During last year at Electric Book Works, I received more and more calls from publishers (of all sizes) wondering how they should start making ebooks. While I point a lot of people towards outsourcing conversion, I actually don’t believe that’s a long-term solution for a frontlist. Making ebooks should be a zero-cost by-product of a production workflow, whether it’s print- or digital-centric. In real terms, this means that designers and typesetters, and their project managers too, need some new skills.
Some of those skills are pretty straightforward, and some are tricky to learn. And each designer or typesetter will need to develop their own toolkit around these skills, depending on the kinds of books they work on. That may take years to perfect, just as it takes years to get really good at, say, designing magazines or book covers. But at the heart of that toolkit will be a few fundamentals – some conceptual, some practical – that I thought I could offer.
So a few months ago, I started putting together notes for a one-day seminar about ebooks for book designers, and called it Designing for Digital. After running the course a few times, we’ve now put the notes in full on Scribd. (They’re released under a Creative Commons Attribution–Share-Alike licence, so you can reuse any of it if you credit EBW and also share your work under a similar licence.) For tech-savvy designers, there may be very little new here. It covers some industry trends, very basic HTML and CSS, conceptual implications of working with reflowable text, and some practical guidelines on working in InDesign that will make it easier not only to produce epub ebooks from print-centric documents, but will make it easier to work in digital workflows and on digital products in general.
I’m also nearly done refining for release the notes for a seminar I’ve been running called Digital Decisions, a primer for publishers who’re having to make urgent choices about making and selling digital products. That’s coming soon.