Archives for category: Publishing

09:00 AM: Check my email, make my work plan for the day

10:00 AM: Start fielding questions from our print designers who are now tasked to QA the ebooks that have been sent to the conversion house from their print files

2:00 PM: Notice that there’s a common thread to recent print designers’ QA questions; most can’t be answered even though I’ve conducted in-house ebook QA workshops because one vendor won’t play nice and yet they account for most of our ebook sales

3:00 PM: Contact my director and fellow ebook developer about updating our outsourcer conversion guidelines …

3:30 …again…

4:00 Go into my director’s office because IM’ing these QA questions is leading to confusion and general angst

4:30 Have a new plan regarding conversion guidelines and what (outdated) ereaders we will no longer support in favor of the vendor that won’t play nice

6:00 Wrap up my work day and wander home to decompress

7:00 Tell my husband that today was a good day because we highlighted issues that will be addressed

Moral of the story: Ebook QA is never done


Here’s my annual post about PePcon. Last year’s is here.

The popular Print + ePublishing Conference is rapidly approaching! PePcon is the popular conference created by AnneMarie Concepcion and David Blatner, the powerhouse behind InDesign Secrets. This year the conference is in Austin, Texas, from Sunday, April 28 through Wednesday, May 1. It is four days of learning new skills, becoming cutting-edge current with skills you already have in print and digital publishing, and uniting with all sorts of your people—people in the publishing industry. If you decide to go to PePcon (and if you’re in publishing production, you should), you will come away empowered to make real-world, scalable changes to your current workflows … what you’re working on right now. It’s about being smarter about tools and more efficient with time. Who can’t use a good dose of that?

As I’ve been looking over the sessions I’ve been doing what I always do before attending a conference: Planning out which ones apply directly to what I’m working on today … and most likely will be working on tomorrow. PePcon has a lot to offer for both print and digital. As an ebook developer, the following sessions offer the real-world take-aways that I can take back to the office.

My perspective is from that of an in-house ebook developer at a book publisher whose workflow is very template-based and heavy on QA, who is tasked with helping to inform co-workers on the latest developments in ebooks and ereaders, and who doesn’t have enough hours in the day. Here’s what I’m excited to be learning at PePcon this year (click to make larger):


These are the sessions that are most applicable to my job as an ebook developer, but you can’t go wrong with any of them. Publishers depend on all of us in production and design to produce print and digital content efficiently and with the highest regard for the author’s voice. Content that visually appeals and connects to the content’s audience. And all this using technology that changes quickly. This conference is valuable in that it’s not just about theory and it’s heavy on the tools and the let’s-get-it-done, can-do attitude.

The check marks indicate ebooks that can be sold through major vendors (think Amazon, Apple, etc) and the diamonds indicate PDF ebooks. Both of viable options for ebooks but, of course, PDF ebooks have one disadvantage: The major ebook vendors do not sell PDFs as ebooks. However, many publishers go around this unfortunate decision by selling their PDF ebooks direct-to-consumer on their own websites.

EPUB Bootcamp: What You Need to Know is my pre-conference workshop! I love teaching ebook production to print designers because, as a former print designer myself, I have found that the trick is to start with what you know. And everyone knows styles. Did you know that Word styles talk to InDesign styles talk to ebook styles? If you want to take it one step further: Word styles map to InDesign paragraph and character styles map to ebook html and css. Here’s another tip: Good print production habits are almost the same for InDesign-to-epub-export habits. We’ll review what you already know, how to apply it in ebook production in a scalable workflow, and how to be sure that the results are what you intended in this workshop.

So make your plans to attend PePcon soon … it’s only 5 weeks away. AnneMarie and David are offering a $50 discount with the code DBW (which stands for Digital Book World where I teach ebook production courses) when you register. I hope to see you there!

EPUB format Digital Book World University has launched and I’m excited to teach the first course! Straight-Text-EPUB is now open for registration. It’s tailored for those who know InDesign, have a basic knowledge of CSS, and have making their first ebook on their to-do list of professional goals. You can even use your own manuscript! If you don’t have your own, you can choose a title from Project Gutenberg. You can find out the prerequisites on the course’s description page.

Why did we start with using InDesign? We’ve heard from many print designers who want to make the transition from print to digital. The problem is that nobody has much time between deadlines, more deadlines, and having a life, to sort through all the training information available out there. Let me walk you through the steps of making an ebook using the tool that’s already familiar to you: InDesign. It’s not the only tool out there but it has a solid place in the print-to-digital workflow.

Here’s the outline of the course:

Week 1: Digital Workflow and EPUB Project Plan

1. Know the difference between ebook vendors, ereaders, and formats
2. Think like an ebook consumer
3. Keep up with ebook technology
4. Plan your ebook project

Week 2: Beginning with InDesign and Graduating to Dreamweaver

1. Follow file naming best practices
2. Format your text consistently
3. Check your punctuation
4. Map your styles
5. Control the order of content and plan section breaks
6. Create robust navigation
7. Insert metadata
8. Create a cover
9. Export to EPUB
10. View the results in Adobe Digital Editions

Week 3: EPUB Validation and Editing in Dreamweaver

1. Validate your ebook often
2. Choose the correct software to edit the EPUB
3. Plan for opening and closing the EPUB
4. Know what makes up the inside of an EPUB
5. Check the navigational TOC
6. Understand the difference between HTML and CSS
7. Design your ebook
8. Specify or embed fonts
9. Use color carefully
10. Refine the metadata

Week 4: Kindle Conversion, Quality Assurance, QED Seal

1. Collect vendor spec documents
2. Plan your QA process
3. Predict QA issues
4. Convert to Kindle
5. Aim for the QED Seal

Every week you will turn in a weekly project for personalized feedback from me and our message boards will be open for discussion of the week’s lessons. A sample EPUB will be included in your materials that you can copy markup from and keep for future reference.

Even if you are not a book print designer but know InDesign / or if you have already made an ebook but want to refine your workflow and get personalized feedback / or if you are a beginning ebook freelancer who wants to learn best practices from an in-house professional ebook developer, do join us! It will be an intensive four weeks of learning and at the end you’ll have a consumer-ready ebook ready for your portfolio or for publishing on iBooks, Nook Color, Nook Touch, Kindle Touch, and Kindle Fire.

If you don’t join us for this course, check back at Digital Book World University for future course offerings. If you have any questions before registering for this course, please let me know in the comments. This first session starts on Monday which is just a few days away. I look forward to sharing this digital journey with you.

The publishing industry is in a constant state of change these days, what with these new technologies and ebooks and ereaders and apps and whatnot. The changes can be overwhelming and so it’s good to put it into context. Sure, the printed book has been around, it feels like, forever but even the printed book has gone through its fair share of change.

I was browsing last month in a used bookstore in Greenwich Village, NYC, when I came upon The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski. When I handed the book over to purchase it, I mentioned to the owner of the bookstore that I was a print book designer turned ebook designer but I still loved print. He responded, in a bitter tone, “I like the first part of that but not the second. You guys are gonna put me out of business.” So remind me not to mention ebooks in a used bookstore. What I had intended was to start a conversation regarding digital versus print and I did mention that I personally don’t feel that print books are going away … but he wasn’t in the mood, or buying it, or something that prevented me from connecting to him.

Anyways, I’m enjoying the book and it’s full of reminders that reading matter has always been evolving:

“In the early centuries of [a.d.], bookshelves had to accommodate, in addition to scrolls, a growing number of bound manuscripts, or codices, which in time would displace scrolls as the preferred format for books. The codex, named for the face that it was covered with wood (codex means “tree trunk” in Latin), and which led to the term “code” in a legal context, was made by folding over flat sheets of papyrus or parchment and sewing them together into a binding. This had several distinct advantages over the scroll. Where an entire scroll might have to be unrolled to find a passage near the end, the relevant page could be turned to immediately in the codex. Also, writing in a scroll was normally on one side only, whereas the codex lent itself to the use of both sides of the leaf.”

(above, click on pic to enlarge) “In the sixteenth century, books began to have authors and titles, and the date of the edition imprinted on their spines. As long as the practice was far from universal, however, not all books were shelved spine outward. Here, a book not so imprinted is identified by a slip of paper tipped into an inside cover and folder over the book’s fore-edge.”

“Although cloth binding as we know it was first adapted to book-binding in 1823, ‘a style of binding uniform for all copies of the same book’ did not appear until around 1830, when machinery was introduced to letter the cloth-bound cases that could be fitted over the printed guts of a book. This development ushered in a new chapter in the way books were made and sold. Whereas the bookseller would bind or have bound, by hand of course, only as many copies as were likely to be sold in the immediate future—a form of just-in-time manufacturing [my note: doesn’t this sound like modern print-on-demand?]—with the advent of machinery the publisher itself began to bind an entire edition of a book in the common style of the time.”

Sure, we’re in the midst of a change in publishing … and it’s not the first time. Sure, it can be scary and uncertain and can make us fight over what we see the future as coming to. But the bottom line is that as long as people keep writing books and reading them and relating to each other through them, it’sallgood. And we can be proud to be a part of that chain that connects us all.

Apple recently announced that it has adopted the ePUB3 standard. Any day now the rest of the ebook vendors will follow suit and those of us in digital publishing will have to flip the switch and start producing ePUB3-compliant ebooks that pass validation.

It took me a fair amount of time to learn and implement the ePUB2 standard, so just considering this change nearly rendered me paralyzed until I attended two ePUB3 presentations in 2012: The Digital Bindery’s presentation at TOCCON and Matthew Diener and Liz Castro’s presentation at PePCON. At these presentations attendees learned that there doesn’t have to be a vast difference between an ePUB2 ebook and an ePUB3 ebook; in fact, if your content doesn’t call for the bells and whistles of ePUB3, you need not do more than apply the basic ePUB3 specs.

Now for the context: I tend to agree that the majority of ebook readers just want to read and that enhancements such as audio and video and interactivity are not as in-demand as are clean, portable, and quality-inspected texts … at least as far as our own content goes. Our sales data backs that up. Also, our workflow is, for the most part, a one-epub-for-all-vendors-and-devices workflow. Our ebooks will still be read, for the majority and for now, on ePUB2 ereaders and ePUB3 features will break or be invisible (Javascript pop-up notes, MathML, multi-column formats, support for Asian languages, and the list goes on and on … ). All that being said about our workflow needs, I’m excited about the ePUB3 spec because it does address some of the basics that have been lacking, such as better support for fonts, styling, and languages; for linking and references; and for metadata. And someday those features will be supported on all ereaders.

That brings us to the work at hand: When tasked with evaluating the minimum spec changes we’d have to learn and employ to flip the switch from ePUB2 to 3 for our own digital publishing program, I came up with this as my to-do list:

  • Replace the toc.ncx with the toc.xhtml (but for now we’ll include both for backwards compatibility with older ereaders)
  • Update content.opf:
  • Use the .xhtml extension instead of .html (an issue we’ll have to deal with when QA’ing older titles)

… and if you embed fonts keep in mind that now only WOFF and OpenType are supported. That’s right, no more TrueType, but you can use a font converter.

This is my to-do list to test this week. I have an existing ePUB2 file that I’ll amend with these new specs and validate, validate, validate. I’ll update this post with the results … as well as any adjustments I had to make during testing. I share this in the spirit of giving back to the #eprdctn community, but keep in mind that I’m still learning and can’t help with troubleshooting answers regarding ePUB3, except I can always commiserate! And keep in mind that there are vendor-specific requirements already existing (iBooks suggests versioning, for instance) and to come.

Off I go to flip that switch on.