You’re so vain: debunking the self-publishing stigma

Justin Bieber. When a talent scout discovered his homemade videos on YouTube, no one thought, “you’re so vain.” In fact, if imitation is the finest form of flattery, then wanna-be musicians, who began sharing their singing selfies with the world, actually thought him enterprising.

“Long derided as evidence of a self-obsessed generation prone to oversharing, selfies are now being celebrated as a marketing strategy and creative business card.”(Boettcher) This truth is evident in most facets of the cultural industry – with the exception of book publishing. In much the same “vain” as the Biebs, authors are capitalizing on digital technologies that make self-publishing possible; however, while selfies have become perfectly acceptable forms of self-promotion for most artists, authors cannot seem to rid the stigma of vanity that comes with pushing their own work into the public, particularly if they’re paying for it.

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Data Journalism: Adoption at its Slowest


I’m having a hell of a time explaining to my friends and family what exactly I’ll be doing at my upcoming internship at Penguin Random House. First, I shout in jubilation, “I’ll be merging the databases of Penguin and Random House!” But then they look at me funny so I say, “I’ll be working on their new website.” Sometimes the light bulb in their head starts to flicker like they get it, but most of the time they just smile and nod. The moral of the story is: nobody marvels at all the different types of lego available; they just want to see what you build from it.

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Why Assign Fictional Characters an ISNI

When the International Organization for Standards (ISO) published the International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) in March of 2012, the idea was that it would be used to identify “the millions of contributors to creative works and those active in their distribution, including writers, artists, creators, performers, researchers, producers, publishers, aggregators, and more. … ISNI can be assigned to all parties that create, produce, manage, distribute or feature in creative content including natural, legal, or fictional parties, and is essential to those working in the creative industries for quick, accurate and easy identification.” (ISNI International Agency) Continue reading “Why Assign Fictional Characters an ISNI”

Next Big Thing?: Next Issue and the Future of Magazines

Over 83% of Canada’s population is active online. According to Maclean’s Magazine, along with this, as of November 2013 a strong majority of Canadians use the internet for more than just browsing Facebook or checking the weather—they use it to spend money.

Even though huge amounts of money are being poured into the online marketplace, publishers are still struggling with how to monetize their content online. There does not yet seem to be a best practice for this, thus there is an opening for innovation as publishers struggle to keep up with changing technologies and declining subscription and revenue.

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Video Games as Title Generators – Chronicling the History of Azeroth and More

Amanda Peters

Impressive, eh?

Title generation: the bane of publishers throughout the ages. When you can’t just take anything, what do you take? There are only so many Harry Potters and Lords of the Rings in the world today, and there’s never a guarantee that even the most epic of stories will ever take off, but sometimes all it takes is the ability to make use of something that’s already got a following — something someone else has already taken a risk on, and found to be popular.

Cue video game culture. With series like World of WarcraftAssassin’s CreedStarcraft and Gears of War using their content to generate novelizations of their worlds, histories and lore, publishing has moved into an era where captive audiences can be capitalized on to a degree that consumers hadn’t necessarily anticipated: you’ve played the game, now read the novel–instead of the other way around. Gaming culture isn’t only making the most of literature, but it’s helping us save and garner interest in the novels and authors that stand to continue inspiring people into the future.

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Prototyping is Good for User Experience

By Summer Zhang

Prototype may aptly be defined as an original and working model of a new object and it can also be a new form of the existing product. It is designed such that it may serve as a standard to be referred later. Prototype can take a number of different forms such as it can be a very initial form of a brainstormed idea or it may be a full-scale model of the final product. Additionally, in  both the cases, the purpose of developing a prototype are same, which is to have a firm understanding about the product and also to weight different alternatives about it (Curtis & Vertelney, 1990).  Continue reading “Prototyping is Good for User Experience”

Reader at the Helm: The Active Engagement of Online Reading

Publishers have long struggled with translating print content onto the web. The perception that digital platforms should be consistent with that of the passive print format has been a persistent obstacle to gaining and keeping online readers’ attention. Token attempts to incorporate digital functions have missed the true scale of the web’s potential for content. What the web can offer, and what is seen through a few enterprising websites, is a more integrated effort to build an online community through engagement with readers in a structure designed to embrace the openness of the online world, rather than one shaped by the limiting capacity of print. Publishers need to think beyond the scope of a typical print container, and consider how their content can  best utilize the various options offered by digital technology (O’Leary, 2014). Continue reading “Reader at the Helm: The Active Engagement of Online Reading”

It’s a Metaphor Fool: How mimicry and nostalgia in design have hindered user experience


Users are obsessed with mimicry and nostalgic for the past. You can buy a cellphone case that look like a nintendo controller, or a wine glass that looks like a pint glass—but in the end you still have an iPhone and you are still drinking wine.

When it comes to technology we will do everything in our power to maintain some sort of connection to the tangible world. A screen is a window; deleted files go into a trash can; documents look like notebooks on a desk; and saving happens on a floppy disk.

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Unnatural Selection: How Social Curation Weeds Out The Wallflowers

Like most of my fellow “echo boomers”, I grew up listening to The Cure. I spent most of my high school years plotting my escape with their poignant lyrics and heart-rending melodies playing in the background. Less than a handful of songwriters can elicit that overwhelming sense of listlessness, diffidence, and romanticism better than Robert Smith, in my humble opinion. My favourite track has always been “Pictures of You” – where Smith paints the image of a long lost love that breathes new life through his remaining collection of photographs. Coincidentally, one of the first films that I remember seeing as a child was Mannequin, starring 80s heartthrob Andrew McCarthy. The ludicrous plot involves a struggling artist who takes a job as a window-dresser for a department store in Philadelphia. He becomes engrossed with his mannequin (played by Kim Cattrall) – the star and inspiration for his crowd-pleasing displays. His inanimate muse comes to life only for him, and they fall madly in love.

As bizarre as it sounds, these references came to mind when I started to think about the extensive amount of personal and social curation that we employ through web interfaces and interactions. Carefully crafted lists of our photographs, playlists, books, belongings on sale and employment history define our online personas. But have these web entities become a more dominant representation of our actual selves? Have they become our default personality? Are we most alive when we’re online? Worse yet, are our virtual lives  more attractive and exciting than our real ones? Gasp.
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Eye Strain, You Strain, We All Strain for iStrain

A sea of MPub students were hidden behind their laptop screens before the start of class when Senior Lecturer Roberto Dosil asked, “How long do you all spend on your computers?” I peeked my head out and smiled guiltily, not able to think of a time when I was not in front of my computer. Some students were able to say that they made sure to shut it down a couple of hours before bed, or other random times in their day. But for me, the bus, lunch time, and even relaxing before sleep meant a screen. Continue reading “Eye Strain, You Strain, We All Strain for iStrain”

ePUB3 is not the Magic Number

Last July, the Association of American Publisher’s made a push to establish ePUB3 as the global standard format for ebooks. Yet the format is still a long way from becoming an international staple. While most vendors and platforms accept ePUB3 files (Amazon included, who then convert to KF8 for Kindle devices), there is widespread partial acceptance of the ePUB3 format. The ePUB Test Support Grid shows the varying level of ePUB3 feature acceptance across platforms, with the IDPF’s own Readium platform only supporting 72.5% of features. Continue reading “ePUB3 is not the Magic Number”

Crowdsourcing the Slush Pile

Self-publishing is a phenomenon that has exploded over the last few years. Nowadays, many good writers self-publish and many readers read those self-published works. However, in order to find these stories, a reader has to wade through a lot of poorly written stories.

As Alex Sutcliffe points out in his essay “Out of Quantity Comes Quality,”  discoverability is the key issue for readers. Continue reading “Crowdsourcing the Slush Pile”

Copyright, Intellectual Property, and the Digital Age

In order to begin this discussion with the right context, I will preface it with two definitions, one of copyright, and the other of intellectual property.

“Copyright: The exclusive right given by law for a certain term of years to an author, composer, designer, etc. (or his assignee), to print, publish, and sell copies of his original work.” OED

“Intellectual Property: chiefly Law property (such as patents, trademarks, and copyright material) which is the product of invention or creativity, and does not exist in a tangible, physical form.” OED

What is clear in both of these definitions is an emphasis on the maker, the author or other creative force. What is also clear is the way in which the language of the definition shapes a legal reality as well as a finite reality in which to place that which is intangible and immeasurable in other terms. It is also clear, that those legal realities are designed to protect the work and the author.
In order to understand the function of these terms and their application in the digital world, we will need to contextualize them, to highlight some pivotal moments and criticism of the growth of copyright and intellectual property over the past four hundred (or so) years. For you see we are in a hot mess of finite and infinite distinctions, definitions, and problematics surrounding notions of copyright, intellectual property and the digital age which all relate to the ways in which discourse has formed by the intellectual community. A hot mess which, if we go back to the roots of the terms, to the roots of the meanings and movements that gave birth to them, may not be insurmountable.
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