The ACP's CPDS Digital Publishing Workshop

On December 9th and 10th I attended the ACP ’s CPDS (Canadian Publishers Digital Services) Digital Publishing Workshop, which focused on real solutions for the average Canadian publisher. I’m a BookNetter and not a publisher, but I managed to sneak my way into this workshop after I agreed to speak at itmore on that to follow.

This two-day workshop dived into the dirt of ePub production on day one and focused on practical solutions for digital workflow on day two.

The Good

The room was made up of production pros. Everyone had some kind of familiarity with digital publishing and workflow, and all were willing to be open and honest about their experiences. This honesty made for some great questions and discussions (and maybe a little hissing from the back row at one point).

The Bad

The lengths some publishers have had to go to to digitize their backlist astounds me. My robot heart broke in half when one publisher mentioned having production staff search eBay for one of their titles that they no longer had in house (digitally or physically), so they could cut the binding and scan it to get a digital version. It was the absolute last resort, but it was the only way.

The Details

Day 1

The first day of the workshop focused on the gritty ePub details that everyone needs to know, but no one wants to deal with.

  • Ron Bilodeau from O’Reilly spoke about his experience using Adobe InDesign to create ePub files. He did a general introduction and then walked the crowd through the process with a follow-along demo. In general, following InDesign best practices will lead to pretty good ePub files.
  • Liza Daly from Threepress Consulting presented on device-specific ePub issues. She talked about special considerations for e-ink vs. mobile devices, and then showed the audience how one ebook can look drastically different across various devices and apps, emphasizing the importance of testing on all available options. The Threepress blog is a great place for more ePub details.

Day 2

The second day focused on XML workflow, with solutions for your backlist as well as ways to move forward.

  • Thad McIlroy from The Future of Publishing gave a big picture view of XML workflow and the reasons why publishers need to rethink their current practices.
  • James MacFarlane from Easypress talked about EasyEPUB , their web-based backlist solution. EasyEPUB converts Quark and InDesign files into ePub files. He talked generally about including outsourcing as a part of your workflow and gave a product demo.
  • Late in the afternoon, I presented a project I worked on last spring during my time spent in Simon Fraser University’s Master of Publishing program. John Maxwell , our technology professor, took five of us (Heiko Binder, Jan Halpape , Travis Nicholson , Sarah Taggart , and myself, Meghan MacDonald ) and threw us off a cliff into the ocean to see if we would sink or swim. We swam and came up with what we think is a forward-thinking XML workflow solution that will work for the average Canadian publisher. Best part: it’s free! XML Production: Start with the Web lets publishers use existing or free tools to create an XML-based editorial and production workflow. During my presentation, I showed the audience how you can use 20% of XML to get 80% of the benefit through a simple web-based CMS to produce ePub, web, and print documents.
  • At the end of the day David Caron from ECW Press, Sharon Bailey from House of Anansi Press, and Michael Smith from IDPF were part of a panel discussing their experience with ePub and digital workflow. The rest of the room got into the discussion, with audience members jumping in with examples and solutions.

The CPDS Digital Publishing Workshop was a great success. All participants were open about their experiences and worked together to help each other, which was wonderful to see. We don’t have solutions for everything yet, but we’re on the right track.

I’d like to thank the ACP team for putting on a great conference! For more information about the workshops and CPDS in general, contact Nic Boshart.