It is difficult to gauge the dollar cost of creating online samples, given the myriad variables at play. In the best-case scenario, the cost is limited to time. If the publisher already sells via Amazon, they must sign up for the sampling programs and enable them for each title. For Google, once the publisher is signed up they must submit PDF s for each title. If the structure of the site allows it, this could be accomplished relatively quickly in-house; more complicate websites owned by publishers with little in-house programming knowledge could expect to pay for several hours of web programming to implement the sample program.
HTML -based samples overcome most of the limitations of PDF s and Google and Amazon samples: all browsers can render HTML , making it easily accessible to very nearly anyone with Internet access, whether via computer, tablet, or smartphone, and the excerpted text can be easily shared, linked to, and quoted elsewhere. There are two potential drawbacks that merit consideration. This can be overcome to some degree with CSS styling and the addition of images where appropriate, but more importantly, providing HTML -based samples should be seen as a strategic practice that, rather than competing with the physical books, aims to make those books readily shareable to as many people as possible in order to generate sales.
In the former case, creating the sample is no more time-consuming than creating a web-ready PDF. In the latter, creating an HTML template into which text can be pasted and marked up will ease the burden somewhat. Despite these potential drawbacks, HTML is the superior choice for hosting digital samples, and is well worth the interruption to an established workflow. It enables the addition of audio and video. For non-fiction titles, SEO considerations can also guide the choice of what book content to sample. For a research-heavy non-fiction title such Svend Robinson , an excerpt could feature links directly to available online sources referenced in the text, allowing the reader to engage with the source material in an exponentially easier way than if they were reading it in a bookstore, which would require either flipping to the end of the book to find the endnote, or going online to search for the cited article.
With fiction and poetry, samples are a chance for authors or publishers to embellish and expand upon the original text. The multimedia capacity of digital samples allows further enrichment of the text. It is a common practice to list other books by an author in the front matter of a print book, but if a publisher sells ebooks, these lists could be hyperlinks to samples of the book.
Advanced search options in Twitter and Google allow a publisher to find people that are already engaged with the topic of the book, follow their conversations, and offer them valuable content. In , the president of Booknet Canada recommended that all publishers include excerpts in their metadata feeds. There is a wealth of data available, including geographical location, frequency of visits, device and browsers used, links followed to arrive at the site, the popularity of specific pages, navigation paths within the site, and the completion rates of customizable goals.
Analytics results cannot tell a publisher how to improve results, but allows them to methodically refine the site and receive quantified feedback at each step. These online tools allow for a process of trial-and-error that would be prohibitively expensive in print-based marketing efforts, and far more difficult to measure.
The decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores in Canada is a serious problem for publishers, particularly small publishers, who benefit greatly from a healthy independent bookstore sector providing a greater diversity of sales channels. A greater number of readers are purchasing books online, where the opportunity to sample a book can increase the likelihood of purchase. Although digital sampling via Google Books and Amazon has been around for nearly a decade, it has a relatively low adoption rate for Canadian publishers, and only a fraction have placed excerpts in easily searchable, universally accessible HTML -based formats.
For small presses like New Star, where limited resources must be carefully allocated, digital samples are an easy and effective way to supplement their marketing efforts. Once the backend modifications are in place and the template created, it would be a matter of minutes to create a sample, or at most a couple of hours to include various hyperlinks, cross-references, and multimedia extras.
To further enhance visibility and increase third-party sales, Amazon should be provided with the necessary files to enable Look Inside, and New Star should consider partnering with Google Books to enable Google Preview and links to NewStarbooks. Despite all of the above, publishers should not wholly abandon the physical retail sector. Traditional bookstores still play a very important role in book discovery, and there is a case to be made that publishers should be devoting more energy to supporting vibrant bookstores.
Chicago: Chicago Review Press, , Note: Original source [www. Campbell, Crissy. September 13, Esposito, Joseph. August 12, March 13, Originally published April, Gonzales, Guy LeCharles. February 11, July 23, McCarthy, Peter. July 31, Owen, Laura Hazard. February 15, January 17, June 18, Peters, Meghan.
May 23, Rhomberg, Andrew. March 4, Roes, Tim. September 20, Sandusky, Brett. February 12, Schmidt, Milena and Mina Park. June 3, Shariff, Sameer. Shatzkin, Mike. August 14, July 8, Lai, Larissa, and Rita Wong. Vancouver: New Star, Lorimer, Rowland. Lorimer, Rowland and Roger Barnes. Martin, Bill, and Xuemei Tian.
Farnham, UK : Ashgate, Vancouver: Future of Publishing, Thompson, John B. Cambridge, UK : Polity, Woll, Thomas. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, Maurer, Rolf publisher, New Star Books. Email to author, November 19, Interview by author, August 22, Maxwell, John. Email to author, November 28, Johnson, Hannah.
January 27, Laing, Audrey and Jo Royle. Start with the Web. Nawotka, Edward, and Mark Piesing. February 27, Okano, Ari. Travis, Hannibal. Albanese, Andrew. October 5, October 15, Baldassi, Julie. September 5, Barber, John. Last updated April 2, Bosman, Julie. August 11, Bosman, Julie and Claire Cain Miller. November 14, Carraway, Kate. May 25, Last updated June 18, Chopra, Paras. June 24, Guernsey, Lisa. November 6, Habash, Gabe. June 22, Kaufman, Joanne.
June 11, Kirkpatrick, David D. July 21, Lederman, Marsha. March 15, Last updated September 6, August 30, Last updated September 3, Mackie, John. August 3, McCabe, Douglas, and Jo Henry. March 22, Milliot, Jim. February 3, Milliot, Jim, and Steve Zeitchik. October 8, Nelson, Miranda. April 26, Page, Benedicte. March 23, Patten, Melanie. Reid, Calvin. January 16, Rich, Motoko. Rose, Judith. May 31, Strauss, Marina. April 8, Last updated August 23, Tagholm, Roger. December 2, Whittall, Zoe. September 4, Williams, Leigh Ann. September 21, August 8, Zipp, Yvonne.
March 17, August 9, November 3, October 10, Crum, Erin. August 6, Best Practices for Product Metadata. September 16, BookNet Canada. Toronto: BookNet Canada, Breedt, Andre, and David Walter. January 25, November May 21, Lorimer, Rowland, and Lindsay Lynch. Stromberg, Eric, and Romeen Sheth. Case study , kenan. Turner-Riggs firm. The Book Retail Sector in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Heritage, Accessed October 1, Accessed September 25, Accessed September 12, Accessed September 30, Accessed November 27, Accessed September 23, Accessed September 24, Accessed October 5, However, by , it had become evident that outsourcing to large conversion houses had its drawbacks.
In the face of these problems, individual publishers like UBC Press must put various short-term solutions in place and consider making changes to their own production workflows if they are to achieve greater quality assurance and control over their own epublishing programs. I would like to thank Rowland Lorimer, who inspired me to study scholarly publishing; Roberto Dosil and Laraine Coates, for their encouragement and careful reading; the hard-working ladies in the Production and Editorial Department at UBC Press, who teach by example; and Jane Hope, whose wit and friendship helped me through my internship and beyond.
Acknowledgements List of Figures List of Acronyms. Appendix A: Ebook Proofing Instructions. Stretched Ebook Cover Image. Established in , UBC Press has developed into a scholarly book publisher recognized for its social sciences monographs and edited collections. At present, the press also publishes books in 21 different series, several of which are co-published with cultural and professional organizations such as the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History, the Canadian War Museum, and the Canadian Council on International Law.
Like many other university presses, UBC Press is somewhat of a hybrid entity within its host institution. Because the press helps carry out the research mandate of the university, and because its publications board is made up of faculty members, the press is in some ways considered to be an academic unit. Like faculties and departments, it is therefore housed on campus and receives a modest level of operational funding from the university.
The Press also earns income from an endowment whose funds are administered by the university though this endowment income has decreased significantly over the past ten years. In other respects, though, UBC Press is treated as an ancillary unit. Ancillary units like Food Services or Land and Building Services exist within the university environment; however, they are expected to be self-sufficient and generate revenue by charging for their services or products.
Like many other university presses, UBC Press is thus in the awkward position of having to operate as a for-profit business with a not-for-profit academic agenda. For instance, demand for the agency services that UBC Press provides to US and UK publishers is expected to lessen due to an increase in online, direct-to-consumer marketing and delivery. Furthermore, if UBC Press were to experience a considerable loss in revenue, this loss would be compounded by a decrease in block grant funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, since block grants are contingent upon positive net income.
Whereas a trade publisher might try to compensate for a loss in revenue by marketing its titles more aggressively in the hopes of selling more copies and thereby achieving greater economies of scale , there is little potential for growth in monograph sales for social sciences and humanities SSH publishers.
SSH publishers like UBC Press serve a niche market, with the majority of sales being made to a finite number of academic libraries. In short, printing and selling more books is not an option for UBC Press. In fact, in an attempt to reduce inventory costs, UBC Press has begun to limit its initial print runs. UBC Press further anticipates that it may phase out hardcover editions altogether within the next five years in favour of the less expensive paperback format. It is also working to introduce print-on-demand options in England and Australia in order to reduce the number of printed books it has to stock and ship overseas.
At the same time that UBC Press is scaling back its print runs, it has been exploring and expanding its digital publishing activities. However, it is unclear at this point whether ebook sales will endanger, augment, or replace print sales. A decrease in print sales and increase in electronic sales is particularly worrisome to publishers because ebooks tend to be priced much lower than print books. In the world of trade publishing, online retailers like Amazon and Apple have exerted a downward pressure on the price of ebooks,  so that even if a publisher is able to sell a considerable number of electronic copies, the profitability of ebook publishing is limited.
Scholarly publishers stand to lose even more than trade publishers in this shift to the digital format, given that scholarly monographs are often priced three to 10 times higher than trade books. If scholarly publishers are forced to sell their titles in digital form to the same small consumer base, but at a much deeper discount, their profit margins would no longer be razor thin: they would be non-existent. In addition to pricing library ebooks slightly higher than print print books, UBC Press has taken measures to ensure that its more expensive ebooks destined for the library market are more visible than its cheaper ebook formats.
To be sure, ebooks are not at present a significant source of revenue for scholarly publishers. Small as these figures may seem, they do represent a two-fold increase in percentage of total sales from previous years—an indication that the appetite for ebooks in the academic market may be growing. However much revenue ebooks may bring to the Press, it is clear that ebooks carry with them certain costs.
Some of these costs e. For example, in order to store, distribute, and market its digital titles effectively, UBC Press will need to update its technological infrastructure in the near future. This upgrade will entail significant one-time investments, including the purchase of a new digital asset management system which stores and distributes files to vendors ; a redesigned website with increased functionality, including the ability to sell ebooks directly to consumers; consultation with a web marketing specialist, who can help the press increase its brand discoverability through search engine optimization; and improvements to the current system for managing bibliographic data.
In addition to these secondary expenses, the Press must bear the principal cost of producing ebooks. Though these production costs have been subsidized over the years by various parties see Chapter 1 , they have come to present a considerable expense and financial risk for the Press. It is upon these realities—certain costs and uncertain gains—that UBC Press has based its decisions regarding ebook publishing over the last decade.
The history of ebook production at UBC Press is a history of outsourcing. This history can roughly be broken down into three phases. Each phase of ebook production was overseen by a different third party, and each marks the adoption of new ebook formats. See Figure 1.
Taken together, these phases reflect over a decade of change in the way ebooks have been produced and distributed in Canada; they also reveal a surprising mix of private and public initiatives that have underwritten the creation of scholarly ebooks in this country. Figure 1. UBC Press has been publishing ebooks in one format or another since the late s, but like many other university presses, it has done so with the assistance—and at the insistence—of various external parties, beginning with content aggregators.
Content aggregators are the electronic equivalent of library wholesalers. They acquire and package digital content from publishers, which they then license to institutions for a fee. In the early years of ebook publishing, aggregators not only marketed and distributed ebooks, but they also produced them.
These companies would arrange for the creation of ebook files on behalf of the publisher, essentially manufacturing a product for themselves to sell. It was they—not publishers—who digitized scholarly books and built a business around this product. The publishers simply licensed the content to them. The first content aggregator to convince Canadian publishers to take part in this new venture was an American company named NetLibrary.
NetLibrary was formed in Boulder, Colorado, in Soon thereafter, it began to sublicense rights for select backlist titles from academic publishers and to create ebook editions of those titles. The company produced these ebooks by scanning hardcopy books supplied by the publishers. Using an optical character recognition OCR scanner, NetLibrary was able to convert the image of printed type into text. Instead of being contained within a particular file format, these early ebooks were simply rendered in HTML. The text was viewed online by library patrons through a browser using a tethered-access model Knight This production and delivery method, made possible by the increasing popularity of the internet which allowed people to access content remotely , proved to be quite successful.
As the agreement with NetLibrary was non-exclusive, UBC Press began to develop partnerships with these other content aggregators as well. At the time of its launch in January , Questia had developed a considerable collection of over 50, titles. In this way, UBC Press parceled off licensing rights to various content aggregators during its first five years of ebook publishing.
UBC Press continued to enter into concurrent agreements with different content aggregators and to digitize its legacy titles piecemeal until , when the Press signed an exclusive one-year deal with the nascent Canadian Electronic Library CEL. The CEL had been formed a year prior by Gibson Library Connections, a Canadian content aggregator interested in creating a collection of electronic texts from Canadian publishers. Gibson would then sell access to this content through the ebrary reading platform to various academic libraries in Canada Ng-See-Quan.
By this time, the PDF had become a universally accepted format for electronic documents, so a shift toward this standard and away from simple HTML encoding was welcomed by publishers. After signing on with the CEL, the Press began to digitize nearly all of its titles that had not yet been hand-picked by content aggregators. A year or so after its inception, the CEL was comprised of approximately 6, scholarly titles in English and French. This sale was promising, and presaged an even more lucrative deal that took place two years later in September , when the collection had grown to over 8, titles from 47 different Canadian publishers.
Though the CNSLP was initially concerned with acquiring access to online journals from scientific, technical and medical STM publishers, it eventually expanded its mandate to include monographs in the social sciences and humanities. This occurred in , when it became officially incorporated as a non-profit organization and was renamed the Canadian Research Knowledge Network.
This change in mandate was significant, as it meant that the CRKN would start to acquire electronic content in areas in which Canadian university presses were actually publishing. The budget for the SSH acquisition project was also on a scale heretofore unseen. By , this well-funded Canadian purchasing consortium was on the hunt for a large collection of SSH content, and it found its match in the Canadian Electronic Library.
This landmark sale was profitable not just for Gibson, but for participating publishers as well. UBC Press alone earned roughly 1. It was the largest single sale ever realized by the Press, regardless of format. At the close of its contract with Canadian Electronic Library, UBC Press did not have any plans in place to produce and distribute ebooks of its forthcoming titles. For the first time since its foray into the world or digital publishing, the Press was left to oversee its own ebook program which had, until that point, been governed by outsider interests.
Though the Press was no longer under the auspices of a content aggregator, it continued to rely on the technology partner whom Gibson had introduced and whose services had proven to be indispensable. According to CodeMantra, these features met the minimum file requirements of most libraries and ebook vendors. The uPDF format therefore allowed publishers to distribute their files to multiple sales channels without encountering any technical barriers.
To help deliver this product, CodeMantra also offered publishers subscriptions to Collection Point, a digital asset management system. Collection Point enabled publishers like UBC Press to store their ebooks, apply metadata to these files, and deliver the finished products electronically to various sales channels, including to content aggregators, whose role had really been reduced to that of distributor by this time. Having secured these technical services from CodeMantra, UBC Press began to manage its own ebook publishing program, unassisted, until the next external initiative arose—this time, under the direction of a national trade organization: the Association of Canadian Publishers.
Since it was formed in , the ACP had provided research, marketing, and professional development services to independent publishers in Canada. The CPDS was a suite of services that aimed to provide advice and support to small and mid-sized independent publishers wanting to create and manage ebooks MacDonald. An important part of the CPDS program was connecting Canadian publishers with technology partners who could offer conversion services.
The first round of ebook conversions organized by the ACP took place in October For this job, the ACP hired CodeMantra, the same overseas company that had made a name for itself among publishers by converting their files for the Canadian Electronic Library. Unlike the uPDFs—low resoultion files designed for on-screen reading, which contain interactive features like bidirectional links —these POD files had to be static PDFs that could generate a print-quality product.
These files also had to comply with other formatting requirements stipulated by Lightening Source: for example, the interior text had to have one-quarter inch margins, the cover had to have a one-quarter inch bleed on all sides, and the images had to be rendered in CMYK colour. This marked the first opportunity for many Canadian publishers to store their content in what was considered to be a more durable and flexible form—a form that might allow them to repurpose their tagged content later on.
Unlike PDFs, which have a fixed layout, the text in EPUBs is reflowable, which makes them amenable to designated ereaders like the Kindle or Kobo, as well as other mobile devices. And indeed, UBC Press took full advantage of this opportunity. Other publishers were equally enthusiastic. In fact, the level of interest and participation from Canadian publishers in this program was so high that a second round of conversions was organized in Data conversion companies were invited to bid on a new contract with the ACP; this time, the job was awarded to a different technology partner, Innodata Isogen, whose facilities were also located overseas.
UBC Press submitted another 62 of its recently published titles to Innodata for conversion.
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The CPDS program was the most recent effort toward large-scale, coordinated ebook production in Canada. For his part, UBC Press Director Peter Milroy has expressed a willingness to continue outsourcing ebook production to technology partners through third-party organizations like eBound Canada. It seems, then, that the Press will continue to outsource ebook production—at least, for the immediate future.
UBC Press has always depended on an external partner to produce, sell and distribute its ebooks. This is perhaps not surprising, as the ebook business was first created and aggressively developed by external stakeholders e.
Yet there are several other reasons why publishers have chosen to outsource ebook production for the last decade. These reasons are explored in detail in the next chapter.
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There are several reasons why UBC Press and other publishers first outsourced, and have continued to outsource, ebook production. More importantly, outsourcing has been a convenient and cost-effective way for UPs to enter into a potentially lucrative but uncertain market. Outsourcing is a business practice that is not unique to the publishing industry.
Indeed, outsourcing has become increasingly popular across the manufacturing and service industries over the past five decades. Among the many goods and services that are now traded internationally are services in the ICT sector 8. In fact, outsourcing has become so common in this sector that by Canadian companies were offshoring 7. Though their traditional focus on acquiring, editing and designing once placed publishers squarely outside the realm of these technology-related services, the rise of digital publishing and the concomitant need for large-scale data conversion has made publishers reliant upon the ICT sector.
Through their business dealings with content aggregators and conversion houses, Canadian publishers have thus become swept up in this larger movement toward offshoring. During cutbacks in the early s, UBC Press was forced to downsize its staff. As it was less expensive and more convenient to hire workers on short-term contracts, the Press came to rely on freelancers for much of the editorial and production work formerly carried out by employees in house Brand As most of the work involved with print books was being performed out-of-house, it seemed reasonable that this new facet of production—ebooks—be outsourced as well.
Ebooks brought with them the promise of profit.
Outsourcing, however, provided a way for scholarly publishers like UBC Press to experiment with digital publishing while minimizing financial risk, since outsourcing partners offered a series of incentives that either lowered or eliminated production costs. NetLibrary initially set low-cost expectations by offering to cover the cost of digitization i. This saved the publisher from having to invest in ebooks upfront. It was these favourable terms that first tempted publishers like UBC Press to start outsourcing to Netlibrary. CodeMantra was therefore able to convert ebooks at a reasonable price, which lowered production costs and increased profit margins for the CEL and its participating publishers.
Using similar incentives, the Association of Canadian Publishers was also able to lower the cost of producing ebooks for Canadian Publishers, thereby encouraging them to continue outsourcing. When it came time for the ACP to choose its technology partners for the CPDS program, it too hired companies like CodeMantra and Innodata, whose conversion facilities were located in South Asia, and who could therefore offer lower pricing.
Accordingly, UBC Press was more selective in the titles it chose to convert and in the formats it requested. Of the 74 titles the Press submitted for initial estimates, it processed only 62, choosing those titles that were most affordable to produce. To sum up, the companies and organizations that have facilitated outsourcing over the last ten years have offered a series of incentives, ranging from complete coverage of production costs to cost deferrals and direct subsidies.
These incentives have made it more affordable—and therefore less risky—for university presses to start publishing ebooks. In addition to lowering financial risk and production costs, outsourcing seemed like a convenient way for publishers to enter into the ebook business.
The production method used by the early content aggregators was particularly accommodating. This meant that publishers could remain focused on creating their print product while ebook production took place downstream. Figure 2. Even with the advent of newer ebook formats, in-house operations continued much the same as they had before. All the Press was required to do was upload these simple PDFs, along with the accompanying front cover images in their native file formats e.
Once the simple PDF files had been downloaded by CodeMantra employees, features like internal links and bookmarked tables of contents were added manually to enhance the product and make it more user-friendly. Although applying these features is not an overly complex process, requiring only minimal training and common software applications like Adobe Acrobat Pro, the process can be quite labour intensive, particularly if a PDF contains a lot of index entries or notes which have to be turned into links. Outsourcing therefore saved UBC Press staff the time and effort required to perform these tedious tasks.
Though the method of producing other ebook formats is much more involved, the Press did not have to put forth any extra effort when it started to publish EPUBs and XML files in This is because conversion houses like CodeMantra and Innodata were able to create these ebooks from the same basic files used to produce the ePDFs.
This data is then stored in an intermediate form of XML unique to that company e. After a rough preliminary conversion, these companies likely run more scripts to reformat portions of the file and to add styling to the ePub. In this way, conversion houses are able to create complex XML ebook formats from the simple PDFs provided by the publisher.
From a production standpoint, outsourcing has therefore been exceptionally convenient: it has allowed UBC Press to adopt various ebook formats that have developed over time without having to drastically alter its own operations. Moreover, in its early agreements with content aggregators, UBC Press was able to outsource not just the production of its ebooks but also their marketing and distribution. Publishers who converted their titles through the CPDS program also had the option of collectively licensing their content through the ACP to ebook vendors like Sony.
Although UBC Press has had to take a more hands-on approach to ebook production in recent years see Chapter 3 , the initial convenience of being able to outsource all manner of work associated with ebooks clearly was a draw for publishers. At the time UBC Press began publishing ebooks, the outsourcing of technical services had become a common practice within Canada. Outsourcing also seemed to fit with the freelance-based business model already in place at the Press. Over the years, the different parties that organized ebook production also tended to subsidize it: companies like NetLibrary and industry groups like the ACP have offered various financial incentives to make outsourcing even more attractive to publishers.
For publishers, then, outsourcing has minimized any economic risks involved in adopting the digital format. Furthermore, outsourcing has been an incredibly convenient way to enter into the ebook market. Because ebooks have, to date, been produced from the end-product of print publishing i. By being both convenient and affordable, this method of production has been beneficial enough to keep publishers outsourcing for over ten years. However, it remains to be seen whether the benefits of outsourcing still outweigh other problems that may have arisen from this practice. As was established in the previous chapter, UBC Press has been outsourcing ebook production since it first began publishing ebooks in the late s.
But whether or not it should continue to do so warrants some consideration. The processes and products that have resulted from over a decade of outsourcing should be examined in order to determine whether outsourcing remains as beneficial a business practice as it once was. In particular, it will catalogue the types of errors that have been found within these files. This chapter will then speculate on the inconvenience, risks, and added costs that may result from poorly converted ebooks.
In an effort to understand why—and with such frequency—these errors have occurred, the conversion process used by large overseas companies like CodeMantra and Innodata Isogen will also be examined. Even if outsourcing was an effective way of allowing Canadian publishers to enter the ebook market, outsourcing long-term may have the unfortunate result of reducing the autonomy of Canadian publishers and their participation in the digital economy. Like other outsourcing initiatives that had come before it, the CPDS program was seen as a convenient way of producing ebooks.
This outsourcing opportunity also seemed to carry little risk, given that it was overseen by the ACP: a trusted industry representative that was willing to partially fund the process. In short, the CPDS program seemed like an easy, safe, and affordable way for publishers to obtain ebook editions of their backlist titles. However, UBC press was quite disappointed with the files it received from its conversion partners during this program.
Errors were apparent even from the cover pages. The ebook covers were often of poor quality. Some cover images appeared in very low resolution; others were stretched because their proportions had not been maintained during resizing. Low Resolution Ebook Covers. Original Image vs. Stretched Cover Image. The ebook interiors were just as disappointing.
Entire chapters were missing from the ebooks or from the bookmarked tables of contents that had been added to the files manually by the technology partner. More frequently, the files themselves were incorrectly named, having been labeled with the wrong ISBN number e. Such errors were common across all file types, but others were unique to particular ebook formats. In the ePDFs which are paginated , whole pages were missing or were misnumbered. Preliminary pages in the front matter did not appear in Roman numerals, though the Press had stipulated that they should. Chapter headings were also missing from the tops of some pages.
In addition, the print-on-demand PDFs included only front covers, instead of the full wrap cover requested by the Press and required by Lightning Source. The EPUB errors that were most visible were those pertaining to images. For instance, diacritics which should have been rendered in UTF-8 encoding as stipulated in the agreement were instead captured as images during the conversion process.
Because they had been rendered as images, these accented characters did not appear to rest on the same line as the rest of the text. These errors were made all the more visible when the ebooks were viewed on a wide screen. Figure Still more problems occurred because of the shift from PDF to EPUB that took place during conversion—in other words, the shift from a fixed page layout to reflowable text.
Images that appeared on separate pages in the print editions now seemed to interrupt the text, sometimes appearing mid-sentence.
Tables which contained three or more columns in the original files and which should have been rendered as images had been grabbed as text instead; as a result, the contents of these tables often broke across several pages in the EPUB, making them difficult to read. Odd line breaks also occurred within the running text because the print typesetter had either used automatic hyphenation or had inserted forced line breaks in the original InDesign files. Pages that originally appeared in the front matter and that were supposed to have been relocated to the back of the EPUB so as not to interfere with readability a common practice in ebook design had not been moved.
More seriously, the metadata for these EPUB files was neither robust nor accurate. Series information was not included in the. Not surprisingly, the error-riddled ebooks that were produced during the last two rounds of conversions created delays and extra work for UBC Press, making outsourcing far less convenient than it seemed at the outset. During the first round of CPDS conversions in , ebook errors occurred with such frequency that many ACP members complained to the organization about the quality of their files.
The sheer scale of the problem prompted the Association to bring in a consultant to negotiate a solution with the technology partner, CodeMantra. In the end, all parties agreed that the company would make certain changes to the files produced during this round of conversions, free of charge. Many publishers decided to resubmit files, but because the changes were applied globally, it took a long time for the corrections to be implemented. As a result, some of the titles that were initially submitted to CodeMantra during the first round of conversions in were not yet ready by Coates.
The second round of conversions, which began in while the first batch of ebooks were still being corrected , was also fraught with complications. In an attempt to prevent further problems, the ACP had included specific language in the contract with its new conversion partner, Innodata. UBC Press had also included additional instructions along with the titles it submitted for conversion.
Unfortunately, this second technology partner also failed to deliver files that met the requirements of the Press and the ACP, so similar delays ensued. Almost all of the 62 files UBC Press submitted to Innodata in July had to be returned to the company in November and December of that year due to formatting errors. During the second round of proofing in May , errors were still being found in the files. In a sample of 36 ebooks, only 12 of the 25 EPDFs were of acceptable quality that is, contained few enough errors to be sold in good conscience , and only five of 11 EPUBs would validate.
During this fiasco, Press staff also had to spend a significant amount of time and attention interfacing with its technology partners and the ACP. Once UBC Press became aware of the quality of its files, Press employees also had to intervene and spend time checking each file—not once, but multiple times. This necessarily interrupted regular in-house operations.
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If an ebook is found to have a particularly high number of errors, these errors may affect unit sales for that particular electronic title. However, they could also lower sales for other titles as well, for the following reason. This is because the Press was not prepared for the state of the files it received through the CPDS program. When UBC Press received its first batch of ebooks back from CodeMantra in , Coates did not suspect that she would need to review each file individually for errors.
As the sole staff member responsible for this aspect of production, Coates also lacked the assistance that would have made a thorough review possible. As a result, dozens of botched EPDFs were distributed to libraries through ebook aggregators soon after they were delivered to the Press. It was also cursory by necessity: due to the volume of files that had to be reviewed, the student intern was only able to spend 10 minutes or so spot-checking each file Coates.
As a result, many of the EPDFs that were put into circulation from the second round of conversions were functional, but still contained minor formatting errors e. These ebook errors may have not only lowered the perceived quality of the product and of the Press itself, but they may have ultimately affected the profitability of the ebooks by delaying their distribution.
After the Press had to send back files to Innodata for revision in November , libraries and vendors began contacting UBC Press because the ePDF versions of certain titles advertised in the Fall catalogue had not yet been made available to them Coates. As a result, library orders may have been dropped before these files were ready.
Laraine Coates has expressed concern over the fact that the EPUBs first requested from Innodata in May were not yet sellable 18 months later, in November A year later, the EPUBs remain in unsellable condition and have yet to be distributed. Consequently, the sale of these ebooks—and revenue from these sales—has been postponed, and may be forfeited altogether if the files cannot be brought to satisfactory standards.
Metadata errors could further depress ebook sales by reducing the visibility of the files in an online environment. This makes it harder for potential customers to find and purchase that ebook online. Metadata and validation errors therefore affect not just the discoverability of these electronic titles, but also their saleability. The potential risks and financial losses from this latest outsourcing experience may be largely incalculable, but these poorly formatted ebooks have already resulted in quantifiable costs incurred by the Press. The several rounds of proofing that UBC Press personnel have had to perform on each file has contributed to the overall cost of producing these ebooks.
In the summer of alone, 63 ebooks had to be proofread in-house at the Press. As it took roughly twenty minutes to thoroughly check each ebook often longer for EPUBS , this amounted to at least 21 hours of employee time. But when one considers the hassle and hidden costs that have come with these conversions, and the untold price paid by publishers whose brands have been compromised by a substandard product, outsourcing through the ACP has turned out to be far more expensive than the official price tag suggests.
Under its recent contracts with the Association of Canadian Publishers, UBC Press worked with two different companies, CodeMantra and Innodata: two large conversion houses whose operations are located overseas. The fact that UBC Press had disappointing experiences with both partners suggests that there may be problems not with each individual company, but with the business practices of large conversion houses in general. In an article written in for the now defunct online publication eBookWeb , an industry insider exposed some systemic problems that were present even among early conversion houses.
Trained only to carry out their assigned tasks, the employees perform repetitive functions e. This disunity affects the overall quality of the product and the ability of the ebook to function as a whole. On a human resource level, this assembly-line approach to conversion leads to low morale and motivation among workers, and a high turn-over rate. Although it may seem counterintuitive, hiring low-skill workers instead of ebook designers or digital publishing professionals is more desirable for these companies, since their production method is built around tools, not training.
Because the workers who rely on this software often operate independently from the programmers who write the scripts, there is seldom any feedback between users of these tools and their creators. This disintegration results in the development of inefficient tools. Another problem endemic to these large companies is the issue of scale itself. To wit, the ACP contracts show that these conversion houses are often serving multiple clients in this case, 44 different Canadian publishers with divergent needs, simultaneously. Clearly, the workflow used by the company—which might work well for producing EPUBs of trade fiction titles with fewer textual elements—could not easily accommodate the type of apparatus found in most scholarly books.
The type of markup that results from these cookie-cutter conversions is often of low quality: a fact that, strangely enough, does not seem to hurt business, since the clients of these companies are often more concerned with the appearance of their ebooks than the integrity of their code. In the long term, however, an acceptance of low-grade code on the part of the publisher could affect the use of these ebooks both as archival files and as sellable wares.
If the code behind these ebooks does not comply with current best practices, these files may not be forward-compatible when newer versions of the EPUB standard are released. Bad code may also interfere with the ability of future devices to render the files properly. Far from being a safe investment, these poorly made files may in fact have a very short shelf life.
This last point underscores a final problem that Salo warns against in her article: a lack of disclosure about workflow and markup on the part of these companies. This reticence may stem from greater communication problems between these large companies and their clients. Staff at UBC Press, for instance, often complained that although they were assigned an intermediary contact person by the ACP, they could not communicate directly with those who were overseeing or performing their ebook conversions.
However, Salo attributes this lack of disclosure to a more pernicious motive. This dependence does not sit well with some who work in the Canadian publishing industry. Canadian publishers are not just handing over their money and content to factories overseas; they are also giving up their immediate autonomy, and reducing their chances of achieving some measure of self-sufficiency in the future. By continuing to rely on external parties to create and manage their ebooks, Canadian publishers are deferring the need to hire or train staff to carry out their digital publishing programs.
At present, there is indeed a scarcity of ebook experts among Canadian publishers. This is particularly true of university presses. Of the 13 UPs in Canada, only two have staff whose sole purpose is to oversee their digital publishing programs. Coates explains that she took on this responsibility in when another staff member in the Production department was away on maternity leave. Coates assumed this role because of her own personal interest in ebooks, and not her prior training or expertise in ebooks per se.
Although Coates is occasionally able to attend workshops and discussion panels on ebooks organized by various professional associations e. Close to Ceiling Lights Pendant Lights.
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