Digital Directions: Want to Grow Your Ebook Revenue?
Many problems exist in terms of fundamental editorial quality control. Whether a publisher adopts a print-first approach for e–book production (converting an e–book from a file meant for print composition) or an XML-first approach (using a device-neutral file for both print and e–book), the process of creating an e–book can introduce quality problems. Issues related to editorial quality can be largely addressed:
Publisher-articulated mandate that e–book editorial quality is as important as print editorial quality. This is often not the case or is not stated, but needs to be for a high-quality e–book experience. Publishers need to express intent for e–book quality.
Designing and implementing e–book quality assurance processes. Often, especially in a print-first workflow, e–books are given only cursory review.
Implementing automatable processes. Automation not only leads to greater efficiencies but greater consistency of output as compared to manual processes. Quality issues will still arise through automated processes, but they can be remediated much more efficiently than quality issues that are introduced through manual errors.
Refining the E–book Format
Beyond editorial quality, publishers need to continue to refine the structure of the e–book format. Reflowable e–books do not have fixed page numbers. Page numbers have been a fundamental organizing system of books for millennia, but in e–books have no relevance. Therefore, the industry needs to continue to evolve and refine the e–book format to be as useful and efficient as a print title without the benefit of page numbers. The implications are far-reaching, and impact indices, intra-text page references, and all other ways in which page references occur. Thinking through the implications of a book that lacks page numbers is a critical task in making e–books work.
The manner with which individual publishers and the industry at large address the issues relating to quality and format refinement will have no small impact on how significant e–book revenue will become. If e–books are presented—as they often are today—as a form that does not have the refinement and quality of the print product, then the market will logically assume that it will be available at a far lower price point than print. Worse still would be the assumption that the lower-quality e–book is a free ancillary, bundled with the print title. This is a distasteful scenario we know only too well from the higher-education marketplace.