Friday, February 26, 2010

the perils of (e)publishing

Good thing you weren't around my work area the last few days.
I have been learning how to turn perfectly nice poetry books and publications into hideous ePub files.

Helpful white papers and how-to-guides have led me into a dark dark place.
I have been saying things like "goferkiketyblanging-son-of-a-varmish!!" The cat backs away from my vincinity and even the husband spins on his heels and exits the blue static.

"Why won't the grab-dang-fickle images show up?" I ask the computer as once again all artwork but one disappear when I convert.

"Where the fluke did the table column heads go? Where is my table?" I scream at the monitor. "Give me back my table cells you dastard!"

It reminds me of the mid-90s when I was working as the lone graphic designer in the IT department for MTVN/Showtime. I didn't know how to program, let alone how to do the simple boo-boo mark-up language of html. But as the Indian and Russian programmers kept telling me it was not possible to do the visual improvements I asked for, I started going on the web and finding examples of what I wanted. They shrugged (for some reason programmers don't see the value of graphic design when their code is working fine). So I then began to learn how to do it myself so I could say to the guys, "oh yes, you CAN! Because I (artsy-fartsy English major type) just did, look at THIS!" Of course, back then designing for the web was all about fakes and work-arounds because the browsers weren't set up for graphic design. I found the whole process frustrating and then after awhile, I knew how to do it. For about 5 minutes. The web kept expanding, the browsers improved and the plethora of new software to learn soon made me yearn to return to print design where the pace of technology was glacial.

So I worked at Oxford University Press for seven years mostly ignoring the web. Hah. It caught up with me.

And now I have to learn how to do it again. The electronic world is gobbling up the printed page and regurgitating it in pixels. And not so strangely, e-Pub is like the web was in the mid 90s. Books for Kindles or iPhones just can't do a lot by way of layout, there are work-arounds today, then it will get more functional amazingly fast and ePub books will get much better looking. Like a kid going from 13 to 16.

I may even have to buy an iPad if this becomes the place poetry books are co-published. And at some point, how many publishers will keep issuing paper editions? The horseless carriage becomes the car and the horse goes to the knackers.

I went to a lecture sponsored by the InDesign Users Group. The informative and perky Gabriel Powell spoke about eBooks and how to make them. Yes, I said to myself walking home with the confidence only fools can get from a well-organized demonstration, I just know I can do it... and here I sit in a mist of ire. How I wish Gabriel could do my work for me, he made it sound so easy,


Joseph Hayes said...

You can do it ... I've seen you work miracles!

Deborah Atherton said...

You will triumph - and soon they will be knocking on your door, trying to get you to design the darn things. But it's going to be strange to live in a world without paper books.