3D: On fast cars and ebooks

In the first of an occasional series, 3D: Three Questions on Design, Toby Hopkins of Getty Images asks Martin Stockham, the man behind new electronic publishing house Monza Books about designing for digital. Monza’s first publications, The Racing Car: Ferrari 250 GTO by Doug Nye, newly updated with a foreword by Pink Floyd drummer and race car collector Nick Mason, and The Racing Car: Porsche 917 by Ray Hutton, just released, are both available from Monza’s site.

1. The Ferrari 250 GTO and the Porsche 917 are design icons in their own right, and often print books on collectable cars are beautifully produced. How did that impact your thinking as you set about creating ebooks about them?

We felt it was important to work on a clean and elegant design for that very reason, many of the print books on the subject cost way more than our offering but the readership will still expect anything on these cars to be of a high standard, in terms of content and presentation. The temptation in the interactive digital domain is to throw everything onto the page or screen because you can, rather than adhere to, or develop, a style that sits well with the reader and the subject. We deliberately avoid placing buttons and widgets everywhere simply for the sake of it and prefer to employ features that genuinely enhance the content. At the same time, we’ve tried to adopt a colour scheme and background that is a fit for the particular cars and their era.

Ferrari 250 GTO

2. Why did you choose the ebook format rather than producing apps?

We may go down the app route at some stage – or even better, Apple may open the iBook App to all platforms so the rest of the world can see what interactive ebooks can really deliver – but mainly it was a decision driven by cost. We’d rather the budget went on the writing, the photography, shooting new video content and any archive or library rights, than spend the money developing the app. The iBook Author software is free, so we can really focus on the creative process straight off the bat. Once we have a series of titles, then perhaps we’ll look at app delivery.

Porsche 917

3. Using iBooks author, what opportunities does the format give you to make the most of different types of visual content in your books?

For many that work with iBooks Author, the pre-existing templates can make life a whole lot easier, particularly for those new to the experience. But the fact that we can work from a blank canvas or template too is a huge opportunity. We can have complete freedom over the design this way and utilise widgets within the software or build our own with something like Hype. At the same time, the generous file size means we can really leverage our own video archive or shoot especially for the book and have it carry a significant amount of high resolution ‘zoomable’ images and several video clips. And we can contain these elements within the original download, obviating a need for a wi-fi connection to get the full experience. When Ray Hutton writes about a particular race in the Porsche 917, book we can include a high resolution image of the starting grid of that race and touching the icon gives you the first few minutes of the very same race in video with archive commentary from the team boss and driver. That is really enhancing the written content and delivering a pretty compelling proposition in our view.