Typesetting has long been one of the most arduous parts of publishing an academic journal. After copyediting an accepted manuscript, many journals follow a typesetting workflow, either internally or via freelance typesetters, like this:
- Typeset article (usually from Word doc) into PDF using a desktop publishing system like InDesign
- Code article into HTML for the journal’s website - or skip HTML because it’s too much additional work
- Convert article into partial or full XML for scholarly indexes - depending on if you have the technical resources to do this
Look familiar? Journals are formatting their articles upwards of 3 times before being able to publish them! This kind of production process can take anywhere from 6 to 20+ hours depending on the journal’s workflow - and when paying professionals to do the work, the cost can really add up. Journals that skip publishing in HTML or XML due to resource constraints are missing out on the chance to enhance their journal’s digital presence and make their content more discoverable online.
At Scholastica, we saw an opportunity to make this process a lot easier using technology. You may have seen that we recently launched a new typesetting service for journals that use Scholastica Open Access Publishing. Scholastica’s typesetting service takes the legwork out of formatting manuscripts by using advanced software to generate HTML, PDF, and XML articles all at once. We even work directly with authors during proof review within the Scholastica platform, so editors can oversee typesetting discussions between authors and Scholastica’s team without having to field each question or update request themselves.
How does Scholastica typesetting work? Let’s go behind the scenes:
Today, the majority of journals use the PDF as their canonical article format, and it’s creating many challenges online. While the PDF remains a standard publishing format for academic articles (though its merits are under debate), it is not conducive to digital publishing. PDFs aren’t optimized for online scholarly indexes and mainstream search engines, which work best when they can ingest content in computer-based formats. PDFs are also cumbersome for online readers compared to HTML because they aren’t mobile-friendly and are not easily searchable via online browsers, among other limitations. Journals are spending a ton of time manually typesetting PDFs only to have to convert them to XML for indexing and HTML for online reading. Or they’re just publishing in PDF and missing out on the benefits of more digitally compatible mediums. Frankly, we think this is backward.
Other journals use XML as their canonical article format, but this is difficult for humans to work with since XML is meant for computers. Editors and authors often don’t want to interact with XML because the computer code makes it hard to read, so whenever errors crop up they can be difficult to fix. In this scenario, the PDF article is also edited separately from the XML making it easy for the two to get out of sync.
What differentiates Scholastica’s typesetting process from others is that because we use technology to dynamically generate PDFs and XML from the HTML itself, the HTML article and the PDF and XML are always in sync and being updated at the same time. Any changes the author requests to the HTML article are automatically reflected in PDF and XML.
What this means for a journal is that they get all the article formats readers need (PDF, HTML, and XML) in less time, without having to wrestle with different files or systems, and without needing to hire and manage a team of freelancers. Journals also get PDF and HTML versions of all articles on their website without having to upload and manage multiple files, because PDFs are dynamically generated from a link in their HTML articles.
How do we turn a journal’s manuscript into HTML? It starts… and ends with the journal editor sending us the copyedited DOCX file of the manuscript plus any files/tables. After that, the editor can go back to other work! Our typesetting team is able to use technology to convert the DOCX and other files into beautiful HTML and PDF versions of the article as well as XML that the journal can submit to scholarly indexes. Because we use technology to typeset articles, rather than relying on freelancers to manually prepare files, we’re able to prepare all three article types at the same time and get them to the journal quickly.
Our digital article formatting process ensures that all of a journal’s articles will be machine-readable (i.e. easy for computers to understand). We apply machine-readable metadata to all article files so they can be found via Google and other search engines. When using Scholastica Open Access Publishing and typesetting, journals can also be sure that their articles will be indexed in Google Scholar.
Additionally, we’ve enhanced the online discoverability of HTML articles by linking all of the articles cited in the references section to their Google Scholar listings (where applicable). This helps search engines understand the kinds of content a journal’s articles relate to and makes it more likely for the journal’s articles to show up in relevant search queries. You can learn more about this feature here.
Once a journal’s typeset articles are generated, it’s time for proof review! Unlike in traditional typesetting where editors and authors have to proof the PDF and HTML versions of articles separately, in Scholastica’s typesetting process we digitally generate both versions of the article from one HTML file, so editors and authors need only review the HTML article proof (or the PDF proof if they prefer). Either way, editors and authors only have to proof one file. Any changes made to the HTML article will automatically be applied to the PDF and XML files also.
Another typesetting challenge that we know many journals face is getting data tables to look right in different file types. In manual typesetting, data tables are usually prepared in a design file and then inserted into articles as images. These images can sometimes break page formatting or appear squished if they have to be resized to fit on a page. Using Scholastica’s typesetting service you don’t have to worry about any of this, because we use machine-readable tabular data to generate tables within articles. Our software is able to prepare tables to perfectly fit the article page so they always look clean and professional.
What is Scholastica’s proof review process like for authors? Authors get access to all final formats of their article from the start. We send authors an email with a link to their unpublished HTML article, which includes a link to access the PDF version of the file. So authors can view both the most up-to-date HTML file and PDF at the same time and exactly as they will appear on the journal’s website.
Authors have a chance to review the article and can then submit any questions or update requests to Scholastica via Discussion messages that all of the journal’s editors can see and will receive updates about. We then apply any necessary changes to the article and finalize it.
Once proof review is complete, all the journal editor has to do is go to the journal’s publishing dashboard in Scholastica, where they will see the finalized articles, and click publish for each article or issue they want to go live. HTML articles will appear on the journal’s website, including a link to view an auto-generated PDF. We’ll also publish the XML files for all of your articles so they’re accessible to any relevant indexes. That’s it! Typesetting complete in just a few simple steps!