De Gruyter

Since 1749, this European publisher has been producing and distributing English and German content, focusing primarily on scientific, technical, legal, humanities, and social sciences. With an output of approximately 1,400 books per year—in addition to journals, reference materials, and databases—De Gruyter’s compiled catalog exceeds 65,000 titles.

Unlike other industries, De Gruyter’s customers are not usually the end users: they sell to university libraries and other academic institutions, and it’s the scientists and educators at those universities who actually use the materials.


For many years, scientific publishing was focused on printed materials, but the last decade has seen an increasing demand for digital access. This industry-wide shift has forced De Gruyter to reassess—and redefine—their business. “With this change in content output, we’re not really a traditional publisher anymore,” Kohl explains. “We’re becoming more of a service provider, and also a hosting platform.”

And customers’ needs are changing—both in terms of format and timeframe. As Kohl points out, they want more granular access to content, and they want it faster. “Purchasing is shifting from ‘just in case’ to ‘just in time’. We can’t afford to have a production time of several years. It needs to be quick, custom, and flexible.”

Since 2006, De Gruyter has invested in a wide range of technologies and support staff. With so many different types of content and business models, they’ve relied on a variety of legacy databases, websites, and online platforms. Not only was this cumbersome and expensive to maintain, the complicated infrastructure prevented them from moving forward with new innovations.

The writing was on the wall: in 2009, De Gruyter realized it was time to simplify. “We needed a new, consolidated platform that would bring increased flexibility, lower costs, and more automation,” Kohl says.

When we started down the MarkLogic path, we had very high hopes. It’s not often that all the marketing blurbs and brochures are exactly as described. But with this technology, all the promises were kept, and all the features exceeded our expectations. It’s evident that we made the right choice. MarkLogic simply delivered.

Christian Kohl, Director of Information & Publishing Technology, De Gruyter

The Solution

Kohl and his team began searching for a solution that would support all of their various data types and adapt to constantly changing structures. Excellent searching and browsing capabilities were also high on the list. And with their limited budget, they needed a turnkey solution that wouldn’t require third-party technologies.

In November of 2010, De Gruyter chose MarkLogic to consolidate up to ten of their legacy systems into one customer-facing application. The new platform would combine all of the existing systems on top of a MarkLogic database and search engine. Using an agile development approach, they were able to implement new iterations for key features. Just a little over a year later, the new platform was launched.

Why MarkLogic?

Quicker Response, Higher Revenue: With previous systems, it could take up to six months to add new features or changes. Now, ever-increasing requests can be met in a matter of days—or even hours. This has also enabled the company to increase acquisitions and partnerships with publishing partners.

Reduced time to market: Database products and reference works used to take a year to develop and deploy. Now, it’s a matter of days or weeks.

Seamless Integration & Automation: De Gruyter was able to set up XML feeds to send all data from their ERP system—which houses metadata, catalogs, pricing, and other information—directly into MarkLogic. The new platform also hooks into the company’s CMS and MAM systems, streamlining the flow of content.

Streamlined acquisition process: Historically, acquiring more providers and content was a very painful process, particularly for the IT department. With the new platform, De Gruyter can ramp up data volume without impacting performance.

Reduced Costs: With MarkLogic’s more simplistic structure, there is no longer a need to map between the SQL database and the application layer—which translates to lower maintenance costs. And by eliminating much of its hardware requirements, De Gruyter has cut its hosting costs in half.

Out-of-the-box Search: With their limited budget, De Gruyter needed a solution that wouldn’t require a third-party tool—and MarkLogic delivered. “There’s no need to integrate with the SQL server,” Kohl says. “MarkLogic’s search is already powerful enough.”

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