The Coolest eProduction Stuff I Could Find

In which I learn a fixed-width EPUB previewing workflow from an expert, and the CSS Regions demo makes my jaw drop.

Between the technical sessions, I spoke with a woman from the audience who had answered an iBooks question. It turns out she works for Apple, and kindly shared her fixed-width EPUB proofing workflow with me. I haven’t tried it yet, if you try it, let me know how it works!

<!– thanks to everyone for the feedback, steps have been updated 6.3 –>

  1. In the CSS, define dimensions for the body. Its easiest if these dimensions match the viewport dimensions. Also define a border on the body. This will outline the page, making it easier to place the elements on the page. Remove this border before publishing the book. body { width: 400px; height: 300px; border: thin solid red;}
  2. Once everything is previewing well in Safari on the desktop, preview in Safari on the iPad simulator. You shouldn’t need to change much if anything in this step. iOS Simulator is part of XCode and is available from developer.apple.com and and the Mac App store, free to registered developers and 4.99 from the App store. Note, Mac OS X 10.6.6 is  required. (I will have to skip this step until I’m ready for a system upgrade)
  3. Finally, load the EPUB into iBooks. If you need to make iterations, change the title of the book to circumvent iBook’s cacheing.
The Future of EPUB session was eye candy.
IDPF is moving the EPUB standard forward trying to balance accessibility and the high standards of magazine creative directors with input from DAISY and IDEAlliance.
One application of adding metadata to parts of magazines would be to repurpose content. For instance, a retrospective book with all articles and images about a celebrity would be quick and relatively easy to create from an archive of digital magazines with metadata at the article level. (especially if the article is structured and uses stylesheets consistently)

Complex layouts with reflowable text and JavaScript interaction.

Take THAT custom apps!

CSS 3 Regions from Adobe looks fabulous. This article from Adobe explains further, and the WebKit-based prototype is available for download.
Any suggestions for explaining to my business partner why I can’t do billable work because I’m geeking out playing with CSS3 Regions?

Just start doing what you know how to do and innovate around that.

Greg Bear and Neal Stephenson of Subutai explain the natural progression from hand-to-hand combat to innovative publishing business model.

An interest in antique weaponry and a forgotten tradition of western hand-t0-hand combat led science fiction author Greg Bear to the theme and story line of the Mongoliad project. On the way, he and his partners developed PULP,  the “Personal Ubiquitous Literary Platform.” PULP is is billed as connected publishing, and in their keynote session, Bear and Stephenson contended that content as service is the only viable business model when piracy is ubiquitous: “create an experience that can’t be pirated.”

After finding a funding partner and business mentor, (and fellow antique weapon enthusiast), Bear and Stephenson began creating an online experience with serialized content. Members and fans are encouraged to contribute writing and art, all consistent with the “canon,” the settings and characters originally developed by the writers.

At first the main access to the Mongoliad was on the web, but now, one subscription price allows readers (fans? users? community members? mongols?) to use any device for access.

PULP uses open source components for quicker updates and expansion, and hosts the service in Amazon Cloud the which had a famous failure recently. Even with those efficiencies, Neal Stephenson admitted that “easy to use is hard to do.”

With the PULP platform, it seems Subutai would like us all to make a connected publishing community. The website states: “PULP transforms fiction into franchise by building bridges between publishers, fans, artists, and the stories, characters, and universes that help them define themselves.” Just add a great story, some ads, a wiki, fan fic and fan art. As the Subutai team said, “Each book is a micro business venture.”

Addendum 5/30/11: Paul Biba wrote a great review of this session:
http://www.teleread.com/paul-biba/idpf-annual-meeting-keynote-the-mongoliad-year-one/

It was kind of pointed for a roundtable

A discussion to which Richard Nash (Red Lemonade) was late, snarky, and eventually won me over.

It was billed as “Publishers’ Roundtable: Execs discuss agency and other recent events” on Monday at the Digital Book 2011 Conference put on by the <IDPF>.

Dominique Raccah, of SourceBooks started the discussion with some facts, 42% of books sold are Adult, 25% are Juvenile. (The remainder would be YA, Textbooks? I’m not sure I got the numbers right). How fast, she wondered, can we find a platform for juvi? As pictures and pedagogic tools become part of the platform, we will see more [juvi] integration.

Richard Nash piped up with “Don’t look too hard at the data—in 3 years we’ll see the end of the eBook as a product.” Hmm.

DR: Its about the experience—and we haven’t found a way to enhance the experience—we keep taking readers out of stories, not immersing them.

RN: Enhanced eBooks are a price-protection scheme. We are left with publishers aping video game designers.

DR: Richard, we didn’t do it for that—we are in an exploratory space—we need to blow up the book.

Dominique went on to say that the average POD title sells 200 copies. She expects the next conversation to be “How do self-publishers get what they need?” She explained that artists require fans, people who will evangelize their work and spread the word.

Apps, she said, are a transitional form non-fiction. I cling to this.

Richard Nash’s rallying cry was libraries: “For the 18 million Americans engaged in creative writing each year, libraries can become community centers for discovering tools to connect writers to readers.”  I applauded. So did one other brave soul.

Evan Schnittman of Bloomsbury made a good point about piracy: “Cloud solutions eliminate 90% of the casual piracy—its a good business model. Let’s not punish consumers for us not giving them reasonable ways to access their material.”