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.