Learning to wiki – and one complaint

It’s here! The eprdctn wiki, a place online where we can share eBook production tips and hacks. This just might help level the playing field in an industry where accurate specs are hard to get.

Big thanks to Toby Stevenson of eBook Architects who worked with the kind folks at mobileread.com to create the wiki. Check in with the eBook Ninjas podcast (always a worthwhile listen), #48 is “wikilicious.”

The wiki is only as good as the information shared. So I figured I’d do my part. But first I had to learn to wiki. I am happy to report it is easier than writing CSS for mysteriously inconsistent reading platforms.

My first attempt was to add a link to delicious.com, people have been saving #eprdctn links there for a couple of years. It seemed the best place to put this was in some sort of general information article, and that is under “The famous #ePrdctn Twitter Group.” (Are we famous? Wouldn’t infamous be more fun??? I’m just sayin’) It took me a couple of tries to get the link the way I wanted it:
[http://www.delicious.com/ delicious.com]
gave me a link with “delicious.com” for the text. I hope Dale DePriest, who started the article, didn’t get an email update every time I tested the link.

Next I figured I’d contribute to the Holy Grail, a table listing CSS support by device started by Robert Nagle and Nick Ruffilo. http://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/Device_Compatibility It’s simply an html table! I needed to add comments to be sure I was putting the right symbols in the right columns.

My one complaint is that I need a differnet password for the eprdctn wiki. I can’t use my existing Mobileread password and account, or link my eprdctn wiki activity with forum posts. (except an url, of course)

You can add your own article if you have information about new topic. Its surprisingly easy to contribute, and every little bit helps build our knowledge base.
So what do you know?

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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?

Digital Book 2011-the first session

The week in which, despite predictions, the world didn’t end, so we figured we’d keep making eBooks.

I was lucky enough to attend International Digital Publishers Association <IDPF> conference, Digital Book 2011. The next few blog entries are based on copious notes fueled by atrocious coffee served by some very nice people at the Javitz Center in Manhattan.

Kobo announced a snazzy looking new e-Ink device. Michael Tamblyn of Kobo Books gave us facts and figures: book sales saw an 8% growth last year, 15-22% growth in digital book sales. Common price points for non-agency books were $9.99 for best-sellers, $7.99 for mass market, and new sales were coming in a $2.99, $3.99, even $.99. (Not sure I get the agency model, more here: ebookreadersresource.com)

Self-publishing grew, 7% of the total unit sales.

And tablets didn’t kill e-Ink devices. It turns out that at this time, the e-Ink customer is worth more, as they purchase 15% more books than tablet owners, giving them a greater lifetime value of 66-126%.

These trends are global.

He identified 2010 as the year we got the reading experience right (easy for you to say, try making a cross-platform EPUB with no errors) and in 2011, we will go on to create the ultimate reader experience. On that hopeful note, he showed us a demo of “Reading Life,” Kobo’s answer to social reading.  I’d love to try this.

Abe Murray from Google Books described reading platform statistics for their customers in a mathematically challenging way:

1/4 read on the web
1 in 4 read on phones
1 in 5 use eReaders
the rest use tablets

Best I can figure, that makes 25% web, 25% phones, 20% eReaders and 30% tablets.  Was he trying to avoid saying the 30% tablet part? I know Google folks are way smarter than me, so I keep going over the math in my head . . .

Lastly, Yoshinobu Noma, of The Electronic Book Producers of Japan, showed slides of a beautiful eBook of haunting photos, donated by the artists, showing the devastation in Japan. I think the English title is 3/11.

Mr. Noma said “We don’t have to make a choice between electronic and print books,” and said that EBPAJ strives to cultivate both.