Bookbuilders of Boston is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing together people involved in book publishing and manufacturing throughout New England. Our blog describes industry events that we sponsor or attend.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Second March Forum: E-Problems

Full disclosure: I wasn't on my game last night. I was unable to join in time for the first presenter, and I forgot my camera. However, I was able to capture a lot of useful information!

The second speaker, Senior Book Designer from Adams Media, was Colleen Cunningham. Colleen described challenges experienced at Adams with the advent of electronic publications:
  • Editors are encouraged to make content "e-friendly." Among other things, this means referencing chapters or sections instead of page numbers.
  • There are special considerations for art in e-pubs. Because of file size restrictions, e-books may lack art that is available in a print equivalent.
  • E-book production cannot be absorbed into the existing print workflow. Additional resources are required, most notably for tagging and QC.
  • Back-of-the-book marketing is more complicated in e-books because of the need to link to multiple provider sites (Amazon, B&N, etc.).
  • An "e-book only" imprint evolved at Adams, using a separate workflow.
  • Restrictions are imposed by certain platforms (e.g., Kindle). Other platforms present opportunities (Apple/multimedia).
  • Metadata feeds to vendors are separate and unique, requiring new staff.
  • There are promising features available in apps, but these require extensive marketing.
Colleen ended with a topic now near to my heart: a reminder that pieces permissioned for print may require additional rights or fees for inclusion in an e-publication. It came to my mind that this will be especially problematic for backlist, since components are not called out and are more difficult to research.

Speaker number three was Bill Trippe, Vice President at Outsell. Outsell provides marketing research for publishers, and their report, "A Blueprint for Book Publishing Transformation," is available for free (account creation required).  The study covers the effects of electronic publishing throughout the production workflow: in planning, editorial/production, rights/royalties, promotion, sales, manufacturing, and distribution.

Highlights from Bill's presentation:
  • Content consumption on smartphones will be important. In the fourth quarter of 2010, smartphone sales exceeded computer sales for the first time. Some people in the world will experience the Internet for the first time on a smartphone.
  • The iPad is also significant. Its adoption rate is faster than any other device in history, and iPad users are demonstrated consumers of paid content.
  • E-book conversion vendors are becoming partners in the publishing process: close collaboration as opposed to a hand-off.
The Q&A portion of the forum is always interesting, and there was a half hour available for this. Questions covered many different aspects of the publishing process:
  • DRM practices (primarily handled by the device manufacturer, with difficulties noted in the academic market).
  • Adoption of e-textbooks (certain fields of study convert faster than others; some public schools lack funds for hardware; some students favor print because the spatial arrangement of content influences their recall).
  • Poetry in electronic format (workarounds required for multiple-column display on the Kindle).
  • XML workflow and portability of content ("XML-First" workflow is still rare, but "XML-Early" is becoming more common).
  • Impact of different channels on designers (iPad suggests twice as much design work because each "page" can be viewed vertically and horizontally).
  • ISBN challenges (a unique ISBN for the same title in multiple platforms?).
  • Moving backlist titles to electronic format (seen as important but quality control suffers with title count).
This was the last Bookbuilders forum until the fall. Please comment on this post with suggestions for future educational topics.

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