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, December 17, 2014

Bookbuilders @ Fable's Pre-Launch Party

This post was contributed by Kate Elwell, Bookbuilders board member and production coordinator at the MIT Press.
I was fortunate to be invited to the Pre-Launch Party on Monday night for Fable, a new tablet for young readers and learners. It was a very intimate gathering held in the lovely map room at the Boston Public Library. The Boston Public Library was the perfect location to combine local and literary, reflecting the roll out of Fable by Isabella Products, a local company based in Concord, Massachusetts.

The founder and CEO of Isabella, Matthew Growney, in a sharp suit and fashionable eye glasses, welcomed the group to the event and introduced the first speaker, Kristen McLean. While chatting with Cambridge-based Publishers Weekly journalist Judith Rosen at the beginning of the event, I was introduced to Kristen. She has an amazing history in the industry, working at places like Brookline Booksmith and even repping the MIT Press, before ultimately founding Bookigee and currently serving a stint as entrepreneur in residence at Nielson. 

Guests and speaker Kristen McLean at the Fable Pre-Launch Party in the BPL's Map Room
Kristen's talk was fascinating: she pulled from very current data about the learning, reading, and gaming habits of children 0–6 and 7–12. The stat that blew me away most was that tablets increase reading time for boys by 24% (12% for girls, who are bigger readers in general).  That's the kind of trend that the creators of Fable are hoping to capitalize on. 

The next speaker was Furnell McGrath, a second grade teacher at a public elementary school in Everett. She ran a pilot program with the Fable tablets in her summer school classroom and then in her second grade class this school year. She said that students engaged with the content more fully and for longer on the tablet and that it had practical benefits for children with learning disabilities. She used the word fun more than once, and even attributed the Fable to better summer school attendance. My big takeaway from Mrs. McGrath was that, in this digital age, young learners have so much access to so much information, and not all of it age appropriate. Because the Fable doesn't have a browser—just a cloud-based marketplace accessed only via a parent's or teacher's PIN—young learners can access only content tailored specifically for them. But because of the tablet's easy usability, young users maintain the feeling of control in their experience.

I think the big questions that remain are who will Fable get to provide content, what kind of user model will it have, and how will Isabella get parents to choose this tablet over all of the others on the market? I, for one, am looking forward to watching the Fable become a part of the publishing landscape. Look for the Fable tablet available for purchase in March of 2015.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Call for Entries: 58th Annual New England Book Show

We're excited to announce the 58th annual New England Book Show, a continuation of the long-running showcase of the best-made books and ebooks in New England. Join us May 5, 2015 at Symphony Hall to celebrate the year in bookmaking.

For this show, we're continuing to include the new categories we introduced last year: graphic novels, poetry, and literary magazines. We've also created separate categories for children's and young adult books for the first time ever. Plus: categories designed especially for small publishers.

On the ebooks side, we're categorizing files based on format: reflowable or fixed layout.

Entries are accepted from anyone in New England who's had a hand in producing a book: publishers, artists, students, vendors (of design, production, manufacturing, etc.)—anyone. Entries must have been produced or published between September 1, 2013 and December 31, 2014.

Want to get involved? Visit our website ( to learn more about submitting, sponsorship, and the student competition. We can't wait to see the books you've made this year.

Friday, October 24, 2014

First Annual NEPCo Winners

On Wednesday night, we got together for the inaugural New England Publishing Collaboration Awards, an event celebrating innovative partnerships in publishing. In a lightning round of quick-fire presentations, our ten finalists told us about their collaborations, what they've learned, and how they've contributed to the industry. David Weinberger, author and senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, gave the keynote talk on "peaceful collaboration" in the digital/Internet era.

We're excited to announce the winners!

First Place

Inera Inc., sophisticated editorial and XML solutions for publishers, which has been working with CrossRef for years to promote the use and effectiveness of digital object identifiers (DOIs) and DOI standards among publishers

Second Place

We had a tie for second place:

NetGalley, provider of digital book review copies, for its collaboration with the American Booksellers Association to establish an email newsletter, Digital White Box, which allows member bookstores to access digital galleys and nominate books for the Indie Next List

Digital Science, which develops software for scientific research, for assembling, incubating, and continuing to support ten collaborative start-up companies to serve scholars at all stages of research

Third Place

Harvard Common Press, publisher of inspiring cookbooks and parenting guides, for its investment in three food start-ups and establishment of a co-working loft for food entrepreneurs in Boston

More Information

For more on the presentations, David Weinberger's talk, and the post-event Q&A session, catch up on our live tweets. And if you were in the audience or entered a project for the awards, don't forget to give us your feedback on this inaugural event by taking this quick survey.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Gallery: October Casual Networking Event

On Wednesday, we got together at Park Restaurant & Bar in Harvard Square for our monthly casual  networking, and it was a lively and informative evening, as always.

Join us next time! We'll be back in Boston on November 12, 6 p.m., at Back Bay Social Club.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bookbuilders @ the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo

MICE (that's the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo) was this weekend in Cambridge, and several of our members attended. Here's some of what they did and what they enjoyed most.

Iris Febres, New England Book Show co-chair: "MICE was really fun! I got to attend a cool workshop on writing comics, which was led by Alexander Danner, a playwright and special instructor at Emerson College who teaches in the graphic novel certificate program. I learned about the power of the panel for framing content and tone within a comic. And of course, after hearing a panel on graphic novel development with three amazing artists, I bought lots of books."
Alexander Danner, comics writer and special instructor at Emerson College leading his workshop, "Writing Comics" A snapshot from "Developing the Graphic Novel," a panel featuring artists Raina Telgemeier, Paul Hornschemeier, and Emily Carroll (not pictured), moderated by Alexander Danner

Miranda Martin, blog editor (that's me!): "This was my first time at MICE, and I had a blast at 'Iron Cartoonist,' an improv competition that pitted three comic creators against each other to draw some zany scenarios on the spot. I also attended a panel on editing for comics and met some great comic creators who were exhibiting their work. Some of my favorites were Bikeyface (whom I'd met once before), Alisa Harris, and Eleri Harris."

Contestants Jon Chad (left), Eleri Harris (center), and Carey Pietsch (right) competed in "Iron Cartoonist." This round challenged them to draw a machine that  makes fish.

Tanya Gold, New England Book Show committee member: "I returned on Sunday for a fascinating panel on marketing for micro-presses and self-publishers. The panelists had diverse perspectives and a great sense of humor. They discussed manufacturing, social media, crowdfunding, events, and attitude.  

Some great tips: Start small. Make yourself as approachable as possible. Ask your fans for retweets. Get everyone’s email address. Cut out the self-deprecation. Invest in gel insoles."

It was great having all these indie comic creators in our community. Soon, we'll be posting the call for entries for the 58th Annual New England Book Show, and we're excited to welcome comics and independently published books of all kinds. We saw lots of great stuff this weekend that we hope we'll see again.

Casual Networking This Wednesday!

Join us for our next Casual Networking Event this Wednesday!

Wednesday, October 8
6–8 p.m.
Park Restaurant & Bar
59 JFK Street in Cambridge

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fall Workshop: Innovations in Editorial Workflows

Our next fall workshop will focus on innovations in editorial workflows. Learn about how local publishers have developed innovative workflows to adapt to the marketplace’s digital and print demands. Speakers include representatives from O'Reilly Media and the Editorial Freelancers Association. A Q&A will follow the discussion.
October 14, 2014
6–8 p.m.
Pearson Education
501 Boylston Street,  Boston
9th Floor, in the Cafeteria.

Free and open to the public.
Please note: A valid photo ID is required to gain admittance from building security.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What Is NEPCo?
Bookbuilders of Boston has been awarding the best in New England book production, manufacturing, and design for well over 50 years (we're currently in the planning stages for next year's 58th Annual New England Book Show), and we think it's time we start awarding something new, too. We're launching the New England Publishing Collaboration Awards this October to recognize the region's publishers who are experimenting, innovating, adapting, and really inspiring us by teaming up with tech startups, upstart channels, and others—and even each other.

So who's coming up with the newest and boldest developments in the business? And more importantly, what can we learn from them? This is what we'll find out at the NEPCo Awards. The ten finalists will describe their projects live on stage, in rapid-fire multimedia presentations. (And we're serious about the rapid-fire part!) Judges will select three winners, and the audience also gets to vote. Plus, there will be popcorn. Be sure to buy your tickets to attend—and hurry! Bookbuilders member discounts end tomorrow!


October 21, 6–8 p.m.
Doors open at 5:15 p.m.
Pre-show networking encouraged!
The Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle Street, Cambridge

Post-Event Reception

You can also stay for a post-event reception: a group discussion moderated by David Sandberg, co-owner of Porter Square Books, networking, and dinner from Harvard Square's Flat Patties.

Learn  more about the ten finalists, our guest speaker, and more at

Friday, September 26, 2014

Panel Recap: New England Book Show Winners' Circle

This week, we gathered in Emerson College's Charles Beard Room to hear from Cate Barr, senior art director at Cengage, and Angela Dombroski, production manager at Candlewick, about the design and production efforts that went into their winning books from this year's New England Book Show. We also welcomed the class of students from Mass Art who will be designing next year's Book Show catalog, along with some familiar and new Bookbuilders faces.

Book Show Winner: Cengage

First up was Cate, who explained the art and design choices and processes that went into the final version of Cengage's winning humanities textbook, Cultures & Values.

Cate Barr, senior art director at Cengage, on winning textbook Cultures & Values 
Although Cultures & Values is a textbook, it's treated essentially as a fine art book because of the art history subject material: it's full of images of paintings, statues, and other kinds of art that need to look good on the page. Cate explained that paper quality has a significant effect on how good the images look once they're printed, so this particular book used the highest-quality paper. This aspect is actually really important to professors who have several options for textbooks to assign to their courses. Professors often look though potential textbooks to see which one reproduces the art the best before making their selections.

How do you check the reproduction quality of the art before the final books are printed? The answer is scatter proofs: a few of the images are printed together on a sheet, rather than where they actually belong in a book.

For choosing the layout, Cate says, she always looks at the competitors and then aims to be better. This book went through three or four rounds of review with the author! Consistent color palettes are also important. This design uses a lot of neutral, earthy colors to support the vibrant art.

Cate shows off the interior layout of Cultures & Values.
And speaking of color, consistent colors are one of the greatest values print can offer for art books--you can't control how the colors will look on the customer's iPad.

Book Show Winner: Candlewick

Zebra Forest cover design
Second, we welcomed Angela Dombroski, production manager at Candlewick. Angela told us all about—all about—the production process, and a bit about how it affected the design, of Candlewick's two winning YA books, Zebra Forest and Kingdom of Little Wounds.

The jacket design for Zebra Forest is a real standout, and it has a special feature: only the small section with the title is glossy; the rest of the jacket is matte. Angela went into a lot of detail explaining how the press achieves this effect (it involves UV!). There are all kinds of other effects books can have, but they tend to be limited by the budget. To opt for a fancy effect in one area, it's common to have to sacrifice something else, like paper quality.

Because color is so important to Candlewick and because lamination has a huge effect on color, even the proofs are laminated in the same way the final jackets will be. There are many different options for laminations.

One of the keys to laminations and coatings, she said, is the scratch test. This was especially relevant for Candlewick's other Book Show winner, Kingdom of Little Wounds. This book has a matte finish, but matte film can scuff very easily, making new books look used right away. It has lots of other effects on the cover, too, but its most noticeable effect might be its stained edges. That is, the edges of the pages are stained red, a process that's expensive and a little tricky because it's done manually.

To show us the immense range of production options for book covers and jackets, Angela brought a whole bag full of samples for the audience to see and feel. There were different kinds of paper, colors, coatings—a lot of options.
The audience got to check out lots of production samples.
We wrapped up with a few questions about the design process. Why might an initial cover design be rejected? At Candlewick, it's often because it doesn't fit the book's age range. It could also be too similar to other current Candlewick books. "We might just have too many covers with pensive-looking girls on them right now," Angela said. And some of the hardest books to design are those about sensitive issues, like disability. It's important to approach those with a lot of tact and sensitivity.

Next Time

We all learned so much from this panel that it was basically a crash-course in book design and production. For even more, you can catch up on our tweets from the event.

In October, we'll be discussing a big topic in the industry right now: innovations in editorial workflows. We'll announce the details soon.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Winners' Circle: 57th Annual New England Book Show Is This Wednesday!

View the flyer for the Winners' Circle workshop
Join us for the first workshop of the fall! Attend a lively roundtable discussion with speakers from Cengage and Candlewick, winners at the 2014 New England Book Show. We'll learn about how some of the best-built books from New England publishers were designed and produced.

Wednesday, September 24
6–8 p.m.
At Emerson College
Charles Beard Room (mezzanine level of the Little Building)
80 Boylston Street in Boston

Our workshops are free and open to the public. RSVP here.

If you can't make it to the event, follow @BookbuildersBOS for live tweeting via the #bookbuilders hashtag.

Please note: A valid photo ID is required for building security to check you in to the building.

We hope to see you there!

Monday, September 15, 2014

CNE Dispatch: First Casual Networking Event of the Fall

Bookbuilder Networking September 10

After a summer of mostly going without structured networking opportunities, our monthly Casual Networking Events returned for the fall season last Wednesday. Established and up-and-coming bookbuilders (and a few in between) met at Back Bay Social Club in Boston to talk about all things book and ebook publishing, as well as office and freelance life. There was, of course, a healthy amount of business-card swapping, too.

With this bunch of people, it's easy to find things to talk about. I, myself, had some lively discussions about the subject areas I work in, and I particularly enjoyed catching up with two former interns; introducing them to each other; and then talking at length about our different experiences with job hunting, career planning, and a lot more. And the conversations going on throughout the evening were similarly productive: I caught the tail end of my bookbuilder-friend's mini-coaching session on impostor syndrome with two recent graduates turned young professionals in the industry. DRM was another relevant topic of conversation.

A number of Boston- and Cambridge-area publishers and publisher-services companies were represented, including Perseus, Aptara, the MIT Press, Artech House, and Pearson Education, plus a great bunch of freelancers who specialize in a variety of services, like editing, proofreading, indexing, and project management. Students, too! All are welcome.

Casual Networking Events take place on the second Wednesday of each month, and the location alternates between Boston and Cambridge. The next event is Wednesday, October 8, at Park Restaurant & Bar in Cambridge, 68 p.m.

Monday, September 8, 2014

First Casual Networking Event of the Fall is This Wednesday!

It's Time to Network

Are you ready for Bookbuilders of Boston's new year of monthly Causal Networking Events?

Come join your fellow publishing professionals (and meet new ones):

Wednesday, September 10th
Back Bay Social Club
867 Boylston Street
6-8 p.m. 

Casual networking events are informal meetings with no agenda or cover charge — only a chance to network and have fun. Networking isn’t limited to when you need a job. Meeting people in the industry can improve your knowledge as well as your prospects.

If you haven’t attended one before, we encourage you to try it. Casual networking events are free and open to everyone. Tell us you're coming: RSVP.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Call for Entries: 57th Annual New England Book Show

57th Annual Call for Entries
Since 1956, Bookbuilders of Boston has sponsored the annual New England Book Show to acknowledge and honor excellence in bookmaking. We're looking for all the best books New England has to offer, from long-established Boston publishers and scholarly presses to independent creators and printers, self-published authors, and students across New England. This year, we're even adding six brand-new categories to the mix: poetry, graphic novels, coffee table books, cookbooks, literary journals, and magazines.

Create an outstanding electronic project? Submit an e-book or app.

Entries are welcome from anyone who had a hand in producing a book anywhere in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, or Vermont. So if you've got a book that you published, designed, produced, or manufactured here, it's eligible, even if some of the production happened somewhere else.

A jury of talented and distinguished publishing experts will judge all entries based on design, composition, paper, printing, and binding—or design, functionality, and usability for electronic submissions. The most outstanding entries will be displayed and celebrated at this year's Book Show, as well as in a commemorative catalog.

Learn more and enter now. The deadline for entries is February 4.