A short, focused tech project

Introduction

PUB607 is the MPub program’s Publishing Technology Project course.

In 2013–2014, the course will be run in two 4-week sessions, one in September and one in January, to precede the PUB605 Fall and PUB606 Spring project courses.

The Publishing Tech Project’s goals are to provide a context in which MPub students can:

  • gain hands-on experience working with a range of digital technologies representing the state-of-the-art;
  • gain experience working on a decent-sized, structured IT project full of the kind of ambiguities and unknowns that typically characterize such projects;
  • develop an appreciation of documentation-driven project management;
  • experiment with new technologies without serious (business) consequences.

The backbone of the Project is documentation. You will begin with documentation, proceed by documenting what you are doing and why, and end with a document that reports on what you have achieved and what you have learned. This strategy gives you the means of organizing your priorities, keeping your team-members abreast of all new thinking and development, keeps a record of your decisions and rationales, and provides a means of evaluating what you’ve achieved.

The Project

The fall 607 project is very simple: you will acquire a book and produce it, in both print and digital formats. You will work in teams of 3; each team will produce its book using a different set of tools and methods. Each team will encounter its own challenges, pitfalls, and insights, and we will share these among the group. The point is not to find “the best” way to do single-source production, but rather to explore how there are in fact many ways of doing it—and in exploring the range of possibilities, to get a sense of where the real limits are.

We’ll use the vast collection of public-domain texts at Project Gutenberg. You’ll need to choose a text—it can be fiction or nonfiction—and do a basic structural edit to get a  ‘manuscript’ in shape to work with.

Next we’ll dive in to production workflow. How do the different tools impose constraints on how you work and the decisions you make? What is the pathway to producing a quality digital publication? A quality print publication? At what stage do copyediting and proofing happen, and how are they handled in a multi-format production?

You will finish with a digital product (e.g., an ebook) and a print book, and a report on your efforts. We will end with a formal presentation of results, in which you’ll show off the fruits of your labours and discuss in some depth the decision-making, limitations, and challenges involved in bringing the books to fruition.

Themes

A keyword list: Single-source production strategies, Content management systems, Workflow,  XML, Digital formats, Typography, Version control, Web-first

The toolkits:

  • InDesign (2 methods)
  • WordPress+Ickmull
  • Pressbooks
  • PanDoc/Gitit
  • BookType/FidusWriter
  • LeanPub 

Scheduled Sessions

We will meet every Friday morning. Additionally, your team will meet itself, and you’ll meet with the instructor, many more times along the way. Assignments from Friday are generally due Wednesday morning the following week, unless otherwise noted. The following is a rough outline for the project:

Session 1. Friday Sept 6

The building blocks of publication architectures, online and in print: laying out the components.

Assignments:

  1. Name your team.
  2. Write a project proposal; who what how when where why
  3. Decide on a text; download it; edit it so it looks ready to be a book.
  4. Begin orienting yourself to your toolkit. Do research; compile requirements.

Session 1½. Wednesday Sept 11

In the Publishing Lab, a practical workshop on HTML+CSS, with a conceptual introduction to Javascript/HTML5 as an application platform (see McCoy 2013).

Assignments:

  1. Flow your text into your tools and begin production editing; experiment with multiple outputs.
  2. Document your experiences with the toolkit so far; update your proposal as needed.

Session 2. Friday Sept 13

An in-depth discussion of content management, with special attention given to  WordPress. We will walk through a WordPress installation so that everyone knows how to do this (please bring your laptop). We will also talk about revision tracking and control, and a little on practical text processing.

Assignments:

  1. Document the content-management strategies your team is employing, and the facilities your toolkit provides.
  2. A promotional website for your book, hosted in WordPress.
  3. Continue with production and documentation.

Session 3. Friday Sept 20

A discussion of data, from the traditional kind of sales channel data to Google’s multifaceted role. And a little on SEO and analytics. How do we make books reach their audiences?

Assignments:

  1. Write a distribution, discoverability, marketing plan for your book. By what channels and mechanisms will it find its audience, and will its audience find it?
  2. Continue with production and documentation.

Session 4. Friday Sept 27

Bibliographic metadata and ONIX. Special guest Jen Gauthier from Booknet Canada will be here to talk to you about Booknet’s role in stewarding bibliographic data.

Assignments:

  • Finalize documentation.
  • Prepare for presentation.

Final Session: Friday October 4

The presentation will be in the afternoon of Friday the 4th, in one of the theatres (room TBA). Each team will take the stage to show and tell about its project. Everyone must have a speaking role. You should plan your presentation to show how lovely your work is, but also to explore the particular decisions and  challenges you faced.