Will this scene be a thing of the past in this new age of digital publishing?

The responses to my tweet today got me thinking about that:

First, @idguy pointed out that we can go paperless thanks to InCopy, or at least a PDF with commenting. Then, @jmvrankin pointed out sometimes paper is still best in the case of heavy edits, such as tracking rounds of editorial corrections in a math textbook.

As always, there’s merits to both (relatively) long-standing solutions. And after having finished that stack of galleys in the picture, I can safely say that as far as production is concerned the edits in all those galleys were light enough to be rendered in PDF and implemented without confusion. And then I hauled 10 sets of galleys (old and new) down to the copy chief’s office in batches. Gosh-darn-it, pixels are just so much lighter!

We have experimented with PDF corrections in our workflow. However, the general consensus is that editors prefer editing on paper as they say they can “see” and “think” through the corrections better. And us production designers like paper for heavy and/or complex corrections because we perceive that can “see” them a little better and having to swivel between paper and screen is not as annoying as having to flip between, or minimize the windows for, InDesign and Acrobat on the same screen. (InCopy will make it into our workflow one of these days.)

But wait … 95% of the galley edits that have come across my desk are for print books. For eBooks we’ve done pretty much the same thing so far: Editors either review ePubs (posted for them on a central server) in ADE on their computers for light edits or they ask me to print out “galleys” of eBooks that we know will have more extensive edits (most frequently, repurposed text that potentially needs rewriting). However, I expect this to change as our eBook editors get used to working with eBook-specific content. We’ve even tossed the idea around of loading Coda, Sigil, or BBEdit onto their computers so that they can edit directly in the ePub. And the fabulous thing is that they won’t have to worry about reflow as they would for a print book.

Whether talking p- or e-books, choices of editing tools come down to complexity of the corrections, habit, software implementation, budget (paper costs, software), environmental concerns, and that variable of all variables … human preference. So far technology has not changed our quirky predilections. There will be no “app” for that!

Editors—how do you prefer to edit? Production designers—how do you prefer to get edits?