Building a better Production Beast…
I recently read the interview on the digitalbookworld website conducted with Matt LaBlanc, Director of Digital Workflow at F + W Media, How Ebooks Have Changed Book Production and Workflow, and thought deeply about the changes I had spearheaded while I was Production Manager at ABC-CLIO. Now to give you a little background, when I started at ABC-CLIO back in 2004, we averaged roughly 60 to 65 book titles per year in our publishing plans, and this was roughly 100 to 115 volumes. At the end of 2008, ABC-CLIO purchased the license from Houghton Mifflin to produce all of the Greenwood/Praeger/Libraries Unlimited titles under the ABC-CLIO umbrella. Also added into this mix was the purchase of Linworth Books which occurred roughly at the same time. In a matter of four months, ABC-CLIO was now producing 500 + titles and 600 + volumes. I was tasked with making this work and revamping our production department to keep a revenue stream continuous to ensure company survival.
Every Title, Ebook Worthy
Every book that we published was also published as an E-product. When we started the process of changing over we had to take the domestic freelance-based system which was more man intensive and change it to an outsourced project management system where most of the functions were completed offshore. Going from a domestic model to an offshore-based model allowed an incredible arena for savings. Also, since the individual production editors had always been the ones to outsource the material to the domestic functionaries they became more of the backstop of the production functions as pages and files trafficked back to our department via FTP and emailed receipt. Although some in the department were not happy about this changeover, it was one that needed to be done to save time and money.
Yes and No…
Mr. LaBlanc has laid out a scenario that most publishers should begin to replicate. That scenario being that the end product needs to drive the process and the process should change based on the requirements of the new and technologically different format distribution type. I heartily agree with this point. Where I have a disagreement with Mr. LaBlanc is in the implementation of changes that may be needed to get to a final E-book product without using outdated print production processes. The only area where there is a divergence should be at the end, especially if you are using InDesign and the Adobe Suite of products to finalize your print and E-products. When we were working with Cadmus, this company was using a layout program with their offshore compositors called 3B2. 3B2 was an HTML based layout program that allowed you to simultaneously have final printer PDF files and convertible HTML for your E-book format without much of a hassle at the end of your production cycle. Once the HTML files were finalized they were handed off to a conversion vendor who would set up the files based on a prescribed D-T-D.
To Infinity and Beyond…
With the advent of EPUB3, the conversion from InDesign to a format that is HTML compatible will be a much simpler and easier task. The one question that I do have would be whether the raw InDesign files can be automated with the required D-T-D so that once the conversion to EPUB3 is completed the files are already formatted with the requirements of the individual production variants. I am hoping that this is the case, and I am sure that I will have ample opportunity to talk to Anne-Marie Concepcion about whether this automation is a possibility. Having one file easily convertible with a flick of the switch will go a long way toward making everyone’s functions that much easier in the production/manufacturing realm. As with everything else, I’m sure there will be a much easier process evolving than what is currently the norm, we just have to wait and see what that process will be.
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