Osprey Digital Publishing

Photo by @karlymshort

We’re back in Digital-land this Wednesday (and will be in Children’s-land tomorrow or Friday, as I got a bit too carried away with installing WordPress on my website to do it yesterday – more on that later…), for another lunchtime lecture.

The second of the term’s Digital Lunchtime Lectures (#DLL13 on Twitter) focused on the XML Work Process and Digital Production at Osprey.  Led by speakers Steve Meyer-Rassow and Ben Salvesen, we were taken first through the XML Workflow (courtesy of Ben). What I found really interesting about the way that Osprey work is that they begin the process in Microsoft Word, rather than going straight to InDesign like I assumed. The Editors apply styles to the text, which is then copied and pasted into their CMS and from that goes into InDesign. The whole process seems a little bit mind-boggling to me but it’s definitely something worth researching further. (There might be some tweeting going on later!)

Following this, Steve took the floor to explain Digital Production within Osprey, covering what they do with their backlist while Ben concentrated more on the frontlist. I was surprised to learn that PDF versions of their books have proven to be popular, I had been working on the assumption that people preferred e-readers on the whole. It’s comforting to learn that publishers are putting at least a little bit of emphasis on PDF ebooks – I currently have neither an e-reader or an iPad so being able to buy and download books to my computer would be and is really helpful (especially when I can’t get out and buy the print book). But I am digressing.

Steve took us through some of the issues relating to PDF ebooks, including how they deal with piracy; they often find discs of their PDF books being sold on ebay, for example, but this is soon curbed by the legal team.

Unlike most speakers we’ve had during our time at OICPS, Steve and Ben relied more on their own presentation (even giving us a sneaky peak at their CMS) than the use of slides. It really helped the seminar seem informal and conversational, which is something I appreciated.

Next week we have Charley Darbishire coming to talk to us about Educake, a new digital publishing start up – watch this space.

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Round Up: Week One

So, as was made evident by the last entry, I am now back from the mammoth Christmas holidays, trying to get back into the real world and running head first into Semester 2. I have just completed my first week, filled with obligatory introductory lectures which, while informative, tend to be somewhat mind-numbing. There are only so many times you can take a guided look through module documentation without feeling a little bit queasy.

That said, it has been a good week. Let the round up commence:

Monday: New Product Development (NPD)

Starting at 12 was a novel idea or would have been if not for the bus timetable I am chained to. Naturally, I was in from 9am. The session began with an introduction to our teams and a few exercises, which included coming up with five ground rules for our teamwork (my favourite was #5 Have fun, be nice, bring snacks), describing yourself beginning only with J or H and coming up with ways you can fail.

There was a short break and then we found out what the module actually entailed, something we are still a little bit confused about.  NPD is like a giant roleplay, wherein each and every one of us is part of a broad publishing company which publishes everything from Children’s to STM to Trade Non-Fiction. The lecturers are the board of directors, each taking on a department. We are split into divisions and inside those divisions (made up of 7/8 people) we are split into departments too.

My team were given the Humanities and Social Sciences division, a division which, according to the scenario, has shown some complacency but did well with collections/journals/series on ethnology, particularly their Balkan and Native American series. From what I gather, we have to come up with a new list (both digital and print products) and win over the board with our proposal, convincing them that we deserve the money to see through our ideas.

I am not particularly well-versed in HumSoc but after spending 12 weeks at Berghahn, I do feel I have some idea of what we’re doing, which is comforting. I will be taking the role of head of Design in our division as well as assistant to the head of Production and we will be teaming up on top of that to focus on the Digital opportunities for our division. Both of us are taking the digital module, it seemed like a good fit.

After being talked through the different board members and the module handbook, we were given an informative slide show about the module and then sent off to our own little seminar rooms (one per group) to talk about said module and try to decide what we were doing. We had a lot of questions but our group seems pretty solid, so solid we will be having cupcakes and team bonding time over the weekend. As we know, cupcakes are very important.

Tuesday: Children’s

As introductory sessions go, Children’s was pretty good. We got to look at various books (and I got to geek out about one to my lecturer at the end of class, which was satisfying) and were given a run-through of what was happening in the world of Children’s, as well as a quick author quiz. Next week, we will be viewing a special collection of very old children’s books and in a few weeks we get to go and play with the Wonderbook in Wheatley. I can’t wait, even if getting there might be a bit of a hassle.

We will be having lots of visiting speakers, which promise to be interesting, and while others are off to Bologna Book Fair we who are left behind may be getting a copy writing master class (specifically for children’s books) with Sue Miller. There is definitely a silver lining to not being able to afford to travel to Italy on your birthday.

Wednesday: Digital Media Publishing

I won’t talk about the visiting speaker here, as I blogged extensively about that on Wednesday, check out my last entry. Instead, I will hop, jump and skip to the introductory session. If you follow me on twitter, you will have seen the live tweeting of intermingled sass and excitement (the former fills me with a small amount of guilt – sometimes you just need to sass). Despite what my twitter might suggest, it does sound like it will be a good module, it is just that most of the things we were told in the introduction we were told as part of two different modules last semester so it wasn’t anything new.

I did, however, get a bit of feedback on my first assignment. It’s not due in until week three but being the keen bean that I am, and already knowing the basics of HTML and CSS, I attempted it before the semester started. According to my lecturer, it is looking good. Excellent.

Major Project Meeting

Also taking place on Wednesday, I had a meeting about my major project. My idea has changed since I last blogged about it but I will still not be revealing what that idea is until the proposal has been handed in and approved. My idea was liked and I may possibly get an internship with a Children’s publisher – though, it’s a very small office and it may not happen but it’s nice that she’s trying to help me.

I now just need to work on the proposal of my major project, which is scary in itself and something I should be getting on with rather than writing this blog.

But instead we skip to Friday because my Thursday productivity plans went up the spout when I lost something important and then had to find it again. I did, however, do some work on my proposal and write some of this blog.

Friday: Market Research and Fun

It’s quite good that my Thursday plummeted, it meant I was able to do a little bit of work then have a long break of fun and play involving Doctor Who Monopoly (in which I got rich and then ended up in jail with very little to my name) and friends and French food followed by more work when I got home.

On the subject of work, I have recently accepted a work experience position with Dodona, a one-person publishing operation which produces local calendars, as well as diaries and coasters and the like. The position is mostly market research and looking for local photographers to take part in a possible local Oxford/Cotswold calendar and Friday, today, was the first time I’ve been able to go out and get things done. True, all I managed to get done was to glance at some shelves in a few book shops but it has given me some idea of what to ask when I talk to supervisors (hopefully on Sunday before team-building/getting-to-know-each-other shenanigans in Jericho). I still have to work out the best way to present my findings and I am currently thinking ‘report’.

Now that I’ve had all of my introductory sessions, it is time to get my head down and crank up the work hours and with that, despite the time, I go back to work on my proposal. Let the proposing commence.

Digital Publishing, a view from an Educational Publisher

This lunchtime, before the first of my lectures from the Digital Media Publishing module, we were visited by Liz Marchant, the head of Science Publishing at Pearson. The talk was the first of this semester’s lectures on digital publishing, all of which will feature visiting speakers from the industry.

Due to a tight deadline, Marchant’s lecture moved from last week to today and was a really good way of getting into the digital mood before my session in the afternoon. The talk walked us through the process of publishing a digital product from conception to delivery. It was focussed specifically on the scientific educational market but the theory and thought behind it can be easily applied to all.

She put great emphasis on the publisher’s responsibility to the success of the product, while there may be many other agents involved in its creation it is ultimately the publisher who takes the responsibility for it. If it doesn’t work for whatever reason, the fault is with the publisher and it is beneficial to have that in mind when conceiving a product.

The talk was formed of five main areas (with several of these expanded further):

  1. Digital as a whole.
  2. Process overview.
  3. Translating the needs of your target market into an attractive solution.
  4. Digital Business Case (vs. Print).
  5. Success.

The views below are mixture of both Marchant’s talk and my own thoughts. 

Digital as a whole

The first part of the talk highlighted the differences between print and digital, and what consumers perceive about digital in comparison. An example used being that online material is perceived as either free or cheap. There was a lot of emphasis on the changeability of content; digital products are not fixed in the way that print books are, content can be experienced in a lot of different ways, the function changes, the product can be changed more easily after it has been released, you can interact with your consumer.

Another focus of this section was the change of relationship to the customers and the consumers, the ability to track usage of the product which is not possible past the sale of a print title. With this comes the need for the customer to re-purchase, a challenge introduced by the changing face of access, whether it be subscription based, one purchase only, licences for certain machines or certain members of each organisation etc. The relationship with the consumer is crucial in the digital world.

Process overview

Fairly similar to the process of creating a print product, the digital process was outlined as follows:

  1. Segment identification (who will buy this product?)
  2. Problem (what does the customer need?)
  3. Concept development (solution)
  4. Business case
  5. Delivery
  6. Ongoing support.

With digital products the last point is very important. Print needs little follow up but with digital you are required to keep your audience interested and keep them needing the product. Without support customers might choose to adopt something else.

In this section Marchant also delved into all of the roles involved in creating a digital project. There were roles on her list which I didn’t even know existed. I am not sure what assumptions I had about the process before the talk but I am now aware of the full weight of digital products. There are so many different people involved that things could get a little confusing, communication is key!

Translating the needs of your target market into an attractive solution

The best way of finding out what your market needs is by asking them. A simple concept that may sometimes pass by unnoticed. However, it is not just what they think they need that should be addressed but also what they don’t know they need. For someone like me, who is new to the bustling world of publishing, this concept is a little daunting. Predicting what consumers need before they know themselves is something that I think can only be developed by practise. The more you get to know your audience, the more you can anticipate their needs and Marchant’s presentation backed this up.

A big part of this process is the pricing strategy, as mentioned above there are a lot of different strategies to consider and the one you go for depends both on the consumer and the product itself. How much is it worth to consumers? How relevant are the features as a solution?

They key to this section is in the testing. Giving customers an early look is bound to build up excitement as well as iron out those creases you may not have noticed. Even with in-office testing, not all bugs will be discovered; digital products have different functions depending on who is using them.

Digital Business Case (vs. Print)

I have to admit, I wasn’t entirely sure what was meant by the terminology here. From what I understand, the Business Case is what is used to convince the rest of the company that the product is needed and worth investing and will be beneficial to the company. It also assess the risks.

Things to think about when creating the Business Case included:

  1. The wear of the product. Digital does not wear out and therefore needs to generate other reasons for repeat purchases.
  2. Pricing policy. How do you define users? Whole school vs. individual students.
  3. Security.
  4. Ability to attract its own revenue or support the revenue of existing products.
  5. Loss leading.

Success

What defines success? In digital publishing it is simply that the product:

  1. was delivered on time and to budget. (Especially important in the educational market.)
  2. created a high quality experience with clear benefits that match the needs of the consumer.
  3. was presented with effective demos.
  4. worked together with all other components (such as a print expansion).
  5. delivered what was promised and is easy to use without long-winded training.

This aptly marked the end of the talk where we were then invited to ask questions.

Before the talk, I was thinking about possibilities for our New Product Development module (NPD), particularly the digital opportunities therein and Marchant’s talk definitely gave me a lot to think about when forming ideas. Even with project work, which will not be released into the wild once it’s finished, it is important to follow these processes (which is something I think I need to do more in my own projects). While we may not have the resources to fully adhere to them, now is the best time to practise.

And with that triumphant return to the blogging world (hello, blogging world), I am off to warmer climes (which should be read as either, the world of creative writing or the world of research, I’ve not yet decided which). Until next time.

Major Projects and an Apology for Slacking

So, it’s been a while and I am not blogging about what I said I was going to blog about and I am not currently reviewing what I said I was going to review in the future. I am a terrible person and I shouldn’t attempt to plan blogs in advance. In truth, there has been a lot of work going on and a lot of stress and I simply haven’t had the time.  I will get to everything, possibly in January. Until then, hello, it is nice to see you again.

As suggested in the title, this is not just about my failure as a blogger. No, it is a whirlwind of thought processes about the monster that is and will be my Major Project. Today, we were shown some previous Major Projects to make us aware of what constitutes as enough. Each of them were highly illustrated and, from what they said, took a lot of work in terms of image and text creation. I began to worry. My idea up until this point was to simply redesign an old text with the possibility of some illustrations. Now I am wondering if that is enough.

During my wondering (and also wandering), I came to the conclusion that using my strengths would definitely be worthwhile here and by strengths I mean my photography. After a quick search on Amazon, I discovered that the text I am redesigning/reworking has been released semi-recently as low cost paperbacks and kindle editions. Again there was worry but then I realised how, to put it bluntly, ugly they were. From what I have seen there is not a single beautiful version of this book, and during a wider search, I found that books on the same subject (here I am being cryptic again until I am definitely sure of myself and my project – sorry about that) were also a little frail on the design side of things.

There is only one, produced by the Folio Society, in which the design seems worthy of the beauty that is the content. One in all that I have seen so far. Could it be that I have found an angle for my analytic report? Could it be that simple? We shall see in the next episode of Elou and the Major Project. Coming to a blog near you.

Graduation and Cupcakes

So last Friday (Nov. 2nd) I graduated from my BA at the University of Chester and here I am in all my gowny glory after having walked through the city in the rain. It was just our luck that it would begin pelting at us as soon as our ceremony was over. But despite the rain it was a lovely day and I got to see all of the beautiful people who I’ve been missing since leaving Chester.

It was odd being a postgraduate student before I had actually graduated from my previous university and now I have I feel a lot more like a real person on a real degree in preparation for the real publishing world. (Yes, before I graduated everything was a little bit surreal.) It’s scary but I’m loving it.

Three years ago, graduation seemed very far away. Four years ago, I don’t think I even knew it was a possibility. My choice to go to university was made not through weeks and months of careful research and thinking but over about a week of looking at pictures of universities and what courses they had as part of a college class. I found Chester and I fell in love with it. When I discovered it had a Creative Writing course in my head I was there already. I applied to four other universities and was offered conditional places at all of them but I never really thought about going to any of them; I applied because I was told I should. For me, it was Chester or nothing.

Months later, I didn’t do as well as I thought I had in my A Levels and I thought university, and Chester, had slipped away from me. It took a horrible week of endless crying for them to tell me that even though I didn’t get enough points to meet the conditions of their offer, they were letting me in anyway. I have never felt such relief in my life.

Now, I’m half way through the first semester of my Masters. It’s scary how fast all of this has happened.

Anyway, back to graduation. After getting the gown and the awkward professionally taken photo which should arrive at my house in four to six weeks (I am not looking forward to it), myself, my family, my boyfriend and his family wandered into the city centre to await our ceremony. There were photos, shivering, squinting and the loss of our fathers who went on the hunt for coffee before we went into the Cathedral. I didn’t find out until a few days later where they actually ended up, luckily they got back just in time to be let in.

The ceremony was, well, a graduation ceremony with speeches and the procession of lecturers and such and the steady stream of graduates collecting their certificates. It made me smile that all of my friends got cheers as they went to accept their degrees and by smile, I mean grin like a fool. I was so worried about my shoes falling off that I think my own acceptance and walk around the Cathedral might have been painted with a small frown but I did make every attempt to smile at that too! After the ceremony, there was no real time for photos as the rain started and we had to rush to get our gowns back to the hire company before they got sopping wet.

The rest of the weekend was coloured with food and a lovely warm hotel room, which brings me the to the cupcakes part of the title. There’s a beautiful little tea room in Chester called Mad Hatters, who sell the most amazing cupcakes and bring out themed cupcakes for special occasions and public holidays. As it was near Bonfire Night, they did not disappoint.

Above is the Bonfire cupcake, purchased by a friend. I love the design of this cupcake, it was aptly chocolate orange flavour. Below is my apple and cinnamon cupcake and it was delicious. I have a weakness for apple and cinnamon flavoured things.

All in all, it was a lovely weekend. My next blog entry will be back on a publishing vein, looking at beautiful old photos and their usage in books and some which I picked up in Chester after graduation. So tune in within the next few days for that.

Major Project Musings: Folklore (and a rediscovery of reading)

Since writing my last post, I have now finished The Night Circus and succumbed and read Insurgent too (yes, I read fiction absurdly fast even if it is just on bus journeys* to and from OICPS and Berghahn Books, where I intern – the book was wonderful, by the way) and am now researching for possibilities for my Major Project. For those among anyone reading who might be OICPS students, I had an epiphany while trying to sleep a few nights ago – do not panic, I am pretty sure we don’t need to be planning yet; thinking, probably.

Without having emailed one of my lecturers, I would not be doing what I am doing right now. It would not have entered my mind. I am so glad I sent that email and I am so glad I got the response that I did.** Currently, around writing this blog post, I am immersing myself in Folklore, something which I have always been interested in but have never really delved into properly; I have never really explored many cultures.

I am currently asking myself why. The stories I have discovered this evening are brilliant, and so very different from the ones I am accustomed to even though they do all have the same basic archetypes hidden beneath them. I could go into some lengthy analysis and bow and scrape about how wonderful they are but I promised myself this would be a short blog post so there will be more on folklore, mythology, legends and the cultures they come from later, as the project progresses should I chose to go down this route. (I probably will; it’s this or Lord Dusany, I am almost certain – even if it is completely different to the idea I envisioned earlier.) There shall be no gushing today.

There is something I have learned, over the past few weeks of reading while I travel: I have missed reading and I am so glad to have made it a regular part of my life again instead of doing snatches of reading in the small moments I could steal away from other activities (read: internships, university and etc).

Bring me words.

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* I spend around 6 and 3/4 hours on buses every week.
** Vague and unhelpful, I know.