(With apologies to Three Dog Night) The Economist has a fascinating article about the travails of ebook production. Producing the printed book turned out to be much easier than the ebook edition, though as The Digital Reader points out, had some different choices been made at the beginning of the process, a lot of trouble could have been avoided. Both articles are well worth reading if you have any interest in ebook production, but do read the Economist’s article first.
ONE might easily think that print publishing is a fussy business: all of that preparation to put ink on paper seems rather last century—or last half millennium. Electronic books have been hailed as the future and the perfection of the codex format, because of their ease of production, distribution, and infinite perfect replication.
Yet this Babbage has found that not to be the case, even though he has worked with e-books for decades across many formats. Your correspondent also has printer’s ink in his veins: he trained as one of the last dedicated typesetters, worked in a printing plant in his 20s, and designed and produced dozens of books in the 1980s and 1990s. But even he was unprepared for how easy it has become to print a book and how difficult it remains to produce an electronic version suitable for a range of e-readers, including the Kindle.
An author I know was in a similar situation recently. He wrote a book in Microsoft Word and his publisher converted it to InDesign to produce the final book. They wanted to produce an ebook edition, but the author hadn’t hyperlinked his endnote reference to the endnotes. Had he done that when writing the book or before submitting the manuscript, InDesign would have maintained the linking. To do it now is an expensive process (manually create the links in InDesign or pay someone to write a script to do it) and it looks like the only electronic edition will be a PDF, with no hyperlinking.
It’s a situation most technical writers would know to avoid.