eBook experimentation

I’ve been fascinated with eBooks and digital publishing for quite a while now – there are certainly blogposts on here going back a couple of years on the topic. I’ve been particularly interested in whether there was an opportunity to start publishing the kind of corporate publications the public sector have long been so fond of in this manner since the shutters came down on print due to the new rules from Westminster.

This year I convinced our Publications team to give it a go for our Annual Review – a publication that aims to be accessible to the public and tries to put the work of the MRC in a more personal context. It was inspired by the BBC Backstage retrospective creating a web friendly PDF plus versions in .epub and .mobi so that we covered both Apple and Kindle devices while also being accessible for people using different devices or apps. The aim is to get a version in the iBookstore this week and if I can work out how to publish a free publication in the Kindle store as well.

Today we published all three versions and I am very proud of them even if I didn’t really do much when push comes to shove. I brought Zak in to provide technical know-how and he worked closely with Vin our in-house designer and the editorial team made sure it all made sense. Zak is going to blog about the technical aspects and the workflow when he is back from a well earned break in Copenhagen!

I’ll be honest it was far from plain sailing and many lessons were learned – here are my top 5;

1. Get the eBook developer and designer together as early as possible (and earlier than that really!)
2. It is going to take longer than you think – build in some contingency time
3. Distributing eBooks is still really hard and Amazon certainly don’t make it easy if you want the product to be free.
4. IE is as much of a pain with eBooks as it is with the web!
5. This was a big one. Expectation management. I didn’t do ebough to explain to constraints of the format in-house – people were expecting something much more like an exact mirror of the PDF. I’ll know better next time.

This is still pretty experimental territory despite the massive uptake of ebooks (problems can effect anyone) and I hope it is the start of big things in the future – I’d certainly like to make sure we get an opportunity to demonstrate we learned from the lessons.

If you have an iPad, Kindle or any other reader please take a look and have a read.

Thanks again to Zak, Vin and Sarah.

Test devices Zak used all showing the cover

3 responses to “eBook experimentation”

  1. Works on an Android phone too. Using free FBReader app I downloaded the .epub version. Can read, follow links to chapters, scroll, bookmark text etc. Nice job!

  2. Cheers Paul – Zak will blog about all the testing he did across devices and apps but always good to hear it is working out in the wild 🙂

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