Shannon’s Highlights from Digital Book World 2014

Executives from publishers and technology companies gathered in New York this week to share their strategies on how to create, market and sell books in 2014. Full-day workshops were devoted to the topics of higher ed and children’s content, and there was much discussion of new reading communities, subscription services, and start-ups working in the publishing space. An entire morning was devoted to everyone’s biggest customer, Amazon, although representatives of the online retailer were notably absent.

Amazon and the Academic Market

Joe Esposito, a management consultant for the publishing and software industries, gave a talk on Wednesday morning describing how Amazon is infiltrating the academic market. The number of academic libraries purchasing directly from Amazon is on the rise, and many librarians he spoke with stated that they received better service from Amazon than from academic wholesalers like Baker & Taylor. Librarians reported that they received orders much more quickly from Amazon than from B&T. The ironic thing is that in many cases, Amazon is actually ordering and drop-shipping books from Baker & Taylor for those customers, so B&T is providing better service to Amazon than to their academic customers. Evidently traditional academic wholesalers are going to have to up their game as digital purchasing practices become more widely adopted in the academic market.

HTML5 is the Future of Book Authorship (O’Reilly)

Ever ahead of the curve, O’Reilly has recently moved from an XML-based workflow for EPUB production to HTML5. Sanders Kleinfeld, Publishing Technology Engineer at O’Reilly Media walked us through their new production workflow, which has authors working in a WYSWIG environment with built-in HTML5 and visual editing. O’Reilly made the move from XML to HTML5 in order to streamline their workflow, and to make authors’ lives easier. He said that some of O’Reilly’s authors had been resistant to working in an XML environment like DocBooks, and their dev team was spending a lot of time assisting authors with it. They were inspired by the simplicity of the user interface created by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams for his blogging platform Medium, and strove to create something similarly clean and user-friendly. He highlighted visual editing, web-based design and version control as the three hallmarks of next generation content authoring.

Case Study: Aptara – Building a Baseline EPUB3 Production Template

Ever wonder where your EPUBs come from? If you’ve converted with Aptara through eBOUND, now you can find out! Jean Kaplansky, Digital Content Solutions Architect at Aptara, one of eBOUND’s conversion partners, provided a case study of her organization’s EPUB3 production workflow. Aptara’s goal was to create the holy grail of EPUB production – one reflowable EPUB for all vendors, and found it was possible to do that with EPUB3. She described that Aptara uses the EPUB3 structural semantic vocabulary to add precise definition to HTML, and employs the Progressive Enhancement maturity model. She walked us through their workflow, which looks like this:

  1. Plan content structural semantics using HTML5
  2. List all target devices and reading system apps
  3. Plan CSS approach, using CSS best practices
  4. Build EPUB files, applying semantic inflection through the EPUB structural semantics epub:type values
  5. Test and adjust

So that’s how they get those EPUB3 files so pretty.

Fresh-faced and optimistic execs from companies like Oyster and ReKiosk were on hand at panels about start-ups in the publishing space to discuss how they were disrupting the book-selling process, and Inkling and Creativist showed off their content creation platforms. Alongside the up-and-comers, though, representatives from big six and other traditional publishing houses explained how their organizations are adapting and evolving to keep up with the times. It’s unclear yet whether the subscription service model is going to catch on, or if students really want to read their textbooks on a tablet, but that just makes it a more exciting time to be in this space.