Digital Directions: ‘Manuscript First’
For many publishing organizations, one important topic is the way in which the same content is delivered to different media and different devices. This is sometimes referred to as cross-platform publishing.
The modes of delivery that the market requires are broad, and may include print, Web/HTML, e-ink reader (e.g., original Kindle), LCD reader (Kindle Touch, Nook Tablet), tablet (iPad) and smartphone (Motorola Droid). The array of delivery formats will surely only grow.
In the early days of e-delivery, some publishers pursued a quick approach to multi-device delivery by distributing their content as PDF files or some derivative. In other words, all of the delivery platforms displayed content as it appeared on the printed page. The immediate issue with this approach is that this format only looked good on, well, the printed page. Publishers can no longer get by with the PDF approach—beyond using PDF for sampling of the print product—for the simple reason that the marketplace is more sophisticated now, and customers will no longer accept PDFs as viable e-delivery.
For a product to be successful, delivery devices must display the content in a manner optimized for that device. In other words, visual style must be device-specific, and "device-agnostic" content must be merged with these device-specific styles.
Two traditional methods of addressing this challenge exist. The first is to contract with a conversion services organization that will take content in one format and—via manual or semi-manual processes—convert it to another. The typical scenario involves the publisher providing the file(s) used for creating the printed work (PDF and/or Adobe InDesign), for the service provider to convert to an e‑book format, e.g., an EPUB file. This often is referred to as the "Print First" strategy, because the version of the content as designed for the printed page is produced first and iterations are based off of it.