supplements in the slide-out sidebars.

So if you want deliver the best e-reading experience on the web, take a fresh look at Tizra.  Contact us for a demo today.

Why Books in Browsers? A Closer Look at e-book Publishing Software Choices

What’s an ebook?  


For many, the first thought is of a Kindle, Nook or similar device, designed for a single purpose and packed with texts downloaded from a single retailer.  However, it’s easy to forget just how new that notion of ebook publishing software is...or how quickly it’s changing.
Vintage Rocket eBook (left) and SoftBook devices show how quickly the basic definition of an ebook can change.  (From the collection of Tizra founder David Durand.)
As broadband connections and computing power become more pervasive, the idea of “books in browsers” or “books in the cloud” is gaining traction.  As has already happened in other media with services like Hulu, Netflix and Spotify, book publishers are starting to see the value in streaming content direct to users as they need it, rather than requiring them to download it to their own device before use.

The Case for Books in Browsers:

Delivering books or content in browsers is ideal for publishers that want to build a direct relationship with their consumers, as well as to maintain control over both content delivery and user experience. The benefits of web-based publishing include:


  • Audience.  With about 2 billion users worldwide, the web dwarfs even the largest single-company network, so if you want the largest audience with the least amount of custom development, the web is the way to go.
  • Control. It is important strategically to avoid being locked into systems owned by companies whose long term interests may not always mesh with your own. When you distribute through someone else's "walled garden," you are at the mercy of changing terms and usually have to give up significant portion of your revenue. You need only look at cases like Lendle, a book sharing service shut down after Amazon changed its API, or iFlowReader, an e-book reading app that closed because Apple’s 30 percent revenue fees and agency model didn’t allow for a sustainable business.
  • Relationships.  Selling direct allows a publisher to build its brand and establish a direct connection with its readers using personalized content and offers, direct marketing, and social integration. 
  • User data. A direct relationship also provides publishers with detailed data on user behavior, including the popularity of specific sections within specific publications, as well as information on traffic sources, conversion rates, and many other parameters using standard web analytics tools. This kind of information is crucial in evolving better user experiences and developing new products.
  • Discoverability.  Unlike content locked up in proprietary Apps or buried deep in App Stores, users can easily find web-published content through standard search engines, such as Google, and through links shared via social media, scholarly citations, email, and more.
  • User experience.  Every e-reader app is a little different.  I know personally when I use my Overdrive app versus my Nook app, I’m disoriented as I try to figure out how to access my bookmarks, look up words, change font sizes and more.  With web-based publishing, readers access content using their familiar web browser, providing a consistent experience across content and devices. Unlike e-reader apps, readers can easily keep multiple pages open in tabs without needing to open and close apps to compare sources and bookmark content.
  • Sharing.  With web-based publishing platforms like Tizra, each document page has its own persistent URL, making it easy share, via social networks or email links to specific pieces of content. This is difficult or impossible with e-reader apps because even if you refer to a page number, that will vary depending on the device being used.
  • Faster updates.  If you have new content to release, you aren’t dependent upon App store gatekeepers to approve your updates.  Rather you can push it out for users to see, read and purchase immediately.
  • Unbundling, remixing and sales flexibility.  Because you are not locked into a particular retailer's idea of a book as a sellable unit of content, you're free to experiment with unbundling publications into chapters, lessons, articles or other subsections, and to rebundle them into new products. And you can quickly create and test new promotions, targeting specific user groups, events or other sales opportunities.
  • Production flexibility. Systems like Tizra let you to leverage as much as possible of your existing production workflow, rather requiring you to generate content in new formats for specific ereading platforms.
  • Support for Complex layouts and interactive content. Converting to dedicated ereader formats often means stripping out formatting, so complex page layouts and illustrations no longer work as intended. In addition, options for authoring interactive content are limited, if they exist at all. By working within an open, browser-based environment, publishers gain access to a vibrant and growing ecosystem of tools and techniques for authoring rich content.
  • Offline support. For publishers that want to offer offline reading support, this is still possible via downloads or offline web readers.  


The Case for Dedicated e-Reader Apps:


Dedicated e-reader apps do well for mainstream publishers of e-books, especially fiction.  The benefits include:


  • Offline reading. With downloadable content, dedicated e-reader apps are ideal for offline reading in comfortable reading sessions with a dedicated e-reader or mobile device.
  • Distribution. Some publishers are not equipped to do their own direct marketing, and in these cases, Amazon and Apple can provide access to their significant installed audience base.  Although it should be noted that discovery is still a challenge and user account information is not accessible to publishers, so you continue to be dependent upon their distribution and unable to build a direct relationship with your readers.
  • Fine-tuned "page flipping" experience. Designers of dedicated ereaders have optimized around making it easy for readers to one thing first and foremost: flip through one page after another in narrative order, as one tends to do with fiction. If you expect your readers to do just that--without the need to search, bookmark, share and interact--a dedicated app may be the best solution.
  • Encrypted DRM. While encrypted DRM schemes are unpopular with readers, some situations still demand proprietary DRM schemes supported by dedicated e-reader apps.  Just keep in mind that user support costs are high, no DRM scheme can absolutely guarantee security, and the web offers some easier to support alternatives that may, for practical purposes, be just as secure.


Granted, as a web-based digital publishing platform you'd expect us to lean toward the web, but our preferences are practical and evidence based.  Consider The Daily, a news app which first appeared on tablets in February 2011 after a $30 million investment by Rupert Murdoch, and famously failed and closed in 2012. Or Conde Nast, which has seen relative “success” via Apple’s Newstand app but whose digital only subscriptions are still quite small.  The costs of creating content for apps on e-readers, tablets, smartphones, and more have pushed publishers like the Financial Times to drop their apps entirely in favor of a new HTML5 website, which optimizes for devices and provides features and functions that are app-like.

If you would like to learn more about Tizra’s web-based publishing approach, contact us for a free demo.