In “Company Snapshots,” we pose a series of questions to leading providers of digital products and services and let them speak for themselves about what their company does, how they benefit publishers, and what they believe the biggest trends in the industry are. In today’s entry, we have Circular Software.
What does your company do?
Circular Software is a UK company that specializes in software for publishers. This year we have launched two new Mac apps for illustrated publishers, MasterPlan and GreenLight. MasterPlan connects everyone involved in creating illustrated publications to an online, up-to-date view of every spread of every title. Users of MasterPlan pull comments entered online back into InDesign and automatically update the online pages as they work. GreenLight is a desktop tool that allows publishers to set up workflow-specific checklists of house style and production rules that are instantly shared with every InDesign user both in and out of house.
What’s unique about your company compared to your competitors?
The consultancy, training courses and software tools we develop have come from real-life experience and understanding of book publishing. Founder of Circular Software, Ken Jones, was in-house a publishing software trainer, technical production manager and developer for Penguin Group UK, Dorling Kindersley and Pearson for more than 10 years. Our apps are made to fit in to publishers’ existing workflows without dictating how they should work. For example, tools can be used offline and without a requirement to move files or to change their names, and we have intentionally not included file sharing or messaging that most design teams already do well.
What’s the single biggest benefit your customers get from your service?
We combine the power of the web with modern publishing software to build new tools that support a vital, but sometimes overlooked, section of people working for the publisher—those actually creating the content! MasterPlan connects authors, creative teams, production staff and managers during the creative process while GreenLight helps all InDesign users in taking responsibility that their files are made in the way the publisher wants. An accompanying online support site gives clear explanation and guidance, and GreenLight gives options to export “green light” stamped production ready PDFs and final files in a standard way.
What’s the single biggest problem for your customers right now?
The biggest problem for illustrated publishers is making the move to digital. Amazon’s dominance is combined with their dissatisfactory fixed layout ebook reading experience (lack of support for audio, video, transparency effects, read aloud and animation, for a start…). Publishers are backing away from adding interactions, as they want their ebooks to fit the lowest common denominator of the Amazon format. One of our customers said recently, “I’m in a constant state of war against Amazon over their lousy file format. I keep telling them their format is far too inferior to handle the requirements of most of our books.”
What’s the single biggest opportunity for your customers right now?
The value of a well-written, well-researched, well-edited, well-designed illustrated layout is not somehow old-fashioned and is not going to go away in the digital world. The function of graphic design to clearly convey complex information is too important. Smart publishers are beginning to acknowledge that this kind of content is not intended for a mobile device. They know the value of their content and are putting themselves in a position to repurpose for the future by taking control of their content and making sure it is current, complete and consistent.
What industry trends do you think will have the greatest impact on your customers over the next 24 months?
There is great potential to use illustrated layouts digitally, but not necessarily through ebooks as we know them now. First, by bringing non-fiction illustrated information to the web so it can be discovered, and then by providing simple controls on access, including subscription, serialization, customization and social sharing. We also see the potential for illustrated book content for smart TVs, apps and the web. Circular Software is working on several ideas for the future in these areas. Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more.
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