Tizra Puts Publishers Back in Control of Their E-Books

2/24/09Follow @wroush

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the full text from trusted publishing brands such as university presses, Dane says. “If you have a choice between a piece of content that comes from a Usenet post and a piece from the MIT Press, you are probably going to say, ‘My time is valuable, and I’m going to spend a little bit of money to not waste time on content that came from who knows where.’”

As a company, Tizra is about as lean as they come. Durand and Dane are the only two full-time employees. The startup has raised $1.2 million in venture funding, including $650,000 from the Slater Technology Fund, which uses money provided by the Rhode Island state government to make seed-stage investments in life sciences and information technology companies. “Those guys have been really fantastic,” Dane says of the fund. “They are a lynchpin of the Rhode Island startup scene, and they have a way of fostering local companies that really represent the strengths of Rhode Island.”

Durand and Dane have deep roots in both the New England technology scene and the publishing world. For his computer-science doctoral dissertation at Boston University, Durand studied “document engineering,” according to Dane, and he was part of the Cambridge, MA-based World Wide Web Consortium’s effort to develop the original specifications for XML, the Extensible Markup Language that’s at the heart of today’s Web. Dane is a former technology journalist who turned to publishing technology in 1994 and helped the Hearst organization launch its first magazine websites. Dane says he and Durand met while working for Dynamic Diagrams, a well-known Providence-based marketing, design, and Web development firm.

Speaking of design, Dane says that while Tizra’s publishing system is PDF-friendly, some documents that were originally designed for print need a little extra help before they’re navigable on the Web. “There have been a lot of unsuccessful efforts to take stuff that was designed for print and just shovel it onto the Web…Some designs are optimized for a particular delivery mechanism and it makes little sense to just move that to the screen,” he warns. “That said, you don’t just start over from scratch.” Tizra can help, he says, by automatically creating Web-based tables of contents for every document, indexing them by title, author, or subject, and generally making them more Web-friendly.

“We are perfectly suited,” says Dane, “to that situation where people have large amount of content available, developed for print, that they want to be able to use for new purposes and under new business models.”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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