Bridging the Divide Between Print and Digital: Ebook Production Resources

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Even though digital book design might be a new skill to production managers and print book designers, anyone who wants to learn how to create ebooks is in luck: there’s really an abundance of great resources on the web, and we’ve collected lots of useful links in a post called Resources: Going From InDesign to Ebook.

An interesting side effect of incorporating a digital workflow into an existing print workflow is you soon discover if a solid print production process was already in place. Are your authors and editors tagging the manuscripts in a semantic way that strengthens and reinforces the information hierarchy and meaning of the content? Are your print designers using paragraph and character styles in InDesign consistently and with as little local formatting as possible? These are the foundational building blocks of print production that save time and yield consistent quality. And the good news is that the digital workflow is based on these same building blocks. When exporting from InDesign to EPUB, the export process uses these very tags and styles. In short, if you are already used to the idea of tagging and styles you already know the language of EPUBs, which use HTML and CSS in a similar way.

Quality assurance (QA) is another important step in both the print and digital workflows. Judgment calls often need to be made during production regarding the rendering of the content and, of course, mistakes tend to slip in here and there. Teamwork is needed to shepherd a book to completion. In a print workflow, that team might consist of the author, acquisitions editor, copyeditor, in-house print designer, and proofreader using a PDF of the galleys. In a digital workflow that team might very well consist of the same team, except that now an in-house ebook developer will have taken place of the print designer and instead of PDFs the team may be using ereaders to review the book. Or the ebook developer is actually part of the outsourcer you have teamed up with, but there is still work to be done on the other side of conversion in the form of reviewing and testing on ereaders back in-house.

The art of book creation will always require specialized skill, teamwork, and foundational workflows to produce a quality book, and ideally on time and on budget. This is true whether a book is to exist in print, as an EPUB, or as a yet-unforseen format. Our resources page is a good place to learn the new skills required in the twenty-first century. If your workflows are solid to begin with then, rest assured, you are halfway there.


3 thoughts on “Bridging the Divide Between Print and Digital: Ebook Production Resources

  1. Alexander Cowan

    The challenge most authors, production designers and editors face today is all the noise regarding the different approaches to digital conversions. The publishing industry is now saturated with a ton of recommendations, resources and vendors, all claiming they know the “right way” toward digital conversions. The result—a lot of confusion—leads to costly mistakes and headaches.

    Colleen is right to stress the importance of employing a sound “digital workflow” when publishing. But when determining how to go about it, I recommend these five tips:

    1) Well-Formed—Choose a process employing a workflow that, as Colleen recommends, “strengthens and reinforces the information hierarchy and meaning of the content” so that your workflow is well formed for multipurpose publishing.

    2) Multipurpose—Use an XML-first workflow so that your content can transform various publication types into a variety of formats (e.g., print, electronic for e-books or online content). This type of multipurpose, multichannel publishing means that you can publish any type of publication, from any source, to any format. The end result is a durative format that not only works for the present, but for the future as well.

    3) Easy—The process you choose should make your job EASY. The beauty of holding content in XML is that content will never become obsolete because it is well formed, and will port to new software and standards as technology changes. This makes publishing to a broader audience in the future easier. However, if you do not feel comfortable using XML, or simply have no experience with it, then choose a process or a vendor that does not require you and your team to code in XML. Say goodbye to left- and right-angle brackets, and say hello to processes that take your styled and copyedited MS Word documents and turn them, at the click of a button, into XML.

    4) Independent—Do not limit your content conversions to one platform or vendor. For self-published authors, I mean Kindle. Although Kindle’s publishing conversion software may be alluring for a variety of reasons today, you may not want to limit your content to just that platform. For most authors, it is important to have the capability to transform their edited Word documents into print-ready InDesign, ePub and ePub 3, as well as Mobi, to attract a greater audience in the future. Google has now entered the market by acquiring publishers such as Frommer’s, and others will soon follow, creating some stiff competition for Amazon in the near future.

    5) Quality control—This is critical. Colleen is correct in underscoring it. I have seen a lot of companies make the mistake of hiring companies that are supposedly American or British, but actually outsource most of their work to foreign workers for the sake of low pricing. If you need help with typesetting and proofreading in your particular language, make certain the people performing these functions are experts in your language and familiar with all of its idioms. Do not just assume because a company has an American customer service staff that its employees doing the work are also American.

    On a final note, writing, as well as printing, is an art form. Bottom line, keep things easy and well formed for multipurpose publishing, while maintaining independence and a high level of quality. But, most importantly, work with people you like and trust, and enjoy the synergy that those mutually beneficial relationships foster.

    I’ll be attending Digital Book World this week, and hope to see you there.

    Alexander Cowan is Director of Business Development at Scribe Inc.

  2. Eddy M.

    FYI: This is not about the digital divide. Even though it did come up in in my search of digital divide postings. Traditionally, the “digital divide” is used to illustrate the disparity and inequality people have in being able to access information and communication technologies, with the lack of an appropriate income being a primary driver in the disparity.

  3. Colleen CunninghamColleen Cunningham Post author

    That’s true, Eddy M. This article is not about this digital divide. In fact, I do not use the phrase “digital divide” anywhere in the title or article.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *