Nicholas Blake is editorial manager at Pan Macmillan. His job now includes digital as well, which means he needs to think about Pan Macmillan’s eBook and online publishing programme. Below are his top ten “islands of knowledge” for editors thinking about ebooks.
- Get the rights. Penguin got 700 titles up for the Waterstone’s launch—then had to take 120 down as they discovered rights hadn’t been agreed.
- Understand moral rights. The new formats mean titles that had no moral rights will re-acquire them once republished. When commissioning indexes, state that the index will be used in all editions.
- Assign ISBNs correctly. Each format of a title needs a unique ISBN.
- Understand localization. Harper didn’t get any UK titles up for the Waterstone’s launch—all theirs are US titles.
- Understand version control and decide on a strategy—there are no impression numbers in eBooks.
- Get to know your output formats.
i, ii, iii—good. Jeremy Paxman, A Portrait of the English (pub. Penguin)—hyperlinked table of contents, hyperlinked index, text is well laid out with extracts distinguished as on the printed page. Comfortable to read without distractions.
iv, v—reasonable. Abbeys and Priories of Great Britain (pub. Heritage Trail)—excess leading between paragraphs, hyphen not an N dash in the title bar: too much leading in the glossary. Not very comfortable to read.
vi—bad. Cult of Dr Who—no page break for a new chapter, artwork missing, straight inverted commas, no italics for book title, basic grammatical error in the heading. Mobipocket
vii—good. Pocket Oxford Dictionary: each word has its own page, colour is used intuitively, the distinction between underlines and hyperlinks is clear, navigation is easy. Although it has straight inverted commas, it’s obvious that a lot of thought has been put into making the best use of the medium.
viii—bad. A Passage to India (pub. Rosetta Books): no sign of any thought. Meaningless emblem to go with the chapter heading, every paragraph is full out, no italics for book titles, basic typesetting mistakes.
ix—bad. 9/11 Commission Report. Artwork unreadable, leading wrong between and within paragraphs, endnotes not hyperlinked.
x, xi—mixed. Dr Who (pub. Pocket Essentials). Clear layout, helpful bookmarks, italic and bold all converted successfully; but the index is not hyperlinked so is useless.
xii—mostly good. Thirteen Moons (pub. Random House). Chapter titles, large and small caps, leading generally correct.
- Get to know your conversion or output process. ADE officially imports from XML, Mobipocket from HTML, Word, PDF or text, MS Reader from Word.
- Understand metadata and decide on its importance for your books (bookmarks in Perdido Street Station; bookmarks in a Tor book).
- Build in metadata-friendly elements to your books at the earliest stages.
unnamed sections in Electricity (‘or was it goodbye’).
- Understand a digital workflow.
Read the whole thing: Skills for the Digital Age