Designing Better Ebooks (Roundtable 6/30/11)

The DBW Roundtable is a live, interactive webcast featuring some of the most outspoken industry professionals gathering to discuss and debate the hottest publishing issues of today.

In this bi-weekly 1-hour WEBcast, the Roundtable offers insight into the greater book publishing ecosystem with actionable case studies from practitioners in publishing.

With ebooks selling more than all print copies combined in certain titles and genres, it’s clear that a title’s digital versions should receive the same attention and design as their print equivalents. But since Liza Daly’s 2009 presentation at Digital Book World, Getting Past “Good Enough” Ebooks, many problems remain in the ebook marketplace. In this edition of the Roundtable, we’ll dive deeply into the ebook landscape today and give positive examples on how to start producing better ebooks.

Among the topics the panel will explore:

  • What’s Wrong With Ebook Design Today? We’ll present a partial list of mistakes,  miscalculations, and oversights that are appearing in professionally published ebooks today, and why they’re displeasing in the reader experience.
  • Best Practices for Ebooks Design: Panelists will suggest some better ways to do your ebooks – and how. Should your publisher be hosting an all hands meeting of your digital and managing editorial teams to set up best practices? How often should you revisit?
  • Skill Sets: Who do you need to hire or retrain in order to improve your processes? Should that person be coming from an editorial background (as was suggested in our Ebook Distribution for Small Publishers WEBcast with Publishers Weekly) or from a more technical production background? Is it a mixture of the two? What are some options for controlling costs? Who is doing good work in the field right now?
  • “Mistakes Were Made”: How do you prioritize fixing previously digitized content that is not optimized for the expectations of today’s consumer? How do you make sure your titles look good on devices that have entered the market since original conversion, and then future proof your books?

This edition of the Roundtable will appeal especially to publishers involved with digital, managing editorial, production, and editorial. This is not intended to be a highly technical presentation on book making, but an introduction into the types of problems that exist in ebooks from even the largest houses and how to go about fixing them.

This edition of the Roundtable  was broadcast on June 30th at 1 PM EST / 10 AM PST. The next episode will air on July 14th at 1 PM EST / 10 AM PST.

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  • India Amos, Digital Production ePub QA Associate, F+W Media
  • Kate Rados, Group Marketing Director, F+W Media
  • Don Linn, Former CEO, Consortium Book Sales & Distribution
  • Pablo Defendini, Interactive Producer, Open Road Integrated Media


  • Matt Mullin, Community Relations Manager, Digital Book World

Join the Roundtable for provocative discussions every two weeks that set the tone for another exciting year in the publishing industry!



Learn to be a Reader Again
Fran Toolan, Issues In Publishing

Understand the Consumer’s experience. As a company executive, you should OWN many different devices, a Kindle, a Nook, an iPad, a Kobo Reader, and any other device you can get your hands on. You should be BUYING books from different retailers (all around the world), downloading them to your device or devices and READING them. BUY books from your own website and from the websites of other publishers. This is a relatively small investment of money compared with the insights you will receive in doing so…

Ask lot’s of dumb questions internally. Understand your internal processes. Understand why certain groups work differently than others. Understand what kinds of stresses and strains producing ebooks puts on your staff. Understand how production quality breakdowns occur. Understand how rights are managed.

What Men (and Women) Talk About When They Talk About Publishing (Part 2)
Don Linn, Bait ‘n’ Beer

Quality of the work (And let’s stop calling it ‘content’, dammit; “content” comes from boiler rooms…books come from the heart.) We are, at bottom, a creative business. We are fighting for share of mind against hundreds of alternatives and if we do not put our best foot forward with regard to the titles we acquire, the care we give to the editorial process, and to the production quality of both our print and digital books, we won’t (and don’t deserve to) survive and prosper. When I see a poorly conceived, apparently unedited or copy-edited, badly designed book, that is produced (whether in hardcover, paperback or in a digital edition) in what is obviously the cheapest possible way, I fear for our future. Resources are limited, but if we can’t produce consistent quality, then let’s reduce quantities until we can. Nobody wants to buy a bad product.

4 thoughts on “Designing Better Ebooks (Roundtable 6/30/11)

  1. Rachel

    Thanks, that sounds like a really interesting way to find out more about designing Ebooks. I had no idea that some E-books sold more than their printed counterparts, thats incredible!

  2. kbalthaser

    We have been toying with how the new digital reading experience will evolve over the next few years and decided to create a sample DIGITAL ONLY article using our B3 Publishing platform. This was built over 18 months ago and took 1-2 weeks with no programmers – mainly gathering assets and design. When we initially showed it to publishing execs, they didn’t get it. It about depth and density of information combined with rich media and social elements. It is becoming much more clear.



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