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Why Amnesty International chose Booktype

Amnesty International's annual report workflow in open source Booktype | Photo by Sourcefabric (CC BY SA) (Annual report cover photo by Amnesty International )
Amnesty International's annual report workflow in open source Booktype | Photo by Sourcefabric (CC BY SA) (Annual report cover photo by Amnesty International )

This week, Amnesty International published their 2014/15 Annual Report, a print book on the state of human rights in 160 countries around the world. As a company that develops publishing tools for journalists and authors and is dedicated to freedom of speech and human rights, it was a great experience and honor to support the production of this report.


When a browser and internet connection is enough

The Annual Report is not only the most important publication for Amnesty but is a worldwide reference on the state of human rights. The Report contains up to 500 pages, is published in English, French, Spanish and Arabic, and translated into several further languages by local teams. A publication of this magnitude provides an editorial challenge with a complex workflow representative of the technical infrastructure. Through the use of Booktype, remote teams were enabled to work collaboratively on different documents/books on one centralised platform. Since Booktype requires only an internet connection and a browser on the user’s end, the organisation’s technical infrastructure didn’t need any changes - e.g. software to be installed or new hardware.

The advantage of using Booktype is not only in its ability to bundle and ingest content, but in the option to output to different publishing formats - including the option to easily develop additional ones, if they are needed in future. Booktype enables editors to review the latest corrections and comments on chapters automatically imported from uploaded Microsoft Word documents, correct text and tag formatting, and export to InDesign, ePUB, PDF proof and website formats with a single click.

Book creation in one workflow

As with many other companies and organisations, Amnesty International has established an editorial workflow for their publications over the years. Their workflow was designed to be centred around content creation in Word which would then need to be converted into a layout for publication such as print, web or ePUB. Their layout was completed in a dedicated layout software like InDesign. A graphic designer would import the Word documents (often by copy and pasting) into InDesign to complete the layout. For further editorial work, printouts or screen PDFs would be necessary for the editors and proofreaders to provide corrections and amendments. These corrections would then be transferred again by a graphic designer into layout.

With a workflow as complex as Amnesty’s, we needed to make a few adjustments to Booktype to help not only facilitate the existing workflow but to optimise it and reduce unnecessary steps in the process. In this case, it was essential to provide a solution that did not reorganise the existing editorial workflow completely, but would provide a scalable, sustainable improvement based on the existing procedures, e.g to preserve comments the editors made in Word and then transfer and make them editable in Booktype.  

A more obvious improvement we wanted to make was to avoid media breaks. Meaning we wanted to allow editorial corrections and amendments to be done directly by editors and proofreaders. This would serve to reduce the amount of time the graphic designers needed to spend on implementing simple edits, as the editors would be able to make the changes themselves.

To enable this, one of the most important aspects was to develop an “intelligent” import for Word documents. Based on the layout of the Amnesty Report, we created a Word template that provided paragraph styles for all elements of the layout.

Identifying layout elements

Identifying layout elements

Using this template, we developed a Word .docx import with corresponding styles in Booktype, which could be exported to many other applications.

Text in Word

Content created in MS Word


Successfully uploaded text in Booktype

Successfully uploaded text in Booktype

Ready to publish in one click

A key factor in Amnesty International’s decision to use Booktype was that the software allowed them to  have a ready to publish output with only one click. The standard implementation of Booktype provides PDF and ePUB format for which no design layout or other additional steps are necessary.

To ensure high print standards and total design control for Amnesty International’s most important publication, XML was exported from Booktype to Adobe InDesign for layout approval. Booktype formed a bridge between the XML format used by Word and the dialect expected by InDesign.

Structured XML file

Structured XML file

Thanks to well-structured content in Booktype and a corresponding InDesign template, the automatic generation of a complete book layout - export XML out of Booktype + import into InDesign - was completed within a few seconds.

XML transferred to InDesign before the final PDF


Double page from ready to print PDF

Automatically generated ready to print PDF

This solution provided many advantages from a professional publishing software like InDesign - including fixes for incompatibilities such as bi-directional English and Arabic text within the same chapter endnote. Because of the automatic “transformation” of text into book layout, the graphic design team was able to concentrate only on designing the layout template.

Having previously worked as a project manager in an international publishing company, it is easy to see how publications of this magnitude often represent a real challenge. They need to be translated into many different languages at a time, the people involved in their production are spread all over the world while coming from different cultures and backgrounds, and the whole thing must be created in a condensed timeline.

This project provided a great opportunity to see the immediate results of an improved workflow solution. The collaborative energy put into the project was substantial and is a direct reflection of the effort and energy the people put into it. Our developer team customised the software to meet Amnesty International’s complex requirements, trained the editors and translators, and supported the book production process with on-the-fly enhancements and bug fixes.

It was a pleasure to be in contact with all the people at Amnesty International and get a feel for the unique spirit of the organisation. We are proud to have helped produce such a comprehensive and important publication in multiple languages with the input of so many people.

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