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Reporting on the state of human rights

Amnesty International

Amnesty International
We’ve been able to make a very significant improvement to Amnesty’s Annual report production workflow. Booktype is intuitive and easy to use, and makes complete sense for an organisation where there are many different stakeholders in different locations. Richard Swingler, Global Production Services Manager

Human rights NGO Amnesty International is a movement of more than seven million people producing critical documents while working remotely in many different locations. 


Amnesty International's flagship publication is the Annual Report, composed of 160 detailed chapters written by regional experts on the human rights situation in most of the countries of the world.

The challenge

Such a huge organisation needs a reliable, collaborative tool. Conventional publishing workflows weren't scaling to meet the challenges of a world in which a diverse range of reading and interchange formats are required. This factor is combined with the constant requirement of ensuring that Amnesty's reports are accurate, consistent, and up-to-date. The authors and translators of the Annual Report had to produce new output formats, including XML for Adobe InDesign and XHTML for the Amnesty International websites.

Swingler led the search for a tool that would handle a structured, XML-based workflow with as much automation as possible while remaining easy to use for book contributors. Contributors were used to working in Microsoft Word and were not keen to abandon it in the short term. The tool of choice also needed to be extensible at short notice to cover requirements that emerged during the adoption of a new workflow.

The solution

These challenges lead Amnesty International to select Booktype, and deploy the software in production for the first time in late 2014.

With so much information to integrate from contributors around the world, and so many languages and formats required, a structured publishing system based on DOCX chapter templates and book skeletons helped organise the data and ensured consistency across outputs. A custom interface was deployed so that Amnesty International’s project managers could enable upload access for chapter editors and see the status of each book and chapter at a glance.

Word docx upload interface

Word docx upload interface

The Booktype web interface enables editors to review the latest corrections and comments on chapters automatically imported from the uploaded Microsoft Word documents.

Successfully uploaded content in Booktype

Successfully uploaded content in Booktype

Certain editors and translators are allowed to correct text and tag formatting using the Aloha inline editor, and export to InDesign XML, EPUB, PDF and website XHTML formats with a single click.

Some of the simplest code changes made the biggest difference to Amnesty’s authors and translators. The book history feature used a pop-up window to enable comparison of chapter revisions side by side, but in production use it was soon discovered that the amount of vertical browser scrolling required was impractical. As pretty as the pop-up feature appeared in a demo, it was a productivity killer and harmed user experience. The Booktype team added a button that opened the chapter revisions in a new full-sized browser tab, and within a few minutes the book contributors were able to work much faster.

As part of the support for contributors used to working with Microsoft Word, the Booktype team developed and released a new open source software library, Python-OOXML. This library handles .docx import and conversion to HTML, including the transfer of comments made in Word.

To ensure high print standards and total design control over Amnesty’s most important publication, XML was exported from Booktype and imported to an Adobe InDesign template for layout approval.

Exported XML file

Exported XML file

Booktype’s HTML formed a bridge between the XML format in the Word documents and the dialect expected by InDesign, mapping styles automatically and fixing incompatibilities including bi-directional English and Arabic text on the same line.

Double page from ready to print pdf

Double page from ready to print pdf

In later editions, the conversion to print PDF was performed automatically, significantly reducing the production delays caused by working across time zones from Latin America to Hong Kong.

The result

In 2014/15, this 400+ page print book was published simultaneously using Booktype in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic, and translated into 12 other languages by local teams. Since then, the 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 editions have all been produced with Booktype, and the variety of character sets has grown to include Chinese, Korean and Georgian.


Amnesty International Report 2014/15

Amnesty International Report 2014/15

Booktype enabled remote teams to work collaboratively on different chapters using one centralised platform. Since Booktype requires only a standard web browser at the user’s end, Amnesty International’s own infrastructure didn’t require any new software or hardware to be installed. Booktype’s solution was integrated with the existing editorial workflow, to provide a scalable, sustainable improvement.

The Booktype developer team not only extended its browser-based software to meet Amnesty’s complex requirements, but has also trained the editors and translators, and supported the book production process with on-the-fly enhancements and bug fixes. 

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See for yourself

Write to us at contact@booktype.pro to learn how Booktype can help your publishing business.