Database publishing, a lean approach with Pagination.com
If you have dealt with data publishing projects, as I do, you most likely struggled with:
- preparing the data to get it in the exact, required format
- figuring how to create a library rich with information and logic
- merging together multiple batches of documents and their never-ending variations and updates.
Maybe that’s the reason why I noticed Pagination.com as one of the PePcon 2016 sponsors. From their website they offer database publishing “as-a-service.” This definition aroused my curiosity so I decided to contact them and understand how they work and why data publishing should be “a service.”
I spoke with Luca Reginato, who’s been a Project Manager for Pagination for 6 years. Priors to Pagination, Luca and his team’s background focused on business processes, IT, and interoperability. And maybe their professional path explains their different approach on the whole database publishing topic.
Luca and his team have worked on more than three-hundred database-publishing projects, with many different approaches—both in terms of technologies (Adobe’s standards and 3rd-party solutions) and delivery (training, on-premise systems and cloud services). He explained that not every project was a piece of cake, but the first-hand experience gave them possibility to detect recurring bottlenecks, group them in categories, and streamline them. Over time their analysis translated into a redefinition of the concept of database publishing and into an overcoming of its three main inefficiencies:
- Data preparation
- Complex field mapping
- Resource-intensive publication cycles (that Luca jokingly calls “baby-sitting”)
The result of their effort is Pagination: a market-leading provider of layout automation solutions that efficiently—really, no frills—already serves dozens of customers (from Fortune’s caliber corporations to SME and creative agencies), mainly in Europe. Now Luca and his team aim to branch out in the United States and are looking for selected partners such as creative agencies and printers.
Luca also gave me the chance to take a closer look at how their solution works. And it’s really very simple. Offering automated publish solutions as a service, you can work with Pagination through a very agile structure of shared folders:
- Layout (indd)
- A “launch” trigger
- Output (indd and pdf)
You can access the shared folder anywhere, anytime with a browser or using a command line interface. A very useful option if you want to programmatically sync data, images, and documents. The logic of the system is that you upload new data and images, then launch the pagination and after a few minutes you can download the finished documents both in InDesign and PDF format.
Pagination does all the work for you: taking care of data transformation, library field mapping, creating chapters or versions of the documents based on the available data, and merging them in cross-referenced complete documents.
In the database publishing scene Pagination offers quite a new and compelling solution, defining important innovations and advantages:
- Traditional database publishing solutions force publishing managers into a corner where they become the unintentional pivot of the entire process. This often causes bottlenecks, stalls, and consequent headaches. From the very beginning Pagination’s approach opens the publication workflow to a collaboration between different actors: product data managers, art-directors, and IT departments.
- The training required to use their system is near zero. Since they take care of the initial setup of the project, your only duty (after giving Pagination the layout you prefer) is to keep providing the data and images in the same format you initially choose. And if for some reasons you need to change that format, Pagination staff will quickly make that change for you.
- Pagination also provides an advanced “glue-factor” in workflows (e.g. handling InDesign Book management), limiting or erasing the need to reopen the paginated documents after the automatic composition. This results in ready-to-use documents and no critical tasks have to be performed when a deadline is approaching. And such situations are always the most prone to human errors.
A few days after our first talk, Luca reached out to me, asking me to write an article on what I understood about their work. And I am very glad to agree to his request. I’m also happy to have the opportunity to meet him at PePcon in San Diego and take a deeper look at his solution and how it could help our customers at Ripon Printers.