How Penguin Random House is Moving Beyond "Ebooks That Mirror Print"
While the majority of ebooks have yet to provide the interactive, multi-layered experiences some technologists have anticipated, ebook technology continues to make significant strides. According to Liisa McCloy-Kelley, vice president and director of ebook development and innovation at Penguin Random House, ebook technology is making content more accessible for people with disabilities, optimizing books for mobile through responsive design, and supporting cleaner page formats. These developments are enabling PRH to create ebooks that are more than "just mirrors of print," says McCloy-Kelley, and she expects even further innovation in the next few years.
McCloy-Kelly will share her insights on ebook development at the Yale Publishing Course (YPC) in July. The course gathers book industry leaders to discuss critical publishing issues with their peers. You can learn more about the program here. Following McCloy-Kelley describes how PRH is improving its ebook development and the technology advances she expects in the near future.
What digital features do readers want to see more of in ebooks?
There isn't a lot of strong evidence of exactly what new features readers might want to see more of in ebooks. We are in one of those phases where the basic reading experience for straight text linear reading is pretty settled and good. We continue to work with our editors and authors to experiment with new methods and strive to make our ebooks "their best selves," and not just mirrors of print.
What type of data is PRH looking at to modify its ebooks?
Penguin Random House is responding to a variety of inputs as we look to develop the next generation of ebooks. We have developed our latest ebook specifications to better address the needs of people with print disabilities and making ebooks more accessible as the education market starts to adopt more digital editions. We have also put a lot of work into making our ebook designs more responsive so that they display well on phones as we see the proliferation of smartphones in the digital reading space.
What types of ebook experiences have proven successful at PRH?
One of the most successful things about our ebooks is that we have worked to develop quality assurance and formatting that makes our ebooks as beautiful as what we create in print. It is a subtle difference, but when you pick up one of our ebooks you are able to immediately be immersed in the story and have a good experience with the content and never be distracted by poor formatting.
How will ebooks evolve in the future?
As EPUB3 is implemented throughout the industry in the next year, we'll see better handling of footnotes, anchors that let you match to print pagination, and many features that improve the basic experience for books. Ebooks will evolve over the next few years to allow for more non-linear experiences of content. They will also evolve to allow for more interactivity that will let us have slideshows instead of pages and pages of inserts with photos or interactive timelines and family trees.