Bro, do you even CMS?
Last week, I attended the ebookcraft and Tech Forum conferences in Toronto. At these events, BookNet Canada brings together editors, publishers, and technical staff to discuss digital publishing. This cute and useful flowchart explains the foci of these closely-linked conferences. For reasons both charitable and baffling, they invited me to speak about poetry formatting for E-books.
Moi, j’avais visité au Canada quelques fois déjà, par ce que j’ai des cousins qui habitent au Montreal et Quebec. Donc, j’ai beaucoup savoir faire au sujet des Canadiens—so just imagine my surprise when nobody in Toronto spoke French.
I arrived on Tuesday afternoon, and thus did not attend the ebookcraft hands-on workshops, so I’ll leave those writeups to others. I did attend the speakers’ dinner, where I was surrounded by friendly people. Many of these speakers were people I’d seen and admired at the Books in Browsers conference last fall, and some were people I’ve come to regard as colleagues via the weekly #eprdctn hour discussions on Twitter. Many of them seemed genuinely interested in my talk. Poetry may be a small fraction of the literary output of trade publishers, but it accounts for an outsized portion of the formatting headaches.
There are lots of different E-readers out there…just as there are lots of different rivers in Brazil.
So far, these tutorials have been using pretty nonpartisan, platform-independent technologies: HTML and CSS, EPUB and RTF, JPG and GIF. My most recent instructional blog post covered using open-source Sigil to get us to an EPUB, the standard E-book format recognized the world over as the dominant electronic book platform for people who have never heard of an Amazon Kindle.
I hate it when the Kindle tablet just kinda hangs there at the edge of the shelf until I jolt the vending machine.
Right. Sure. EPUB is recognized the world over as the dominant electronic book platform for people who have never heard of an Amazon Kindle. But a lot of people have heard of an Amazon Kindle. As I learned during Christmas travels, even the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport has heard of an Amazon Kindle.
Someday, we will all drive solar-powered cars, vacation in Castro-free Cuba, and read E-books that are not on Amazon-controlled Kindles. I look forward to those days, but I need to live in (and publish for) the real world of 2015. “Kindle” is synonymous with “E-reader” the way “Google” is synonymous with “search engine”: many people aren’t even aware that the alternatives exist. Even Apple’s iBooks platform, arguably the most sophisticated and certainly the most widespread implimentation of EPUB, has but a small fraction of the North American readership.
Few small presses can afford to ignore Kindle’s huge chunk of the market. (Even large presses struggle to do so.) If we want our poetry books to be bought, sold, and read electronically, we have to get them into a format that Amazon likes, and that means the proprietary formats of KF8 and/or mobi7. Continue reading
What lessons can YBR take from the Books in Browsers talks?
Books in Browsers is a two-day, annual conference exploring trends in digital publishing, E-books, and the role of “books” in a world where content is increasingly digitized and re-mixed (1). I went to Books in Browsers 2014 with three questions:
- How are people formatting E-books these days?
- Do the formatting requirements of publishers and platforms affect the way writers write?
- Does innovation matter when Amazon controls 70% of the E-book market?
Everyone comes to conferences with his or her own agenda, and mine, of course, was poetry. Not everyone shared my central organizing thought:
Here are my notes on the talks, more for my own future reference than for anything else. Just about all of the lectures are available on YouTube, thanks to Publishing Perspectives, and those are presented, naturally, without the tint of my own personal curiosities and viewpoints. Continue reading
Use Sigil to assemble the files for the E-book anthology.
Our files are back together like peas in a pod.
You can, if you wish, use a text editor and a compression utility to make the EPUB .zip file. You can, that is; I sure can’t. And I see no clear reason why anyone would want to, not when Sigil is back in active development.
As Sigil is (kind of) an HTML editor, I could have used it all along for making the HTML/CSS markup in Steps 3 and 4. That wouldn’t have been a particularly awesome idea, though. As of this writing, Sigil hasn’t fully transitioned to HTML5. I feel it’s better to code in an HTML5 setting such as Dreamweaver, then step backwards a little bit closer to the end, rather than to do a whole project soup-to-nuts in an older specification and have more to re-code if you ever update the book to modern standards.
The first move is to download and install Sigil. If you need an older/more compatible version, those are still available, too, although they have been deprecated. I’ll wait…got it up and running? Great! Here’s what we’ll do next:
- Dump our files into a new Sigil document.
- Put the files in the proper order.
- Input some metadata (I’ll explain).
- Create a table of contents, again.
- Validate the files with FlightCrew.
- Rinse and repeat.
This post will cover 1-3. It’ll be fun. Ready? Continue reading
Sigil’s Icon for OS X
Editing EPUBs in the Post-Post-Sigil World?
I wrote the first drafts of these tutorials in April and May 2014, and I’ve been dribbling them out ever since. But almost since the day I started, there has been an uncomfortable reckoning on the horizon: Step 5 of my workflow uses Sigil, an open-source HTML/EPUB editor that ceased development right as The Yellow Buick Review project got underway.
Computers, E-books, the Web, life in general—we understand these things to be dynamic and shifting. Anyone reading this blog in 2022 (hi!) will find outdated information. The best I can do is offer honest advice in good faith. But when Sigil went quiet in Spring 2014, I felt as if I were leading people down a path I knew to be a dead end. It was hard to be enthusiastic about documenting Step 5:
5. Place the HTML and CSS files into an EPUB. We’ve been using Sigil, a free, open-source EPUB editor. Sigil wrangles together our HTML/CSS files, plus any images or media files we’ll be using. Sigil also helps us make a Table of Contents…
But I got excited this week reading this post over on the development blog of Sigil:
Now that all changed about a month ago when Kevin Hendricks decided to invest his time in some bug fixes. Then he decided to start working on a plugin framework for Sigil. He’s been spearheading the effort to get this feature implemented. It’s not ready yet but it’s coming a long (sic) nicely.
When it comes to E-books, I find nothing can replace a good Find/Replace text editor.
Past and present HTML editors