Shatzkin shizzle

Mike Shatzkin posted a piece yesterday that seemed to me to have the ring of truth about it. Asking the question, 'Will Amazon's current domination of the US ebook market persist?', Shatzkin answers firmly, 'No.'

He goes on to explicate the lack of a genuine compatibility between Amazon's strengths in physical product supply, handling and selling and their replication of the model for ebooks. He makes the same point about their customer base model not migrating to ebook selling either.

In the past 12 months, Amazon has built a similar customer-base advantage with Kindle. But as the ebook market grows and matures, the view from here says they won’t have the same success trying to grow it. In fact, we are probably at or near the high-water mark for Amazon’s dominance of ebook sales.

Shatzkin then lists five very sound reasons why the ebook market in the US, and globally, will slip from Amazon's grasp. All good points, but number 3 stood out for me:

3. There will be new app stores for iPhone competitors: Android and RIM, for sure, but perhaps also verticals by device manufacturer and/or telephone service provider.

Towards the end of last year, it struck me that mobile was going to be huge for e-reading in 2009. Not only was Stanza storming the beaches but there were notices proliferating about App Store clones - Android, RIM, Palm - and network decks opening up to the fittest apps - Vodafone and GoSpoken, and T-Mobile.

So, as far as ebooks on mobile go, I think it's probably safe to quip: the future's bright, the future's... erm Orange?

Pan Macmillan and GoSpoken

Pan Macmillan are going into GoSpoken, the mobile reading platform.  As regular readers of this blog will know, we are big fans of mobile reading and believe it has a hugely significant role in the future of how we read. Our lives are becoming more and more device centric while our devices get better and better.  Moving in early with mobile distribution makes sense and we look forward to expanding our mobile list. All our ebooks and a significant proportion of our audiobook titles will be available. You can download the press release below and read coverage in the Bookseller.



... the dizzying range of easily accessible material on the internet conspires with a lack of editorial guidance to make web reading a disjointed experience that works against the sustained concentration required for serious reading.

There is an interesting piece in the London Review of Books from Colin Robinson about the impact of global economic woes on publishing. As the byline has it, "Colin Robinson until recently worked for a large publisher in New York." He outlines the pressures facing the principal cast of the publishing ecosystem (to mix my metaphors), including writer, editors, producers, retailers, and readers.

Robinson's comments on the effect of electronic communication and the internet on the life of books could be judged as accurate or out of step, depending on your perspective. (I'm not going to go there on the "For all the claims of their optical friendliness and handiness, e-books still strain the eyes" remark.) Yes, there is a lot of rubbish content on the internet, and yes society seems to be moving towards a sort of chronic individualism that exhibits itself online. But is that dreadful for publishing and reading?

Robinson points to a possible solution - that the editor's powers of curation and provision of status to some writing over other writing will migrate from paper to internet. "There is opportunity as well as challenge in this model. The roles of editor and publicist, people who can guide the potential reader through the cacophony of background noise to words they’ll want to read, will become ever more important."

Perhaps what Robinson has a sense of losing is, to draw an analogy, a hansom cab for a yellow cab. That would be the other perspective.

"This is not to say that the book is doomed. But publishers will surely have to change the way they do business", writes Robinson, and I'm sure we all agree.

Kindle 2: Return of the Design Conscious

In hindsight it was always going to happen: we had seen the leaked pictures and the sheer weight of good taste pressuring down on the product development team at Amazon meant that the Kindle would have to get a redesign.  But it was still a relief to see that the "retro cool" of the original has been discarded on what is known as Kindle 2.  Angular and unsightly, the old Kindle has been replaced by a smoother, sleeker, cleaner, rounder, more focused, crisp and above all iPodesque looking machine. The brushed metal back is a particularly nice touch and the wayward paddles that made Kindle 1 difficult to hold have been moved down slightly, which should make it somewhat easier to use. It even has an ickle joystick navigation "rocker". For me all the rest of the new features are secondary (other than perhaps the voice to speech).  Design is about usability and desirability; ebook readers will be made or broken on these facets and up till now have had a deficit of both.

A better display, more memory, the ability to sync bookmarks etc etc. Fine. What really matters is that the Kindle has moved from being an eccentrically interesting object to own, to being an object that is actively desirable, the difference perhaps between the Microsoft Zune and the iPod. Yes that's the second time I've dropped the iBomb; no, I am not saying this is the (no doubt apocryphal) "iPod moment".

Just that it's a step in the right direction, and in device terms at least, that direction is the iPod.

Anyway. There is loads of coverage, as I'm sure you've seen: here are reports from Engadget, the Bookseller, the Guardian and Techcrunch.

Digital Books Are Already Here

Quite frequently I hear people talking about the future. They will argue and pontificate about when the new digital book, the new digital fiction, the new digital culture will arrive. In the world of digital publishing futurologists abound as we all try and work out what will happen next, even as we are still working out what's just happened. The thing is that digital books and digital fiction and the like are already here. The die is, by and large, cast, and if we are still talking about the future it's either because the new forms so little resemble the old we can't recognise them or they are so familiar as to have slipped under the radar. A couple of examples. A few years ago we had these things in our cars and houses called maps. They were, if you recall, like large books with lots of pictures of how to get from A to B. Often they were quite confusing and the source of many arguments but they pretty much worked. People had a nice sideline in publishing them. Likewise we had these big books known as Encyclopedias, great Enlightenment projects to capture the totality of man kinds knowledge, preferably in expensively produced multi-volume hardback editions.

Now we have Google Maps and sat nav, Wikipedia and, ahem, Google Knols. There is a reasonably obvious equivalence between the products. They resemble one another albeit with crucial evolutionary differences, but perform the same function. The content is roughly the same, the generation of that content and the interface is radically different. The point is no one is talking about what maps and encyclopedias will be like in the future. We know that already.

Yet digital fiction and the book is still surrounded by rampant speculation. However I think all the elements are already here, as with maps and encyclopedias. Firstly we have the ebook. Digital is meant to be good precisely because it breaks with print; however I believe the success of the ebook is because it resembles print. People don't necessarily want a radical break. They want the same but easier.

People like books because they offer a very usable experience that has a USP over other forms of media: it offers the undiluted communication of one mind, one vision with another. If we mess this basic formula too much then reading will not work.

Ah but of course there is another form of digital fiction that has been around for ages, only we don't call it digital fiction. We call it computer games.

Quite why we are still debating what digital fiction looks like when we had games like Zelda years ago, when we have games like GTA IV now, is crazy. There are usually two arguments put against this theory. Firstly that games are not about narrative they are about play. I am not going to get in the whole ludic debate, but I feel this tell only half the story (excuse me). Suffice to say that many games do have a narrative element and this element is central to the overall concept. An analogy I often think of is with songs and lyrics- the tune is like the game play, the lyrics are like the narrative.

The second argument is that the quality of narrative in computer games is so universally and consistently appalling that it can't be compared to literature, an argument I last heard expounded with some force the other week at Bookcamp. Quite what criteria can be used to establish this objectively is not clear. In fact I would say that much of this is down to prejudice as narrative judgements are ultimately subjective statements. Equally the target audience of computer games is the same as that of all action mega hardcore action busting action films (not known for the sophistication of their narratives or dialogue).

Even if we put our hands up and acknowledge that the quality of storytelling in computer games has been lacking then by comparison to the history of the novel we are still at an early stage. Novels written in the mid to late seventeenth century, the form's genesis, read as clumsy, simplistic and contrived in comparison to the well oiled slickness of the modern novel. No doubt games will follow a similar curve over time.

Beyond even games we have already have the outlines of digital fiction. Projects like Inanimate Alice, the story games and ARGs, narrativised blogs and twittered fiction. All the tools and standards are now roughly in place. A wave of innovation has most likely come to a close as the "social media boom" hits the skids. We have been innovation addicts, slavishly jumping on each new trend, application and concept, moving without thinking. The dust is now settling and the landscape for digital fiction and digital books is clear.

To recap, digital books/fiction looks like this:

- ebooks and ebook derivatives

- "writerly" computer games

- stories told used existing forms of social media (blogs etc)

The first and the last are already realities. Pretty much every large publisher has an ebook program; most publishers are now using social media for at least marketing. Both authors, publishers and others are increasingly using social media more creatively. The middle is the most difficult for those involved in books. The big winners maybe authors and agents who can begin to sell rights for game spin offs and/or get involved in the process of conceiving game ideas.

Lets not wait for the future anymore; it arrived in about 2006.

VB sees the future - agree or disagree?

We’ve been reading Victoria Barnsley’s ‘Media’s Last Diehard?’ speech and can’t quite agree on one point. In fact, it’s not that we disagree but just that we see things differently! Here are Michael and James’s views – please feel free to add your own. MICHAEL says:

Victoria Barnsley, CEO of HarperCollins UK and Founder of literary imprint Fourth Estate, recently gave a very interesting talk on how digital is impacting on publishing. She has been one of the most important and influential people in British publishing over the past 30 years and I have a great deal of respect for what she says.

However one claim in the talk seems egregious. She says " I will predict that in 10 years more than half our sales will come from digital downloads." This is a bold claim, and while I would sincerely and burningly like this to hold true I think it might be an instance of the hyping of ebooks I'm so keen to avoid. This figure might hold true for academic imprints- I would say that our sister company Palgrave would be more likely to make this figure than us- but for trade will require too much of a consumer revolution.

For half of all books to be bought in digital versions then there will have to be a wholesale and unprecedented shift in reader experience in ten years. Looking at the experience of the music industry, which is say, seven to eight years ahead of us, they now have roughly 15% of their revenue as digital. Given that many people think reading to be less immediately suitable for digital formats than books I would personally post my projections more towards this figure (15-20%). This will still represent a hugely important revenue stream for publishers and will be a major part of the business. So while I wholeheartedly agree with pretty much everything Victoria Barnsley says in the speech, and while I would love it to come true I don't believe we will be looking at half of total sales coming from digital.

JAMES says:

I see “in 10 years more than half our sales will come from digital downloads” as a viable prediction because I believe (today, anyway – ask me again in a week) that Barnsley’s point about “granularisation” is the key.

10 years from now, publishers and consumers will both be mining the long tail of digital book content more deeply and effectively than they do now. There will be long tails not just The Long Tail, serving each niche and sub-section of the market and shifting as interest shifts; and the corollary is that there will be profitable and over-active short heads – not just The Short Head. What will enable and sustain this granularisation? The sorts of things Barnsley mentions (and others highlight): piecemeal purchases integrated into the digital lifestyle (can one write ‘digital lifestyle’ still without an alarm going off somewhere? Probably not…) – education, academic, and entertainment content. Subscription products will push digital downloads out the server door that are not necessarily even consumed, but which will contribute to that 50% of sales in 10 years time.

Alongside the granularisation of consumption, I think we’ll see a change in content – creation, production and delivery – not to all of it, but to some. And this will probably be highly granularised too, and more responsive and ad hoc - incorporating the mainstreamification of read/write activity. Don’t you think we’re just at the beginning here, and we’ll see new forms emerge and see publishers change their business a bit and begin to sell new kinds of entertainment-by-book-concept content? I’m steaming off into predictions of my own here – sorry – but my point is that I think Victoria Barnsley’s not wrong nor is she – probably – over hyping the future of digital publishing (I might be, though!).

Personally, this talk and discussion has been timely and useful, as I need to pull together my thoughts to present at the SYP conference this month – any particularly insightful comments on this duologue will be fully credited, I promise!

Crunched: the Next Generation

Everyone seems to be writing about how the economic crisis will affect their small part of the world, so I think I should do to, especially now that Robert Peston has transcended to a higher state of being and will be unlikely to comment on ereaders. Usually this would be a little too obvious but the reason I felt compelled to write is that at the exact same time half the world's banks spontaneously combusted the next generation ereaders emerged like new born defenseless hatchlings into the cruelty, pain and danger of the grown up world. Awww. iRex announced the new iLiad. It's big, (10.2" big), shiny, comes with a touch screen and costs what, even in times of boom and plenty, would be considered alot: $849 with wifi (not 3G). So in the UK probably £849. Without wireless. Still, designed with the business user in mind it looks good and might work.

Then Sony announced their new reader, the PRS 700. And, praise be, it comes with a touch screen, looks shiny and new, keeps the cool leather case; alas, shame be upon it, there is no wireless connectivity. Price point = $399, you do the maths for the UK version.

If all this excitement wasn't enough leaked pictures started appearing of a new, shiny, sexier(ish) Kindle, making a perfect storm of new ereaders that between them mark round 2.0 in the long hard road to flawlessly desirable ereaderdom, even if we don't know whether the Kindle pictures are real or not. For fun we can assume they are.

The irony is of course that every economic chart currently resembles a cliff or at least the bad side of a relativelty steep mountain. There has been much talk of how publishing might be "recession proof"; of how sales are up due to Super Thursday and the impending Frankfurt Bookfair will be as big, glitzy and money spendingly awesome as ever. To my mind such talk sounds a bit like the commercial equivalent of waving a big red flag at a big angry bull, but no matter. Book publishing has always survived previous recessions roughly in tact so it's fair to assume the same will happen this time round. We can assume that demand for books will not be as elastic as for Ferraris and second homes in Hampshire.

All of which might suggest that there is great potential for ebooks at this juncture, as there is a flexibility inherent in the format that allows for greater responsiveness to market conditions and experimentation in commercial models. All of which is fine, but won't really matter if nobody buys any ereaders, the principle consumption vehicle for ebooks. Articles on consumer spending are a plethora of dark clouds and the ereaders, as a reasonably large discretionary spend on a unique piece of functionality, are caught up in the high street maelstrom. All three of the ereaders announced may fall into a category of goods savaged as the credit crunch carries on crunching with the result that ebook forecasts have to be revised for 09. Demand is, one would think, fairly elastic for an iRex iLiad.

It comes at a sensitive time for digital publishing as the industry finds a toehold in reader's imaginations and retailer websites. This is an area of publishing that has never experienced a recession and divining what impact it might have is like guessing which bank will fail next- a matter of luck as much as judgement. Charlie Stross has written that no one knows what a web 2.0 recession looks like. Not a 20th century one seems a safe answer, if such an answer can be said to exist. Credit to the manufacturers they have all, by the looks of it, upped the stakes in terms of the quality and functionality of the next gen readers. We have to respond in kind by making sure that our products are available and of high quality- books that are worth investing in, worth skipping a restaurant and staying in for and easy enough for anyone to do so. Ebooks have to be as good as their print cousins- and better.

The long winded message of this article can be summarised fairly easily: to ensure that the just announced next gen of ereaders doesn't fail, manufacturers will have to seriously consider cutting price points in reaction to the (real and anticipated) collapse of consumer demand as a result of the crunch. While ebooks will be robust enough without it, they could really start kicking ass if we get a bit creative.

Apologies to anyone immeasurably bored of hearing the words "credit crunch" and "economic crisis". You are not alone.

10 ways to gain a lover... of ebooks

There is a good post of 10 things epublishers should do for readers (the organic kind) by Jane at Dear Author (via Times Emit) - link These are all good suggestions, although one or two would be a matter of your personal approach (e.g. preferring PayPal, or wanting the ecom site to store your credit card details). The points about wishlist, gift certificates, downloads bookshelf etc. are true of any ecommerce site selling stock keeping units, tangible or otherwise - these are the elements of good interaction design. And the points about multiple formats, DRM, distribution (wide availability) are also well made.

The underlying point, of course, is make the customer experience better - more usable, more convenient, more efficient.

Have a look at the comments, as there is plenty of engagement with this post.

Skills in the Digital Era part two

The Society of Young Publishers evening on Wednesday proved to be very illuminating, and it turned out that I agreed with everything Chris Meade had to say, especially about the importance of the creative roles in digital media, although from the other side of a five-year cline, and had anticipated some of his conclusions in my talk. Speaking as a trade publisher, I argued that although editors in our part of the archipelago needed new knowledge and understanding, as they always have, they didn't need new skills, and I outlined ten key islands of knowledge, five collaborative and five individual. A few people asked if they could have a copy of the talk, so I'm posting it here. The first part sets out some general ideas, the second part looks at how to apply the ten points specifically to the creation and publication of eBooks. "My background is as an editorial manager, originally for Picador and for the last two years for ‘digital’ as well, which means Pan Macmillan’s eBook and online publishing programme. I was brought into the project team because they had got to quite an advanced stage before realizing that creating an eBook is not as simple as File, Save As, and editorial input was needed to resolve some of the new questions proposed by the new medium. I’ve also been involved in the Digitalist, which some of you may read, and so Jon asked me to contribute from the perspective of a ‘digital editor’ in a trade publishing house.      The first part of the advertisement for tonight’s session asks what new skills are looked for by those hiring and promoting under the ‘growing influence of technology and the Internet’. Having joined the industry twenty years ago, before we had computers, before we had email, and before the Web, if not the Internet, was invented, I have seen the ‘growing influence of technology and the Internet’ all my working life; but the essential skills required of editors, and for the purpose of this talk I’m using ‘skills’ in the sense of a coherent set of knowledge and the techniques for applying that knowledge, such as the skill of reading or of driving, have not changed radically: from acquiring a book and negotiating the contract to editing the text to inspiring the sales and marketing people, the skills remain essentially the same. And while the way editors publish books has changed it has not changed radically, although the tools have changed, and the idea that using any tool more sophisticated than Outlook or Word requires a separate skill set that can be delegated is unlikely to disappear for the foreseeable future, sad though that is. There are important and successful authors who don’t have computers, email, or the Web, and it would be entirely possible for an editor to work likewise: a straw poll agreed that an editor of 1988 who time-jumped to 2008 would, apart from the slight problem of not having read anything for the last twenty years, be able to edit and publish successfully.      So in the context of a discussion of the ‘portfolio of skills that publishers need’ perhaps the most important point I want to make is that although I was asked to speak as a ‘digital editor’, in my view there is no need for a digital editor as such in a trade publishing house, rather an editor who understands the digital world: editors have always been needed who could publish into new markets, who could create new markets, and editors are still needed who can publish into new digital markets with the same expertise they publish print books, often at the same time with the same material, and that’s where new knowledge will be needed. Although other publishers have come to different conclusions, notably Penguin, who have thirty to forty staff who have half their rold based on digital projects, the two most important decisions we made at Macmillan while devising the digital programme this year were, first, to locate the editorial process for eBooks directly in the editorial department for books published in 2009, once the digital team had established the workflow and processes, and second to publish our standard eBooks at the same level of editorial quality as our paper books, with the same content as far as the technology allowed. In brief, this relates to two key issues: accuracy of conversion, which we set at 99.999999%, instead of some competitors’ 99.95%, and attending to the reader experience by providing accurate and appropriate metadata, which is one of the points I want to illustrate later on to show why I believe editors need new knowledge not new skills. These two together meant it was natural for an editor to work on most of their titles as if they were destination-neutral.      So when I replied to Jon’s invitation by saying as I’ve outlined that editors need new knowledge but not a new set of skills, he suggested I take the opportunity to demystify the concern that some editors have about the ‘digital world’ and to draw some conclusions about how the digital/electronic changes we’re seeing and going to see will impact on your lives, and he gave me two main questions to address: 1. how have you found the process of moving from a traditional publishing process, where edited words primarily end up on a page, to something that incorporates the blogs and communicating with readers? And 2. what preparations, if any, should editors make for e-books, which are becoming more of a standard.

“How have you found the process of moving from a traditional publishing process, where edited words primarily end up on a page, to something that incorporates the blogs and communicating with readers?” Well, actually, I don’t think we have moved. All trade publishers are, or should be, at the early stages of incorporating new ways of composing and creating texts, and of considering what texts are, but traditional publishing always has communicated with readers to some degree – think of the nineteenth-century novels that are now classics that were written first for serialization. Twentieth-century publishing was less receptive, if receptive at all, to reader response at the creative stage, and just because Web 2.0 encourages new ways for readers and writers to get involved with each other it doesn’t follow that publishers want to, or can, take advantage of it, in much the same way that the poetry subculture of the twentieth century did little to affect conventional poetry publishing. In a way, the healthier and more active this reader-collaborative culture is the less likely it is that a publisher will want to become involved for fear of contaminating it. In practical terms a digital workflow makes it easy to chunk text and deliver it in new forms, both printed and virtual, but it’s still a one-to-many publishing process. Even new writing forms, such as Keitai Bunko in Japan or distribution forms such as MPS Mobile’s Global Reader aren’t radically different, interesting though they are, as shown by the fact that many Keitai are subsequently published in traditional print form, as of course are some of the most popular blogs. Writing that uses new media by incorporating visuals, sound, movies and so on in different delivery platforms such as the new Sony Reader, Alternate Reality Games mixing narrative and interaction by readers and contributors, self-published material, collaborative wikinovels and other kinds of informal, or extra-formal creativity, are exactly the kind of material that a traditional trade publishing house such as Pan Macmillan, however innovative, finds it very difficult to use, or even acknowledge, in a publishing process, and it’s unlikely to be seriously practical in the short term, which means until someone can think of a way to make money out of it, not least because digital projects are typically seen by customers and authors as free or very low-cost, when in fact they’re often more expensive than traditional ones because of the high set-up and development costs. Having said that we do in fact have one project of this kind, but it only exists because it hangs off a very well-established author known for his use of innovation, and it’s seen and will continue to be seen as peripheral to the editorial process, something that happens outside the editorial department, created by the digital or the marketing department and brought to editorial to be realized, and when it is approved it’s the editor who has the relationship with the agent and with the author who will attract the readers/players/contributors, the editor who presents the idea, negotiates the contract, and so on. So the short answer to this question about communicating with readers is that it’s the marketing people who have managed this change, and as long as most of a publisher’s content is sold as books, whether print or digital and whether through shops or the Web, it’s marketing that will have to continue to change the most to find new readers and new ways of reaching readers. We publish in an industry that requires content to be submitted to the trade buyers nine months before publication, and the process will remain far too inflexible for the foreseeable future. In fact of course designing or imagining a process crushes most of what makes this interesting. And more importantly perhaps our traditional process shouldn’t: the book, whether printed or in digital form, is inimical to this sort of two-way ephemeral communication. What it needs to do instead is create a new post-publishing process, a sort of après-lit, which makes clever and effective use of reader involvement through websites and with social-networking tools, but that is familiar Web 2.0 material and outside the scope of this answer.      The second question, ‘What preparations, if any, should editors make for e-books, which are becoming more of a standard’, is more easily answered and is where we get to the practical hands-on answers you were promised. But before I answer that I should say that in my view while they are now an essential part of a trade publisher’s programme they are not becoming more of a standard: there was a rush this summer to publish only in Adobe epub format, but there are several other important formats available, not least PDF, which Adobe has been careful to ensure is supported in Adobe Digital Editions; Mobipocket, which was bought by Amazon and can be read by the Kindle as well as mobile devices; and MS Reader, which is a legacy product that has some useful if under-exploited features. So to answer this question I’ll also answer the underlying one, ‘How much is digital going to change the way I work?’ In doing so I have chosen ten key islands of knowledge. 1. Get the rights. Penguin got 700 titles up for the Waterstone’s launch – then had to take 120 down as they discovered rights hadn’t been agreed. 2. Understand moral rights. The new formats mean titles that had no moral rights will re-acquire them once republished. When commissioning indexes, state that the index will be used in all editions. 3. Assign ISBNs correctly. Each format of a title needs a unique ISBN. 4. Understand localization. Harper didn’t get any UK titles up for the Waterstone’s launch – all theirs are US titles. 5. Understand version control and decide on a strategy – there are no impression numbers in eBooks. 6. Get to know your output formats. MS Reader i, ii, iii – good. Jeremy Paxman, A Portrait of the English (pub. Penguin) – hyperlinked table of contents, hyperlinked index, text is well laid out with extracts distinguished as on the printed page. Comfortable to read without distractions. iv, v – reasonable. Abbeys and Priories of Great Britain (pub. Heritage Trail) – excess leading between paragraphs, hyphen not an N dash in the title bar: too much leading in the glossary. Not very comfortable to read.

Mobipocket vi – bad. Cult of Dr Who – no page break for a new chapter, artwork missing, straight inverted commas, no italics for book title, basic grammatical error in the heading.Mobipocket vii – good. Pocket Oxford Dictionary: each word has its own page, colour is used intuitively, the distinction between underlines and hyperlinks is clear, navigation is easy. Although it has straight inverted commas, it’s obvious that a lot of thought has been put into making the best use of the medium. viii – bad. A Passage to India (pub. Rosetta Books): no sign of any thought. Meaningless emblem to go with the chapter heading, every paragraph is full out, no italics for book titles, basic typesetting mistakes. ix – bad. 9/11 Commission Report. Artwork unreadable, leading wrong between and within paragraphs, endnotes not hyperlinked.

ADE x, xi – mixed. Dr Who (pub. Pocket Essentials). Clear layout, helpful bookmarks, italic and bold all converted successfully; but the index is not hyperlinked so is useless. xii – mostly good. Thirteen Moons (pub. Random House).  Chapter titles, large and small caps, leading generally correct. 7.  Get to know your conversion or output process. ADE officially imports from XML, Mobipocket from HTML, Word, PDF or text, MS Reader from Word. 8. Understand metadata and decide on its importance for your books (bookmarks in Perdido Street Station; bookmarks in a Tor book). 9. Build in metadata-friendly elements to your books at the earliest stages. unnamed sections in Electricity (‘or was it goodbye’). 10. Understand a digital workflow.

Skills in the digital era

I've been asked to be part of a discussion tonight given by the Society of Young Publishers. 'While publishing companies invest significantly - if cautiously - in new technology, and the 'digital age' continues to accelerate, the portfolio of skills that publishers need is expanding rapidly. From editorial to production to marketing, the growing influence of technology and the internet can be felt keenly throughout the industry. So what are those doing the hiring and promoting looking for?

For anyone keen to remain on top of digital developments in books this meeting aims to answer these questions. Hosted by the Society of Young Publishers with the support of JFL Search and Selection and MPS Technologies, our experienced panel will take you through what you need to know.'

I'm contributing from the viewpoint of the 'digital editor', and also contributing is Chris Meade, Director, if:book (Future of the Book), London; the chair is Ros Kindersley, Managing Director, JFL Search & Selection. It promises to be an interesting discussion. More details here.