publishing technology


anthologize logoRecently, I became aware of a new tool for authors called Anthologize.  Anthologize is a WordPress plugin created as part of the One Week One Tool project at George Mason University in Washington DC.  According to the press release accompanying the launch of Anthologize,

. . . [the] project was inspired by the model of rural “barn-raisings” to bring twelve dynamic individuals to CHNM with the mission to create, build, and release a digital tool useful to humanities scholars in seven days. The project offered the team a short course in the principles of open source software development, collaborative project management, and community outreach. The project’s team included professors, graduate students, recent undergraduates, museum professionals, librarians, and digital humanities staff.

In a nutshell, Anthologize lets authors quickly gather information from blogs and combine it with their own posts to create electronic documents, published in a variety of formats including PDF and ePUB.  Inside the tool, you can set up projects which consist of “parts” (chapters) and items (“content”).  These can come from your own posts or be imported via feeds from other sites.  You can drag and drop items to any place within the project.

anthologize plugin

The strength of the tools is that it leverages all of the WordPress capabilities in terms for pulling together a rich variety of content. and provides an organizational structure well suited to a book.  While powerful, the tool isn’t perfect.  A review by Teleogistic flagged some of its weaknesses – e.g. in the export process.

None of these export processes are perfect. Some require that certain libraries be installed on your server; some do not offer the kind of layout flexibility that we like; some are not great at text encoding; etc. This release is truly an alpha, a proof-of-concept.

However, the reviewer acknowledges that the tool is a potent framework for further development in the world of independent authorship, publishing, and distribution.

According to the Anthologize website, future plans for the tool include:

  • Importing blog comments into your editing environment and transform them into end notes or footnotes
  • Importing content via URL when an RSS feed is unavailable
  • Maintaining version control of the individual items in a project
  • Creating editions of your electronic documents
  • Providing an annotation interface for adding editorial comments during the crafting process
  • Developing an interface to aid in the construction of document indexes

Anthologize is clearly a major step forward in the evolution of blog to book.  It gives authors a way to organize their blog posts, as well as externally derived information, into a coherent book structure and then publish in formats that are suitable for print or e-book.  One can easily imagine Anthologize becoming a must have base tool for authors that others developers contribute to through complementary plugins – much like the NextGen Gallery plugin has become in the image gallery arena.

anthologize on the iPad

Anthologize can be downloaded and installed from the tool website’s download page, or you can download it from the plugins section on Wordpres.org. Check it out!

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stack of booksRecently, I put my house on the market, and as part of the staging process, the realtor had my wife and I pack up and store about two thirds of our over 5,000 books.  The idea is to reduce visual clutter and let prospective buyers imagine their own items on the bookshelves.  The entire agonizing process got me to thinking about e-books.  What if all those physical books were e-books?  How much easier it would be to move them!  Put the trusty Kindle or Sony Reader under my arm and walk out the door.

Then I started imagining the different kind of havoc technology could wreak on my all e-book library.  Think about the e-book players.  When technology invades an industry, it usually brings with it a fast and unforgiving pace of innovation.  The e-book is no exception.  e-book formats come and go; players quickly become extinct; the companies that store those digital libraries can go under or their libraries hacked.  As a reminder of the shaky ground of technology I had only to look at that box of old records – LPs – that I uncovered as part of the packing up effort.  They were made irrelevant and essentially useless (except as collector’s items) by CDs, which suffered the same fate at the hands of iPods and other MP3 players.  And those devices and the MP3 format itself may be in the gun sight of some garage technologist as I write this.

Suddenly my multi-ton load of print books didn’t seem so much trouble after all.  As long as I have eyes (and glasses) to read them with, I’ll always be able to enjoy the stories and information they have to share.  No batteries or tech smarts required.  I know the future belongs to the e-book; and I am excited by its possibilities.  After all, early readers  probably had similar angst about switching from scrolls to paged books.  Do not fear – I’ll march bravely forward with the e-book revolution.  But when my time comes, I want to my print books to accompany me on that journey to the other side.

Medieval helpdesk (with English subtitles)


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By almost any reckoning, e-books are a fast growing segment of the book publishing industry.  Many self-published authors and traditional publishers who have been reluctant to publish in e-book format are now considering it.  However, because there are many competing standards, navigating the technical / logistical ins and outs of e-book publishing can seem a bit daunting at first. 

We recently had the opportunity to discuss print to e-book conversion and the outlook for e-books with Virginia Thomas, the Business Development Manager at Olive Technology, a leading provider of eBook conversion services. Virginia has lived and worked in Alaska, Argentina, Oregon, California, Texas, Hawaii, India and Colorado and was previously in corporate sales with Paradigm Engineering.  (One of her favorite book genres is confessional memoirs.)

FPP:  What e-book formats should a publisher consider absolutely essential for their titles?

VT:  Since the arrival of ebooks and eReaders, the number of digital content retailers has significantly increased. Each retailer would want to cover most device formats. Since the two most popular readers, the Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader use ePub and Mobi, it is recommended that Publishers should at least have these two formats available.EPUB is an open standard created by the IDPF, and is used on numerous devices such as the Sony Reader, the Barnes and Noble Nook, and the Stanza iPhone app. Mobipocket, or .mobi, can be read on the Kindle, but also on a Blackberry, Windows Mobile device, Symbian or Palm device. .azw is Amazon’s proprietary format for the Kindle, for which they provide free conversion when a title is listed in Amazon.com’s eBook store. Like .azw, .mobi can be read on a Kindle, but unlike .azw, it can be sold in a number of distribution channels including Symtio and a publisher’s own website.

FPP:  What steps a publisher should take to prepare for submitting a title for conversion into an e-book?

VT:  Publishers looking at reaching a wide market should first develop a basic idea of planning their marketing and decide on how they would like to take care of the digital rights management. Subsequently, they should identify a reliable technology team that can do a high quality conversion work that can replicate the original book experience into digital format. As they identify the team, the publisher should have their high priority titles organized by the different available format such as hard copy, PDF, Quark Express, InDesign etc. This would allow the conversion team to organize their own conversion steps.

FPP:  What occurs during the process of e-book conversion?

VT:  Depending on the format, the conversion process involves:

  1. Converting the original source format (such as PDF) into a editable format, such (MS Word or HTML)
  2. Reformatting of the editable format so that it can be seamlessly ported into a conversion tool. Depending on the type of book, this step may involve extensive coding to re-create the formatting from the original book. Aspects such as clickable footnotes, endnotes and images are all taken care of in this phase.
  3. The formatted file is then ported into a conversion tool that can then generate the needed extension required. Aspects such as Table of Contents, book details and Metatags are taken into consideration at this phase. (Metatags are information about information—they help identify and position the digital content in order of relevance. For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metatags).
  4. An eBook conversion team then takes a thorough line-by-line comparison with the original book to make sure that all the needed formats and expressions have been replicated in the converted book. This is a very important step as it ensures a good reading experience for the reader. Depending on the service provider, a conversion team would have multiple quality checks by different members of the team.

FPP:  What are the most common problems that occur in e-book conversion?

VT:  Formatting errors can come in easily, especially inserting spaces into words. This is why Olive Technology does not rely solely on software for corrections. Olive’s proofreading team pores over every word in the eBooks they convert.

FPP:  What is the typical turnaround time for an e-book conversion?

VT:  Average turnaround time for a 200 page book is 2 working days. However, it may take additional time if there are lots of footnotes and endnotes that require extensive coding of tags or there are lots of images that need to be edited before including in the eBook.

FPP:  How much should a publisher budget for converting a title into the most popular e-book formats?

VT:  This depends on how long the book is, how many titles are being converted in the batch, and how complicated it is to convert. Most conversion companies provide a price per page. The more special formatting, pictures, charts, graphs, sidebars, etc. a work has, the more difficult it is to convert.As for a ballpark, conversion of a 200 page novel with a few illustrations from PDF to EPUB and Mobipocket, Olive Technology would charge $160.

FPP:  What limitations / differences in appearance should a publisher expect when going from print to e-book?

VT:  Because of limitations in the eReaders, it is not possible to enforce the original font types into the eBook formats. However, some eReaders allow the fonts to be changed. Since the reader has options to change the font size to large print or smaller print, there are no set page numbers in an eBook. Also, the style of s Table of Contents is limited to one column. All required images would render as black and white in most eReaders, but in smartphones they can be in color.

FPP:  Do you think we will get to a single e-book standard in the near future?

VT:  That’s the question of the hour. Members of the IDPF would scream “YES! EPUB!,” and the industry has already seen a great adoption of the EPUB format. However, Forrester has said that of the 3 million eBook readers predicted to be sold in 2009, 60% of them are Kindles. While Bbeb may be a dying breed, I think .azw and Mobipocket will be around with EPUB for years to come—especially if Amazon keeps making mobile apps. Unless, that is, Jeff Bezos decides to become an open format fan. That will probably occur the same day Steve Jobs endorses Windows 7.

FPP:  Does having a title in XML format simplify e-book conversion?

VT:  Not necessarily. In fact in our experience the reformatting of DocBookXML can be even more challenging and costly. However, the use of XML allows quicker conversion to any future formats that would be made available.

FPP:  How important are mobile phones in the e-book market now?

VT:  According to research done by Nielsen in 2008, younger people favor the idea of books downloadable to mobile phones or iPods over eReaders or PCs (A third of 16-30 year olds compared to 23% of over 30s). The mobile phone market share is relatively small, but growing. The most popular mobile phone for eBook reading now is the iPhone, which only had 6.5% of the eBook downloads in the first two quarters of 2009. However, in a November 1 report the research firm Flurry predicted that with thousands of eBook apps being produced, the iPhone will be in a serious position to steal market share from the Kindle in reading the way it stole from the Nintendo DS in gaming.F

PP:  How do you see the e-book market evolving in the next 3-5 years?

VT:  With the fast adoption rate and decrease in price of eReaders, the only certainties I see are growth, increasing involvement of Google, and device convergence. According to Association of American Publishers, eBook sales have grown by more than 300% in last 2 years. While eBooks are still a small portion of book sales, they more than tripled from the second quarter of 2008 to the second quarter of 2009, and the exponential growth is predicted to continue.

Also, I think it’s a matter of time before foldable/flexible mobile devices cause device convergence to occur. The problem now is that eBook readers are too big to be phones, and phones are too small to read on without a whole lot of scrolling. However, when mobile phone manufacturers roll out devices that can be folded or unfolded to the size of a phone or eReader, consumers will probably opt for the convenience of only carrying around one device. Motorola is said to be hard at work on their line of flexible devices.


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espresso_book_machine_version_2The Espresso Book Machine, manufactured and distributed by On Demand Books,  has created quite a stir since it was launched a few years ago.  The book printing system has been compared to a “book ATM.”  It can print books, stored in a digital repository, in a matter of minutes.  Essentially, the system provides the capability to produce books at the point of purchase. 

Version 2.0, a smaller and more efficient version of the Espresso Book Machine is now available and is helping drive sale at On Demand Books.  In addition, the company has recently announced deals with Lightning Source and Google which give it access to a greater catalog of books.  The video below demonstrates how the Espresso Book Machine produces a book it has retrieved from a digital repository.

Google Books: Classic Books Available via the Espresso Book Machine

Dane NellerDane Neller is the CEO of On Demand Books LLC, which he co-founded with publishing legend Jason Epstein.  He has extensive operating experience in the retail sector as former President and CEO of Dean & Deluca for over 8 years.formerly.  Future Perfect Publishing interviewed him a couple of years ago, and he recently updated us on the company’s progress since that time and the outlook for the Espresso Book Machine.

FPP – Originally, mostly libraries were purchasing the EBM. Now it seems that more bookstores are acquiring the EBM. What do you think has caused the shift?

DN – Our primary market continues to be the University Setting both campus bookstores and research libraries. Independent Trade Bookstores also are buying as they recognize the value of localized self publishing programs being able to respond immediately to their customers.

Bookstores benefit as well from an increase in their sales per square foot, increase inventory turnover, derive new customer traffic to the machine, eliminate out-of-stocks and free up shelf space for faster moving, higher-margin inventory. For libraries, the machine enhances the academic experience for students/faculty and makes more books available to more patrons. By allowing the library to acquire a title for its collection on demand when requested by the patron, the EBM helps make the library’s acquisition strategy more efficient. Our technology also enables the library to reproduce rare books in physical form, provides a vehicle for University Press titles, and improves the inter-library loans process.

FPP– Have you begun to see interest from non-bookstore retailers?

DN – Yes, as they see the Espresso Book Machine enables them to add books as a new product line.

FPP – What’s the easiest way for publishers to make their titles available through the EBM?

DN – We are committed to adding content to our network and will accommodate whatever method is preferred by the publisher. There are three methods for publishers to make their titles available to us:

(1) Through our partner Lightning Source. This is our preferred way – publishers add their content to Lightning’s POD repository, and it becomes available through the EBM at the identical pricing offered by Lightning.

(2) By providing us with an API that allows our network to access the publisher’s digital repository – in effect, we “pull” the file from the publisher any time a book is purchased on one of the machines.

(3) By the publisher “pushing” their digital repository to us and allowing our servers to host their files. In this case, we host the publisher’s digital files and perform a regular reconciliation to keep the titles and their associated metadata up to date.

FPP – What does an EBM cost? Are there lease as well as purchase options?

DN – We sell the EBM for $97,500 plus the cost of the text printer (note that the EBM comes equipped with the full-color cover printer). The price of the text printer ranges from a little over $4,000 for the mid-speed printer (35 pages a minute – or a book ever 7-10 minutes) to roughly $28,000 for the high-speed printer (120 pages a minute – or a book every 3-4 minutes).

FPP – How do you anticipate the agreement with Lightning Source and Google will impact sales of the Espresso Book Machine (EBM)?

DN – Both Lightning and Google represent significant sources of high-value books. They’ve made the EBM more attractive to our customers and are helping sales.

FPP – What are the barriers to getting all publishers to sign on with ODB and what is the company’s strategy for growing the number of books available via the EBM?

DN – Distributed printing clearly is attractive to publishers who see the advantages of a greener distribution and sales channel. There may be some technical barriers on the publishers’ side to aggregate their printable files but most are creating or outsourcing Digital Asset Management repositories. Our strategy is to make our customers successful by going after content that will sell well through their setting. Academic content for the University Bookstore, for example.

FPP – Do you see a potential market for magazines, journals or newspapers using the EBM?

DN – Absolutely. The Espresso Book Machine will print, bind, and trim absolutely anything that a laser printer can print. In addition, customers have used the machine to print journals with personalized covers and lined pages, technical manuals, custom anthologies, professor-created textbooks, lab journals, study guides, coloring books, conference documents, corporate reports, recipe books, collections of (digitized) letters, and the list goes on . . .

FPP – E-books have been steadily growing in popularity. Do you see this as competition for the EBM?

DN – No. The growth in e-books has helped us in several ways. First, to the extent that growing e-book sales help publishers and booksellers, then we are helped, since these represent our partners and customers. More concretely, the digitization of backlist books for e-readers has made more titles available to our machines. Also, with the growth in e-books, publishers and retailers have grown more comfortable with nontraditional methods of book distribution, including our own.

FPP – What new features would you like to see in the next version of the EBM?

DN – We have no major upcoming changes to the EBM. In summer 2009 we began our full commercial rollout of the new EBM, version 2.0 (previously we had installed earlier-generation machines to test the market and the technology). At 3.8′ x 2.7′, the new 2.0 machine is half the size of the previous model. Interest in the machine has been fantastic, and we expect our installations to accelerate significantly in 2010, with an early emphasis on trade bookstores and the university bookstore and library market.

FPP – What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for On Demand Books?

DN – Managing rapid growth is the biggest challenge. Other challenges relate to selling internationally. It is an exciting time for On Demand Books and our customers and we are very confident about our ability to meet challenges as they arise.


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The day of the m-book (e-books on mobile phones)  is rapidly approaching.  Recently one of the founders of LexCycle, the company that makes the Stanza e-book reader for iPhone, recently spoke at a Book Publishers Northwest meeting.  Stanaza’s numbers are impressive.  In a very short time, over 100,000 titles have been converted into Stanza books.  And there are now more than 1.3 million readers using Stanza on iPhones.  And Stanza has added some distribution muscle by teaming up with two major retail partners, Fictionwise and Smashwords (both of which also provide e-books in other formats as well). 

Stanza iPhone App Review – AppVee.com

LexCycle was purchased by Amazon in April.  Unlike the Kindle, it uses the open standard epub format for its e-books.  With the purchase of Stanza, Amazon may be hedging two bets – the popularity of reading books on a large form factor, single use device in a proprietary format versus a multi-function, small form factor, standard format mobile phone.  Single function mobile devices have an annoying habit of becoming obsolete.

The success of Stanza has me wondering – how will the spread of m-books change the way we regard books and the manner in which we read?   

Size won’t matter.  As books go digital, the notion of personal library becomes something you carry in your pocket.  It’s no big deal to have thousands of songs in your iPod; why not thousands of books on your iPhone (memory permitting).

We’ll need reading management apps.  Gigantic personal libraries means we’ll need apps to help sort it all out and find what we need when we need it. 

Read me a story.  When its difficult to read, we can switch to an audio mode.  Every book will come with two modes – text and audio. For example while commuting on a crowded bus or train,or in your car (there is already a controversy starting to brew about people reading books on their mobile phones while driving).  

Books will become more social.  Finding and texting interesting book snippets to friends will be easy.   

Books will be processed, as well as read.  Processing book content with other apps.  For example, clicking on a location mentioned in a title and using Google maps to view the locale.  Or mark inspiring passages and have them shown to us periodically. 

Perhaps none of this will happen.  It may be that the biggest change m-books will have is simply to make us read more, if in a different manner.  With libraries and educational institutions leading the way, books are being reconceptualized as downloads and reading as an app.   

A Reading Revolution – CBS News


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village books-BellinghamFuture Perfect Publishing has been following the Espresso Book Machine for the last several years.  The Espresso Book Machine, sometimes called the “book ATM” is developed and marketed by On Demand Books.  The system, about the size of a photocopier, allows a book to be selected from a digital catalog, then printed and bound in just a few minutes. 

Now it is beginning to make serious inroads into the bookstore community.  Two of the latest installations are going to be right here in the Pacific Northwest.  One is at Third Place Books in Bothell, Washington, just outside of Seattle.  The other is at Village Books. It is a community-based, independent bookstore located in the historic Fairhaven district of Bellingham, Washington, and was honored as the 2008 Outstanding Philanthropic Small Business in Washington State.

 

Village Books, Outstanding Philanthropic Small Business 

Chuck_Robinson_Village_BooksChuck Robinson has been co-owner, with his wife Dee, of Village Book in Bellingham, WA, since June of 1980.  Chuck has pioneered many causes in his community so it seems only natural that his bookstore would be one of the first to make this innovative new way of producing books available.  He’s a former board member and president of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association and the American Booksellers Association and currently serves as a board member of the Community Food Coop and as a trustee of Whatcom Community College.  He is currently writing a book about the history of Village Books to be published–on the Espresso Book Machine–during the store’s thirtieth anniversary next June.

Lindsey McGuirkHelping him with the installation is Lindsey McGuirk, Digital Marketing & Publishing Manager.  Lindsey has been in the book industry for over 5 years, beginning as a bookseller at Village Books where she eventually became the Events Coordinator. After a short stint on the publishing end of things with Algonquin Books, she returned to her true love as an independent bookseller at Village Books.  She now does the online marketing for the bookstore and will be the go-to person for Village Books’ Espresso Book Machine.

Chuck and Lindsey recently took the time to share their plans for the bookshop’s new Espresso Book Machine.

FPP:  How did you first learn about the Espresso Book Machine (EBM)?

CR & LM:  Though we had read about the machine in trade publications we first saw an early model of the EBM at Book Expo America a couple of years ago.

FPP:  What convinced you to put it into Village Books and how do you plan to use it?

CR & LM:  We’re convinced that “the times they are a’changing” and that we need to be on board or we’ll be left behind.

FPP:  What type of books do you expect to use the EBM to produce?

CR & LM:  Although we’ll have access to books through LightningSource and now Google’s public domain books, the bulk of the books we will be printing–at least in the short term–will likely be self-published. We have already been receiving inquiries from authors interested in having their books printed on the Espresso Book Machine and have a few projects lined up to print when the machine is installed.

FPP:  How many titles are available in the EBM catalog overall?

CR & LM:  Between LightningSource and Google Books, there are nearly 4 million books available to print through the EBM. There are also nearly 600,000 backlist titles that are in-copyright that we can print thanks to publisher’s permissions.

FPP:  Could you describe what happens when a customer places an order that requires the EBM?

CR & LM:  This could be an elaborate answer, but I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible. Assuming that an author brings us print-ready PDFs (those that will not need any additional layout changes or adjustments) of both the book block and the book jacket, we will simply upload those files to the EBM and let it do its work. It prints the book block, glues it, prints the book jacket, and binds it all together. It will then take the book and trim it to its specified trim size. It’s an amazing process!

FPP:  How does the cost of producing a book on the EBM compare with ordering it from a wholesaler or distributor?

CR & LM:  Pricing in print-on-demand, like that of e-books, is still shaking out. However, we expect the retail price for books printed in-store to be comparable to those ordered from distributors.

FPP:  Will having an EBM change how many titles you carry in your physical inventory?

CR & LM:  We believe the EBM will allow us to enhance our inventory by being able to offer books that would otherwise be unavailable. There will be some books that we may carry in smaller numbers because we can instantaneously print a replenishment copy and there will be other books that we won’t have on the shelf–just as there always have been–but, unlike the past, will be able to provide very quickly.

FPP:  What is the purchase model for the EBM? Is it an outright purchase? Lease? Per book fee?

CR & LM:   There are a couple of ways one may obtain a machine. We have chosen to lease ours.

FPP:  Will Village Books use the EBM to support self-published authors or small presses without distribution?

CR & LM:  We absolutely will be supporting self-publishing authors! We’ve been highly supportive of self-published authors for year—we have a strong consignment program and carry dozens of books by local, self-published authors. We haven’t considered printing books for small presses without distribution, but you have just added another element to our growing list of possibilities. Thank you!

FPP:  Are there any special logistical considerations for operating the EBM? For example, space, power, supplies, etc?

CR & LM:  We did have to provide 220V wiring to the site and we will be moving shelves around to accommodate the machine. And, we will, of course, need to stock paper, glue, etc.

FPP:  If you could design the next version of the EBM, what features would be on your wish list?

CR & LM:  It’s a little hard to say prior to our working with the machine for a while. We’ve spent some time with an earlier model and feel that the company has addressed many of the issues we would have had with that machine. I’m sure that this is a question we may have a better answer for in a few months.

 


 

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sumerian-clay-tabletSince the development of written language, mankind has experimented with different reading “devices” and formats.

  • Inscription on the walls of dwelling spaces or public buildings
  • Engravings on clay tablets
  • Scrolls
  • Bound books with pages

Over the last two thousand years or so the bound book reading experience has become so ubiquitous it is difficult to imagine any other way to read.  The structure that surrounds our reading experience has slipped beneath the level of our consciousness.  The only thing that surprises us is when a book comes with an odd trim size, similar to the micro jolt we get when someone hands us an odd sized business card.   

early bound bookEvery readng device has its opportunities and tyrannies.  The page in the bound book of today provides a simple unit of reading; the total number of pages lets us know in advance how much information a book contains or how much effort will be needed to read it.  Page numbers and headers provide useful reference points.  But the price of paper and ink limits the information that can be conveyed.  This has always been the problem with all previous reading devices:  the cost of the physical medium used to convey the information scaled with the amount of information.

But electronic reading devices offer an escape from that hard rule.  E-reading or reading with the aid of software offers us new opportunities (and doubtless many tyrannies as well). 

  • Extension – Linking to related material
  • Search – Finding without the need for page numbers or indexes
  • Filtering – Hiding irrelevant or uninteresting parts of the book; especially useful for second readings
  • Layering – Accessing additional information (e.g. pictures and / or background material) via layers that can be turned on or off under reader control
  • Annotation – Adding / editing your personal annotations (actually part of layering)
  • Sharing – Connecting to your favorite reading groups and sharing your comments and quotes from the book
  • Apps – Simple applications that make the reading more enjoyable – e.g. embedded dictionaries, automatic translation to another language and summarization of key information.  For fiction this might include summaries of the story to the point where you last left off to refresh your memory between reading sessions.  Innovative developers will find ways to extend the capabilities of our reading devices similar to what has been done for the iPhone.
  • Multiple modalities – Switch between reading and listening
  • Metrics – Tracking personal stats on everything you’ve read

Like it or not, over time our books will become more like computers and we will expect them to the things that computers do.  Our long standing reading model will change as the physical nature of our primary reading device changes.  The big limitation may become, not physical cost, but reader attention.


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