The Baale Mane Painting Competition

December 15, 2011

As part of its outreach programme, a enthusiastic team of MPS volunteers organised a painting competition at The Baale Mane on 13th December.  Thirty of the 60 odd girls at The Baale Mane, aged between seven and 16, took part in the competition.  The winner was Shashikala K with this painting, which MPS has used for its holiday card this year:

The second prize was awarded to Vara Lakshmi:

The judges were hard pressed to award the third prize given the quality of all of the pictures, but finally split it between two girls: Chaitra N for her painting:

and Vaishu M for her entry:

The Baale Mane is a home for around 60 girls between the ages of 6 and 18 situated on the outskirts of the Bangalore. Founded in 2001 by Paraspara Trust, an NGO dedicated to the eradication of the child labour system, the home provides shelter and a loving home for girls. They girls are either orphans, have a single parent who is unable to care for them or have lost contact with their parents. Most of the girls have been rescued from domestic service, some have been found homeless in the streets by volunteers and others have been given shelter having been arrested by the police when living on the streets. Where possible, the aim of the home is to reunite the girls with their family but where this is neither possible nor desirable, the girls are given long term care and protection at the Baale in order to nurture and resource the girls for a self-sustaining adult life.  The Baale puts great emphasis on providing the girls with an all-round education, including developing their artistic skills, as this competition ably demonstrated.

Congratulations to the four winners and to all those who participated! 

To read more about Baale Mane click here


Airport Strikes and Anxiety: Frankfurt Book Fair 2011

October 25, 2011

The Frankfurt Book Fair this year started on a bad note for many as baggage handlers delayed all incoming flights amid mounting concern over the proposed airport strike on the Friday.

News from across the channel that the British Library had added a ‘buy’ link to Amazon caused a certain amount of angst and publishers were no more amused by Amazon’s ‘request’ for a 90% discount to participate in their Kindle promotion.

In spite of all this, the atmosphere at the fair was focused and business-like and, once people had caught up with the appointments they missed on Wednesday morning, they settled down to three days of productive meetings and discussions.

In addition to the much improved cafes in the halls, several of the pre-fair conferences provided food for thought.  The STM conference on the Tuesday, for instance, had a good talk by Frank Schirrmacher of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), a national German daily.  In his keynote speech, Frank spoke about a conversation he had had with Eric Schmidt of Google about how in the future machines will do all our remembering for us.  He also had some interesting stories to tell about Germany, such as how the German government had introduced a Trojan virus into their population’s computers to capture emails, thus endangering people’s ability to write thought pieces not intended for publication without fear of reprisal. 

For fair-attendees, though, the German government appeared in a more benign light when it was announced that the airport strike had been called off.  As Angela Merkel fights fires on all fronts, she may be comforted to know that the publishing community considers itself indebted to her for ensuring they weren’t stuck in Frankfurt over the weekend.

Kathy Law

European Business Development Manager


Let the tablet era begin!

September 29, 2011

Yes, that should have been the ambitious objective of the iPad team when it launched its version of tablets in the global market on January 27, 2010. Although Microsoft coined the term “tablet” in early 2001, for some reason it didn’t catch on. But Apple’s iPad has paved the way for the tablet market. Now we have not just iPads, we have Samsung Galaxy, Motorola Zoom, Dell Streak, LG Optimus, HTC Flyer, Blackberry Playbook … and the list keeps growing day by day.

How does it affect the global market?

As per Gartner’s report, 20 million tablets were sold in 2010, 54.8 million will be sold in 2011, and the total will grow to more than 208 million in 2014, beating the number of PCs across the world. Tablets have totally changed the way we see, listen, share, and hear things. Now we have 3D applications (apps) that show the complete anatomy of the human body and explain how each system works. We have apps that detect our current location and show us various options to reach our destination and apps that dynamically change the location of the story based on our location. We have apps that read the barcode of the book and give us the book’s ratings, reviewer comments, and comparative prices.

As Don Norman says, “When the technology serves the basic needs, the user experience dominates.” Now we have the technology that allows us to do anything so that we can focus on finding the right solution for our requirements.

How does it affect other industries?

There are many industries that have been affected, predominantly the publishing, learning, and gaming industries. Now almost all major publications have a mobile presence. There are also many options for publishers to be a part of the tablet revolution. Their content can be converted into interactive books, EPUB files, talking books, comics, and so on. Publishers can really give life to their content. If you are a science publisher, you can enable your readers to feel how climate change will affect the overall environment by providing a slider bar to experiment with different climates. If you are an educational publisher, you can enable your students to experience the theory of balance just by allowing them to tilt the device and balance an object. There are many possibilities to bring the content alive by using current technologies. Although we had such technologies in the past, tablets have brought it all into our hands, or rather to our fingertips. 

How does it affect development technology?

When it comes to technology, there are plenty of options available to develop applications for mobile devices. There are frameworks available that allow you to program in your preferred programming language and deliver the applications to various mobiles. You are no longer dependent on any one technology. You can program your app by using HTML 5, Java, .Net, or action script. There are open source technologies and frameworks that will convert your code to suit the requirements of different mobiles. If you want a better user experience and control over device components such as accelerometer, camera, and other features, then it’s best to stick to native code programming. This varies between devices as shown in the following table:

Devices/OS

Native programming technology

iPhone/iPad/iPod  Cocoa, Objective C
Android tablets Java
RIM Java or Adobe SDK
HTC Flyer Java

We’ll continue to monitor the tablet and mobile device landscape and keep you posted on new developments.  

Feel free to post comments and questions below, or get in touch with me directly at u.karthick@macmillansolutions.com

Karthick Ulaganathan

Head – Visual Programming Team


An EPUB 3 Sample

August 30, 2011

UPDATE 24th October 2011: It was brought to MPS’ attention that two of the examples shown in the EPUB 3 video were taken from a blog run by Elizabeth Castro.  Ms Castro is the author of EPUB: Straight to the Point and other EPUB books and runs a popular blog in which she writes about her EPUB development work.  More details can be found at her website here: http://www.elizabethcastro.com/epub.  Due to a management oversight, these files were incorporated into the video and Ms Castro was not asked nor informed.  MPS deeply regrets this oversight and the upset it has caused to Ms Castro.

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UPDATE 2nd September 2011: We’ve taken the video down for now - as people noticed there were some audio issues and being a first cut the quality wasn’t great (we weren’t expecting it to become so popular…).   We’ll be releasing a more polished version which better demonstrates EPUB 3 capabilities soon. Subscribe to the blog or check back here for more updates.

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While most people were enjoying a well-deserved break, our EPUB 3 team has been busy working on a sample for the iPad.  The first cut is below.  We’ve tried to show almost all of the EPUB 3 features currently supported by the iPad which can be seen (remember a lot of EPUB 3′s magic happens at the backend) including:

  • Multimedia: audio and video; animations; slide shows
  • Complex and fixed layouts: print-replica layouts, structured and hyperlinked indexes, embedded fonts, support for high-design content like textbooks
  • Non-Roman scripts: font support, vertical layouts, right-to-left text and page progression
  • Accessibility and early learning: support for accessibility standards, read aloud for children

Watch the video here

We’d love to get your feedback on the sample and hear your thoughts on EPUB 3 in general – does it meet your expectations, which features will be the most useful, what are your plans for EPUB 3.  Post a comment below or join the conversation on the EPUB 3 and HTML5 LinkedIn group here


HTML(5) – The Great Interconnector

July 14, 2011

“Connection, connection, connection.”, pretty much sums up Brett McLaughlin’s long – in fact if copied to Word exactly the 15 pages of the research papers that he tells us used to plague the Web – but definitely worthwhile (and very readable) article on HTML5.
As Brett notes, Tim Berners-Lee dreamed up HTML to re-cast never-ending articles as individual, connected pages and this function as an interconnection enabler has always been at the core of the programming language. “It is called the Internet, remember?”

HTML5 then is just this connecting ability taken to new extremes in a Web-environment – and physical world – where there’s little that isn’t connected. But, as Brett writes, it’s now about connecting “a lot more than hypertext with static images”. Audio and video may be making the headlines, but they are only the first of a possible “20 or 25 elements” which will go “well beyond” them. “The important thing here is that multiple pieces in multiple places can all be wired together in a meaningful way”.

As a programmer, this ability to connect excites him most in terms of the collaboration it can/should generate between web people and content people. Instead of seeing websites as a walled garden of content that you or your organisation owns, he argues for one big shared jungle where the fertility of the soil makes for ever richer, more interesting things. This may not appeal so much to publishers and other content creator organisations, who are understandably concerned about who gets the credit for the products of all this collaboration, but it is probably the direction the Internet will take.

The interconnection theme continues with HTML5 and mobile. HTML5 is touted as the big mobile solution but, “the story really isn’t that HTML5 has great mobile support; rather it’s that mobile is no longer a problem child.” What HTML5 does is make content work, full stop, via whatever medium you’re using. And as well as connecting bits of content Brett hazards that “HTML5 has a really good shot at interconnecting all the devices floating around” which is of course for publishers one of its the biggest selling points.

Read the full article here: http://radar.oreilly.com/2011/07/what-is-html5.html


EPUB 3 vs. EPUB 2.0

May 25, 2011

So EPUB 3 is finally out and, given that the IDPF site was down yesterday with what must have been a huge overload of traffic, everyone seems to be as excited about it as we are.

The blogosphere and trade press are already overflowing with articles on the new EPUB standard so we’ll keep this short and sweet and to the point.

EPUB 3 means EPUB (and thus essentially eBooks as a whole now that Amazon looks set to go the EPUB way) will spread to many more markets and readers because we now have:

  • Support for complex content (maths, high-design textbooks)
  • Enriched content (audio and video)
  • Global language support
  • Accessibility

Here’s a detailed look at how EPUB 3 compares to EPUB 2.0:

Feature EPUB 2.0 EPUB  3.0 Impact/Functionalities
HTML 5 <nav> No Yes HTML5 <nav> element supersedes the NCX document.
NCX document can also be included for EPUB 2 reading systems forward compatibility purposes.
CSS3 support * No Yes

Better control over line break, hyphenation etc.

Enables text writing from left to right and right to left.

Multiple style sheets No Yes

Supports the ability to include multiple style sheets.

Enables dynamic horizontal and vertical layouts.

OTF & WOFF No Yes

Allow fonts which are not installed in the end user’s system to be delivered along with the EPUB file.

Facilitates the retention of the look and feel of the PDF in the EPUB version.

SVG support No Yes

EPUB 3 support to represent vector graphics inline within content as well as standalone SVG file.

Pages will be lighter, thus reducing load time, when we use the SVG element to draw shapes.

Metadata No Yes A rich array of options for adding publication metadata to improve global distribution of publications. eg: a Japanese publication could include an alternate Roman-script representation.
epub: type No Yes

Allows elements in XHTML to include semantic meanings

This addition allows content to be better grouped and defined based on the requirement

epub: trigger No Yes Enables the creation of mark-up defined user interfaces for controlling multimedia objects. Actions include show/hide, play/pause/resume, mute/unmute, etc.
<bindings> No Yes Provides script-based handlers for non-standard media types
XHTML 5 support No Yes Inherits unless otherwise specified all definitions of semantics, structure and processing behaviours from the HTML5 specification
MathML No Yes

Direct embedding of MathML supported

Advantage for STM publishing as this enables rendering of mathematics as text instead of graphics/images

Scripting No Yes Support for scripted content, ie interactivity, using JavaScript language
Audio & Video No Yes Inherits support for HTML5 rich media elements
Aural renditions & Media Overlays No Yes Provides text-to-speech facility (Pronunciation Lexicons (PLS), Inline SSML Phonemes, CSS speech  features).Enables the usage of SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) for representation of synchronized text and audio.

Features that have been removed:

Feature EPUB 2.0 EPUB 3.0 Impact/Functionalities
Alternative syntax to XHTML DTBook HTML5 semantic markup DTBook is no longer an alternative syntax
Out-of-Line XML Islands Yes No <item> element no longer has an optional attribute fallback-style
Tours element Yes No Package document no longer includes <tours> element
Guide element Yes No Deprecated in favour of navigation document  <landmarks> feature

Now that EPUB 3 has been released, the impact it has will be largely determined by how fast publishers adopt the standard and how quickly device makers adapt their devices.

 Naren Kumar 

SVP, Production Technology – MPS Limited


Mobile App Strategies

May 19, 2011

With growing numbers of mobile platforms and the increasing popularity of various mobile devices, the industry is being forced to look for a common platform to develop mobile applications. Although Adobe is pressing ahead with building a common platform for mobile development (including iOS), at the end of the day it’s going to be licensed.  On the other side, there are quite a few open source and proprietary application frameworks that are vying to produce a native app using HTML5, CSS and Javascript technologies. The applications which are developed using these frameworks can be delivered across all platforms (including iOS). We can also have a web version for PCs.

The mobile development team at MPS is actively working on various tested and proven frameworks such as Phonegap and Titanium. Using these frameworks we are able to effectively deliver different applications for various requirements. These frameworks are capable of accessing phone features such as geolocations, camera and accelerometer. The look and feel of the application also can be developed to match the native app user interface elements to an extent.

From what we’ve seen, this model is going to work best for customers who need to deliver their applications to more than one platform. No more redeveloping the same application in different technologies for different mobiles. Develop once and deliver it to ALL.

Karthick Ulaganathan

Head – Visual Programming Team


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