Ebook Innovations–The Editorial Department


I thought I’d mention at least briefly some of the fun and pain we’re experiencing with trying to make good book ideas work in ePub formats.

As you may know, the second book in the series for which this blog is named, The Editorial Department, is due out August 5, 2012. With less than a month to publishing date, we’re still figuring out how this book can work as originally conceived.

We thought we’d do a lovely book on editing and editors that would have samples of editorial work at all levels, from substantive to proofreading. To do this, we need margin notes–“Comments” in MS Word–and we need the editorial changes to be shown in the text–using “Track Changes” in MS Word. There’s not much problem doing this in pdf, but I am going to have to re-key all of the text and highlight all of the deletions and insertions to it manually. That’s because, surprise, surprise, the functionality of other software can’t just be imported into a different platform, like ePub.

I’d thought this might be tricky. I’d hoped, however, that the ePub platform had come far enough to be able to include some software function instead of just enabling very rudimentary simulation of the mere appearance of that function.It’s not like I expect to be able to run Track Changes from Word in the ePub of the book, but it would be nice if the ePub would import all of the text, along with the margin notes and tracked changes intact.I’m not a coder at all, so I don’t know how difficult what I’m asking for would be to pull off, but given that there must be many publishers like me who want to import very many different elements from Word into the ePub, I’m not inclined to feel foolish for being disappointed at the state of ePub right now.

I’m hoping that change and improvement is just around the corner, but for now, we’re following our mantra of rapid, fluid publishing and just getting the best book made that we can and getting the next innovations worked in on the fly. I’m curious about whether other publishers, editors, and designers are experiencing the same problems.

I’ve been looking forward to all the fireworks that might be accomplished with ebooks now that they’re basically just big lumps of HTML and XML codes. Admittedly that was naive, but I’m hoping with HTML 5, there will be much greater flexibility.As it is, we’re going with publishing The Editorial Department as a pdf–simple, searchable, interlinked, and jerry-rigged to have the appearance of tracked changes for all of our editing samples. As it is, people with Adobe Professional will be able to use strikethroughs and other editing functions to mark their changes right on the document and then compare their work with that of the book’s authors and guest editors. Not bad for a start.The next step will be seeing what new tools exist to get all of this lovely functionality into an ePub that can be read on any device. I’d be fascinated to hear from anyone who’s been working on these challenges and may be further ahead than we are.I’ll be posting intermittently about ebooks and their capabilities as well as the challenges we’re working on with various books.