The Ebook Developer in the Corner

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

shutterstock_268862813Finding community as an ebook developer is a weird challenge. Most small- and medium-sized publishers have only one or two in-house people who do this kind of work (if that), and the in-house web specialist might be around to talk HTML and CSS, but really, that person mostly just laughs at the quirks and limitations that the developer has to navigate. What’s more, the in-house designers are appalled by the design limitations of ebooks and give the developer a wide berth, as if there’s some awful disease afoot.

Conversely, as in my own situation, some of us work in complete isolation in our remote offices with a collection of cats that see us yelling at our computers and shake their heads with disdain. (My children once had a name-calling fight in which one called the other a “fixed-layout poopy head” – an indication of both of the level of office discourse around here, as well as my ambivalence about that format.)

So where does someone like myself go to commiserate? To get help and ask questions? To find community? Believe it or not, Twitter. The #eprdctn community on the social network is famously generous, smart, slightly drunken and most definitely my favorite colleague. And I’m not alone.

When I first started producing ebooks, this community was critical to keeping on top of spec changes, new devices and apps, and in answering my frequently dumb questions without judgment. For a very long time, there was a vibrant weekly conversation at 11am EST. It was frequently a space to complain about the quirks and frustrations of this specific line of work, but it was also an opportunity to collaborate and figure out the right approaches to new problems.

Lately, the group has renovated what we call “#eprdctn hour” with a reinvigorated purpose. Having a clear focus on ebook development work, we now have weekly leaders with a guiding topic. We have had engaging conversations about jobs for ebook developers, standards and how to get involved, where EPUB3 rendering is at, when to keep working on the code and when to let it go, and how to deal with difficult clients. The conversations are both wide-ranging and focused. The schedule is in a Google doc and is open to anyone who produces ebooks.

One of my favorite conversations is organized around a dumb question amnesty. Even grizzly, seasoned ebook developers miss something basic or don’t know the why behind something they do without thinking. I am always hopeful that these “amnesties” will lure the newbies into the conversation, as well.

The #eprdctn social media presence is now expanding to other platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. But Twitter is where the main conversation is. Want to collaborate, commiserate or find community? We’re on #eprdctn.

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