Digital Directions: Redefining Content Creation
The advent of digital media has long threatened publishing's most fundamental processes, as publishers grapple with delivering their offerings in multiple formats and to multiple devices, simultaneously and with equal quality. Now, after years of delay and procrastination, publishers are beginning this process of fundamental change.
Since the late Jurassic Period, books have been created with more or less the same process: A manuscript is developed, composed and designed for the printed page, and finally converted to a camera-ready or print-ready form. All that was well and good until pesky customers developed the audacity to ask for titles via new, digital channels—specifically the Web, e-readers and mobile devices. And, like it or not, this is beginning to require us to completely rethink the manner in which books are designed or constructed.
Many have long denied the need to change: We could just create a digital copy of the print title. You want to read a book in your Internet browser? No problem: Just use the print file's Web-ready PDF version. (Nevermind that the book is portrait orientation, and your screen is landscape.)
You want to read a book on a mobile reader that does not support color or even the page's visual rendering? No problem: We can extract the content and put it into the styleless data format that e-readers use. (Nevermind that we throw away the book's visual experience—a source of engagement, utility and differentiation.)
Who were we kidding? For a product to be engaging and successful, it must be designed and produced to provide an optimal experience on any delivery vehicle. We cannot merely automatically convert a print-ready file to a digital delivery format and expect a successful offering.
Optimally supporting multiple delivery platforms involves many challenges. Let's take a look at three issues that arise: