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Category: Ebook and digital production

creative cloud

Ken Jones runs Circular Software. He was Technical Production Manager and Publishing Software Trainer for Penguin and Dorling Kindersley for many years and now offers software, training and advice to publishers such as Parragon, Nosy Crow, Walker Books and Quarto on how to get the best from their print workflow.

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creative cloud

Ken Jones runs Circular Software. He was Technical Production Manager for Penguin and Dorling Kindersley for several years and has since advised publishers such as Parragon, Nosy Crow, Walker Books and Quarto on how to get the best from their print workflow.

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This article is by Ken Jones of Circular Software. Ken is running the Understanding eBooks day on 25th April 2018.

I’ve been involved in making beautiful and interactive fixed layout ebooks since before there was a standard for such things. But trust me, this one is different… It is truly the finest example of interactive children’s story telling I have ever seen, it contains custom movies on every spread, background audio, professional narration and read aloud text highlighting, placed web code, personalisation, interactive animations and puzzles!

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Heather O'Connell

Heather O’Connell has more than 20 years experience in the publishing industry and worked her way up from controller to senior management positions at Penguin and Harper Collins. She now runs Bluebird Consulting and also teaches Production both in-house and via the Publishing MA at UCL.

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The age of handwriting your ebook and typing it up later is long gone. While I am a lover of beautiful stationery, an ebook writing software can be much more useful.

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This is a guest post from Emily Gibson and Nic Gibson. They are both directors of Corbas Consulting Ltd and each have over 20 years’ publishing experience, mostly in editorial, print and digital production.

Chocolate, vanilla, matcha and strawberry ice cream in the cone on old rustic wooden vintage background.

The other day we were contacted by a client who was really excited about the new digital publishing process they were putting into place, and they wanted some help getting things right. They had bought a database and needed to get their Word documents into the XML language that their database needed. However, the ‘flavour’ of XML that they had chosen wasn’t going to support the content that they were producing. That means that they aren’t going to get the best results and full value from their workflow system.

You see, publishing with XML is not just a matter of deciding to ‘have an XML workflow’. (For a basic description for editors, see, for example, this one in The Chicago Manual of Style.) There are many different ‘flavours’ of XML and you need to pick the one that fits your needs. These needs are defined by the type of content you are publishing and your workflow.

A well styled Word document, for example, can be transformed into a decent XML file. Once you have an XML file, you could simply apply scripts to it to create your output (PDF, HTML for your website, EPUB) – if you have a Word document for your novel, for example, that had Word Styles consistently applied, you can simply run a program to get whatever output you need.

On the other hand, if you have a bunch of journal articles, you could save the files into an XML-aware database and apply those scripts to all your content at once to produce a collection. Whichever system you choose is partly driven by the degree of automation that fits your publishing needs. If you are publishing fifteen monographs a year, there’s not a lot of benefit to an all-singing and all-dancing XML database. If you are publishing several hundred articles a year then there are some big benefits.

The first step is to decide how you are going to go from manuscript to XML and then you need to decide what systems you are going to use to manipulate and transform it.

You need to think about both the structure and the content of your manuscripts when you decide on which flavour of XML you are going to choose. The different flavours of XML are very different in their structure and their expressiveness. The only thing you can be fairly sure of is that there is already one which will meet most of your needs (you don’t need to write it from scratch).

There are different tag sets (the set of elements in an XML language, a.k.a. what’s inside the pointy brackets) that suit different kinds of content, and there are different tools to suit them, too. In the same way that ice cream and sausages are both delicious, but you wouldn’t want them together, not every flavour of XML goes with every kind of content.

Match the content you publish with the appropriate XML language. For example:

Simple Narrative
Pedagogical
Legal
Encyclopedic
Journals

If your content doesn’t have specialised semantics (e.g. legal, programming), the XML variant of HTML5, XHTML (as used in EPUB) is perfectly suitable for a lot of narrative (e.g. novels) and monograph material for EPUB, print and web outputs. The XML variant of HTML5 has the advantage of a smaller, simpler tag set, which makes it easier to work with for simpler content.

XML can help publishers tackle managerial as well as technical challenges. It provides ways to manage the workflow, the interaction between content and people, and the publishing processes, as well as the documents themselves. The features of XML ensure that information and its structure can be controlled and managed.

It can be a complex topic, but many publishing professionals find that knowing about XML – even if they don’t use it every day – is immensely useful. There are a number of places that you can learn about XML, but the XML Summer School, held each year in September, is the best and most comprehensive. It presents a range of XML techniques and applications in workflow, change management, QA, linked data, and document structure control to help publishers manage their content effectively.

The Hands-on Digital Publishing course provides hands-on material and helpful contacts in the world of publishing and XML. This course is chaired by Peter Flynn and taught by Nic GibsonNorm WalshTomos Hillman, and Tony Graham.

For more information, see: http://xmlsummerschool.com/curriculum-2016/xml-in-publishing-2016/

You may know that the modern EPUB3 standard has an inbuilt ability to hold audio and video, but one of the most intriguing aspects of EPUB3 that you may have overlooked is ‘Read-aloud’. This technique, sometimes called ‘media overlays’, combines a spoken audio track with accurate timing information usually used to highlight words on the page in time with the spoken audio.

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Your proof

proof /pru:f/
noun
• a trial impression of a page, used for making corrections before final printing.

verb
• make a proof of (a printed work, engraving, etc.).
• proofread (a text).

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book buzz

Abbie Headon is BookMachine’s Commissioning Editor and runs Abbie Headon Publishing Services. She champions fresh approaches to solving the industry’s challenges and can be found mingling at most publishing events.

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creative cloud

Ken Jones was Technical Production Manager for Penguin and Dorling Kindersley for several years and has since advised publishers such as Parragon, Nosy Crow, Walker Books and Quarto on how to get the best from their print workflow.

Continue reading

Contract proofing

Jamie Robinson has been at f1 colour for 24 years, rising through the ranks to Managing Director. Over that time his passion for colour and accuracy has shown no sign of abating, often providing crash courses for production staff at publishers who want to learn more about the ‘dark arts’ of colour and profiling images for print.

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I was talking to a customer about their ebook publishing programme last week and heard that they are looking for a simple way to send copies of reflowable and fixed layout ebooks out for approval. Their question was this:

“Is there a straightforward way for someone outside of the company to open and read an eBook?”

 

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Well someone once said “knowledge is power” and as the newly christened head of the BookMachine Production channel I thought I should share the answer I gave them here.

A little history

EPUB2 was first approved as an ebook standard way back in 2007. For reflowable text novels it was, and arguably still is, a good enough format. However, ebooks have the potential to be much more. Lots of new features that have were introduced into of the EPUB3 standard such as audio, video, animation, read aloud text highlighting, fixed layout design control and more. Here’s a longer list if you really want to know more.

With extra interactions and much better accessibility too it sounds like a good idea, right? But, although EPUB3 happened five years ago, still today the appetite from publishers for adding interactivity into their ebooks is… well… lets say less than ravenous. There are a few reasons for this but one of the biggest is the lack of reliable support for these feature in most ebook reading devices.

The IDPF (the body that decide upon and maintain the EPUB standards) have made it their mission to encourage the uptake of the modern EPUB3 standard. A very neat way for them to demonstrate how modern EPUB3 readers could and should work is by building one. They have done this. It’s called Readium. It’s very good.

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Not content with just demonstrating how it can be done they also license the SDK (the ‘software development kit’) to ebook developers for use in their own products e.g. Adobe Digital Editions and Cloudshelf Reader. But, best of all, they allow web developers and everyone else to use Readium in the browser entirely free of charge.

How to open ebooks in your browser

On any modern desktop or laptop PC or Mac:

1) Install and Open the Google Chrome Browser.

2) Install the Readium Chrome Extension

3) Launch and click the ‘Add to Library’ (the plus icon) to upload any EPUB2 or EPUB3 either reflowable or fixed layout.

4) Click on the cover to open and read the EPUB, including the table of content, links and rich interactive features all work right there in the browser.

Note: By adding a book to the library you are not uploading it. Even though you are in a browser, the Readium Chrome Extension will continue to work whilst offline.

Tip: To delete an ebook you must view the library in list view and then click on the ‘Details’ button to find the ‘Delete’ button.

A word of warning

The EPUB is an ‘open’ standard just like MP3 or PDF. This is important and intentional but it does mean that sending your unrestricted EPUB file to someone means they are able to read and also SHARE this file, just like you did. Along with discoverability, the restrictions on sharing that Apple, Amazon and other ebook retailers add on top the ebook is the real value that they add for their 30% cut of the sale price.

More possibilities…

For publishers looking for a little more, these powerful Readium tools also make it possible for companies like mine to build more features into a browser based service. For instance by adding full text search and access/sharing controls that work by simply sharing a URL that can be opened in any modern browser.

Take a look at an example here.

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Ken Jones is a publishing software expert with over ten years experience as Technical Production Manager, software trainer and developer at DK and Penguin Group UK. Ken’s company ‘Circular Software’ provides software tools and services for a range of illustrated book publishing customers including Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Thames & Hudson and Nosy Crow. Contact Ken via twitter @circularken or www.circularsoftware.com

exact editionsHaving spent the past decade turning complex consumer magazines into their precise digital doppelgangers, Exact Editions launched their new digital books service in May. Here we interviewed Adam Hodgkin, Chairman and Co-Founder of Exact Editions

1) What exactly is Exact Editions?

Exact Editions is a platform for publishing and licensing content on the web and through apps to individuals and institutions. Exact Editions helps publishers by delivering services which generate subscriptions.

2) What problem does it solve?

Exact Editions 2The Exact Editions platform ensures that digital publications look exactly the same as their print sisters; and it does this in a way which is efficient for searching and sharing.

Exact Editions uses PDF files to build a database for each publication on the platform. The service delivers a solution that looks exactly like the book or magazine in print, but it is an access solution not a file delivery protocol. So the access management side of the business is at least as important as the content management side.

We also provide customer support and statistics to our users since cross-platform solutions for users that range in size from the largest universities to the private individual will, from time to time, present new questions.

3) Who is your target market?

Exact Editions 3Exact Editions launched by focusing on the consumer magazine space and selling subscriptions direct to consumers and through app stores. We were among the first magazine solutions to deliver apps for the iPhone and then for the iPad. Never neglecting our roots in the web.

In the last 5 years a growing sector for us is the university, college and library market. Also selling site licenses for corporates.

Exact Editions is unusual among digital magazine solutions in providing access to complete archives (we work with magazines that have archives that stretch back to the 19th century). A concern with archives leads us to support the librarians’ requirement for perpetual access.

4) What results do you hope to see over the next few years?

Exact EditionsOnce Exact Editions was selling some magazines for perpetual access, it was clear that there is demand for a similar service for books. The Exact Editions platform works well for book publishers that have complex and rich page designs that are poorly served by the most commonly used ebook file formats. But equally important the Exact Editions service offers publishers the opportunity to sell books with a perpetual access to institutions that need to have a multi-user, site license for the campus or organisation.

We launched our book service three weeks ago and it seems that the multi-user, site license access management that we provide for book publishers is an important offering. Book publishers also get to set the price level for their individual titles on the Exact Editions platform, and they have ownership of their subscriber lists.

5) What will be next for Exact Editions?

Exact Editions is a platform, not a publisher, so we are keen to work with as many publishers as can use our services. We are primarily aimed at the library and institutional market, at this point mainly universities and colleges, but we can already see that there is a good market among schools and corporates for many of the books and magazines which are using our platform. Opening up these broader markets is on our wish list. We also have some very successful French magazines and we would like to add books and magazines from all the major European languages.

indexes

When was the last time you used an index in an ebook? Maybe the better question is this: Have you ever used an index in an ebook? One of the challenges here is that most ebooks don’t have indexes, the result of the misguided notion that text search is a better solution.

Every so often I come across an ebook with an index. More often than not it’s just the print index at the end of the book, sometimes with nothing more than the physical page references that offer almost no value in a reflowable e-format.

Fiction represents a large chunk of ebook sales and those books generally don’t benefit from an index. The same is true for some types of non-fiction books. But for pure reference guides, in-depth how-to’s and other works, an index can be pretty useful.

If you’re relying exclusively on text search in an ebook you have to know exactly what you’re looking for. More importantly, why do we settle for such a lame text search solution when we’re spoiled every day with powerful, relevance-ranked search tools like Google?

When you search for a phrase in an ebook the results are shown in chronological order. You see all the occurrences from the beginning of the book to the end. Imagine if Google worked that way. So when you type in a phrase Google tells you the first (oldest) site to use that phrase, then the next oldest site that used it, etc. Users would laugh and reject it, yet that’s exactly what we’re forced to accept in ebook search.

What I really want is relevance-based results. Show me the location in the book with the highest density of that phrase and prioritize occurrences of it in a heading over occurrences in body text. I’m sure there are other attributes that could be rolled into an effective ebook search algorithm but I’ll take just those two features for starters.

The other problem with relying on search instead of an index is that you lose the benefit of synonyms and related terms. An indexer takes all that into consideration so you’re much more likely to find everything you’re looking for with a good index than a simple text search.

I’m not lobbying for back-of-book indexes in ebooks like they appear in print books. That’s another aspect that needs to change when you go digital. I want to see index functionality right there on the page I’m reading. The trick here is to offer it in a manner that’s not disruptive for the reader.

Remember that article I wrote a few weeks ago with the video showing a vision for auto-enriched ebooks? The same UI approach described there could be used here. The content is initially presented in as clean a manner as ebooks are today. But when you tap the screen on your tablet all the phrases that are indexed magically change colour or are denoted with some other UI effect (e.g., underline). Just tap the phrase you’re interested in and a pop-up appears with relevance-ranked index results. These would be presented in a scrollable list with each entry having a preview of the text from that location in the ebook. Make it easy for me to bookmark those entries right in the pop-up. The net result is a way to quickly and easily access a smarter index without having to leave your current location.

This feature doesn’t exist today because we’re still stuck in the print-under-glass era of ebooks. I’m optimistic that one or two of the popular reading applications will eventually add such a capability though and help us get beyond today’s model where we’re consuming so much dumb content on all these smart devices.

 

Joe WikertJoe Wikert is director of strategy and business development at Olive Software. This post was originally published on his blog, ‘Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies‘, where he writes opinion pieces on the rich content future of publishing.

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