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Why XML?

March 27, 2013

Authored by: Kurt Hettler - Director of Publisher Services, Oxford University Press

Making content easier to find and more mobile is increasingly important in the modern research environment, and an early decision to move content to XML is helping OUP keep up with rapid changes in the digital world.

Academics are accessing content via mobile devices at accelerated rates. From March 2011 to 2012 alone, we saw a staggering 5,000% increase in the number of academics and students using an iPad to access Oxford Scholarship Online (OSO) within our University Press Scholarship Online (UPSO) platform, while visits to the site via mobile devices increased by 2,250% over the same period.

Providing a seamless research journey on any device is essential, and many publishers are struggling to keep pace with this transition, but for OUP a bold decision to make XML a key part of our digital strategy early on is helping us to keep up with the changes.

We laid the foundations for device-agnostic access to our content nearly a decade ago with the launch of OSO. This move away from the then-popular PDF format, and towards the early use of XML and precise text tagging served to future-proof OSO, allowing it to accommodate and adapt to shifts in technology, and inform our long-term digital strategy.

According to Director of Institutional Accounts, Lenny Allen: “XML provides the benefit of deep search that is not only more accurate than PDF, but in a world in which discoverability is of outsized importance, it offers researchers the opportunity to pinpoint relevant content to a far greater degree.”

Does this mean that XML has completely replaced PDF as the format of choice for today’s researchers? Not according to our latest market research. ‘Users still want to be able to download a PDF file,’ says Marketing Research Manager Karen Langsam. ‘XML allows users to quickly discover and access content during their search process, while PDF enables users to engage more deeply with content once it is found.’

In fact, one of the recent enhancements built into UPSO is the ability to create full-chapter PDFs. ‘We listened to user feedback, and this is something they clearly want,’ said Langsam. ‘In response to this feedback, we’ve made it possible for users to create a PDF of entire chapters that are generated from the same XML presented in the online display and can be saved locally or sent to a device.’

Our approach is clearly providing benefits. As well as seeing mobile visits increase, we’re also seeing significant and rapid growth in the time spent on our sites. In March 2011 the average visit lasted 54 seconds, while in March 2012 in was two minutes and four seconds. Visitor numbers are also rising –2010 to 2012, telling us that users are finding the content they want and engaging with it on a deeper level. 

As more and more users discover and benefit from our high-quality resources across an ever-expanding array of devices and platforms, our early adoption of XML ensures both their success in discovering and accessing relevant and timely content and the continued success of the UPSO platform.

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