ENTRIES TAGGED "Booktype"

Betting on the future of the book

Booktype continues to evolve as a world-class production platform

Visiting London Book Fair last week, many of the stands offered ebook technology or outsourcing for legacy format conversion services. Ebooks might seem a seductive bet to the publisher looking anxiously towards the all-digital future, but I find it hard to imagine them as the total solution for every reader and situation.

Jenn Webb’s post on the digital divide pointed out that authors who go ebook-only may be excluding readers. In my own rural community in England, public libraries are closing or under threat of closure, but hard copy books still circulate widely and re-circulate for pennies in thrift stores and informal markets, or for free among friends. Competing with an almost-free status quo looks like a tough sell, given the up-front cost and limited lifespan of e-reader devices.

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How do you make money with Open Source?

The short answer is: Services

That is a question I get asked all the time. And quite rightly so. After all, without the license model and the source code being out in the open, free for everybody to download and do with it whatever they want – where is the actual product? And how do you make money with it?

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Visualizing book production

Applying data viz techniques to study how a project evolves over time

Data visualization is one of the hot topics of the last year or two. So what does this offer publishing and book production?

Open data activists in particular have been lobbying governments for access to databases which they use to create infographics and visualisations for campaigns. It’s not a new science of course, it was here long before the net (for some background on contemporary practice see the wonderful books by Edward Tufte) but the net is made of data and a good mechanism for transporting it. The net is a good medium for scraping and re-presenting data in more palatable forms. Read more…

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Forking the book

How long will it be before the book becomes "unstable" again?

As one of the first mass produced industrial artifacts the book remains a solid cultural signifier of stability. That aura is pretty strong and attractive and makes it pretty hard to think about books as being anything other than static and stable. It appears to be part of their DNA.

While we continue to refer to ebooks as ‘books’ stability seems to be carried on as part of the currency. We don’t really even challenge it. EPUBs and mobi (etc.) with their ‘self -contained’ exactly reproducible nature also appear to reinforce the static nature of things.

Books are stable. Websites are not. That seems to be a delimiter that’s ‘in the air’.

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BookJS turns your browser into a print typesetting engine

The design of books and paper products enters a networked environment

I mentioned in an earlier post that the movable type of Gutenberg’s time has become realtime, in a very real sense each book is typeset as we read it. Content is dynamically re-flowed for each device depending on display dimensions and individualized settings. Since ebooks are webpages, browsers have come to play a central role in digital ereaders.

What is interesting here is that the browser can also reflow content into fixed page formats like PDF which means that the browser is on its way to becoming the typesetting engine for print. BookJS demonstrates nicely the role of the browser as print typesetting engine.

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Direct channels and new tools bring freedom and flexibility

It's time to build a direct channel and bring your content development platform up to date

Earlier this week I wrote about why I’m bullish on publishing’s future. I talked about two areas that are ripe for change: ebook prices and formats. In the second and final part of this discussion I share the other two reasons why the future is bright for smart publishers: direct channels and new toolsets.

Direct Channels

As we’re creating those rich, HTML5-based products, we should also start thinking about the opportunity to sell direct to our customers. I’ve heard some publishers say that they see no need to create a direct sales channel because (a) the existing retailers do a great job and (b) they don’t want to compete with their retail partners. Perhaps these publishers haven’t noticed that some of their retail partners have no problem competing with them as publishers. Even if they aren’t concerned about that, they should be focused on establishing a direct relationship with their customers.

Direct channels provide outlets for products, and they also provide customer insights that are almost impossible to get anywhere else. For example, you can keep a close eye on what formats customers prefer (EPUB, mobi or PDF) and make adjustments as necessary. Good luck getting your retail partners to provide you with that kind of information.

Creating a successful direct sales channel isn’t easy. There’s much more to it than simply offering your catalog on your website.

You need to give your customers a reason to buy from you rather than buying somewhere else. Publishers who take the time to do this will be richly rewarded, though, not just in sales revenue, but customer intelligence. Publishers need to re-evaluate what value they can bring to the process. Building communities and creating experiences around your books will play a huge part in this development. This is especially relevant for smaller publishers who don’t have the muscle to compete with Amazon and other industry giants in attracting large numbers of consumers. By offering a more narrow but deep and focused range of books and expertise to a smaller number of specialized consumers, publishers might just be able to carve out an area that they can fill and manage.

Evolving Tools

Publishers have spent small fortunes enabling their production systems to output all those formats covered in the first part of this discussion. Despite those investments, most publishers still work with the same content creation tools they used in the pre-ebook era. It’s time to bring our authoring tools in line with the capabilities of today’s powerful e-reading devices and apps.

More and more books are being written by multiple authors these days. Even if it’s a single-author project, there are still editors and reviewers who need to get into the manuscript, often working on it simultaneously with the author or each other. Tools like Microsoft Word don’t really lend themselves to collaboration like this.

Another issue we’re going to face in the future is more frequent updates to content as well as short-form content that can grow over time.

This leads to the need for version control capabilities that haven’t been a major consideration in the past. And even if a publisher’s content isn’t updated frequently, there are still version control considerations for the collaboration requirement noted earlier. For example, if a freelance editor accidentally wipes out a batch of changes the publisher will want the ability to roll back to an earlier version of the content.

Booktype, Sourcefabric’s tool for writing and publishing books and ebooks, already responds to those needs and anticipates the demand for collaborative tools very well. At O’Reilly, we also realize the need for these collaboration and version control capabilities, and have made the investment to bring our authoring tools in line with today’s content management requirements. We’re currently using a new authoring and development platform we developed for our books, and we plan to make it available to other publishers soon, so stay tuned for more details right here on the TOC community site.

This content is taken from an article I wrote for a magazine Sourcefabric published called The Future of the Book. You can learn more about the Sourcefabric magazine here and you can download the free PDF of The Future of the Book here.
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