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TOC 2011: Toward an All-digital Workflow

tools of change

By Hannah Johnson

The publishing industry is often criticized for slow adoption of digital tools and processes, but Steve Kotrch, Director of Publishing Technology at Simon & Schuster, had fantastic examples at TOC today of the strides that big publishers have already made in this area and how these changes are not always visible to those outside the organization.

Kotrch focused his talk on just one of the processes in book production that Simon & Schuster has digitized, and how many steps are involved: cover design. S&S developed in-house a Cover Automation System based on XML that allows for efficient delivery and tracking of cover copy and design between editorial staff and cover designers.

Steve Kotrch

Prior to putting this system in place, Kotrch said that cover copy — the text used on each book cover — was delivered haphazardly to designers, and that once corrections had been made to the final cover, the text corrections existed only in the cover design PDF but not anywhere else in S&S databases. The variety of trim sizes that S&S uses was also difficult to keep track of and communicate effeciently.

The Cover Automation System features a user interface into which editors enter cover copy, specify where on the book cover each piece of text should appear, and specify the trim size. Via XML, book designers then export the information into an automatically generated, unstyled book cover layout in InDesign, which they can then style and refine. Any changes to the text made in the layout can be reimported back into the S&S database — again via XML.

However, Kotrch noted that the review and corrections process of each cover is still primarily done using printouts, red markers and sticky notes. The system includes options to make notes and corrections digitally, but Kotrch observed that with any changes in a big organization, “you’ve got to work within the context of legacy.”

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