Publishers Training Abu Dhabi, Day 4: Quality Control, Enhanced E-books

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Salwa Shakhshir, a children’s book publisher from Amman, Jordan, attended the second annual Publishers Training program organized by KITAB and The Center for Publishing at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies in Abu Dhabi. She’s documented her experiences for Publishing Perspectives. Read coverage of Day 1Day 2, Day 3.

Salwa Shakhshir

By Salwa Shakhshir

Our final day of training focused on the importance of quality control and how important it was to not only check the content of the e-books to make sure it has the right content, but to also check it on different devices to see how content looks and flows on each.

Peter [Balis, Director of Digital Content Sales for John Wiley & Sons] wanted to show us an example of how computers can make a mistake in programming, as it doesn’t understand the content. So he wrote sentence, but misspelled one word…

“You’re obviously not doing the QC at Wiley!” joked Ibrahim Al Rajab (From Al Muthanna Publishing/ Iraq).

Suleiman Adebowale (From Amalion Publishing/ Senegal) interrupted by pointing that some of the houses in the UK use offshore companies in China to typeset their material. After seeing the bulk of work from the UK, he noted, one company decided to give their workers English lessons but the end result wasn’t what they expected. The work handed in from China was just horrible, because the workers took it upon themselves to edit some of the content that they now felt they understood!

The number one lesson from all this: you don’t have to know the language to typeset content, but you sure have to know it to do QC!

Peter then went on to discuss he amazing growth in mobile phones internet usage and to highlight how its impact on all aspects of economic life – information, that we as content providers, need to take into consideration.

We then looked at various books that were turned into enhanced e-books. Some of the examples were just unbelievably amazing, even more so in the realm of education.

Peter asked if we remembered the clear plastic pages from our old biology books that each illustrated a layer of the human body, such that we saw the veins, then arteries, then tissue…etc. All this and much more is now done digitally, completely transforming the way we learn, making it attractive, informative and much more interactive than it ever was as a typical print book.

Another example was that of an enhanced e-book written by Philip Pullman, which offered a video of the author talking about the inspiration behind the making of the book, something that helped develop a personal connection with the reader.

After seeing these great examples, Kassem Al Tarras (From Pioneers-Al Rowad Publishing House/Syria) wondered aloud at what point are these enhanced e-books no longer actually books? A very good point I thought, because really these books are now more of a journey, a complete audio visual experience rather than mere books.

Peter reiterated that all these additions are options, and that at the end of the day the consumer has the option to just read the book like a normal digital e-book or choose to take advantage of all the features on offer.

The advantage of learning all this new information now and in bulk, Peter said, is that we have an opportunity to work on things from start to finish with much more efficiency and greater knowledge because we’re learning it from people who have already gone through a lot of trial and error. This is not to say that the system is perfectly in place now, but we really do have an advantage if we take all of what we’ve learned, and all that has been done so far, and adapt it to our content and our books. We will not only catch up, but also have a greater chance to create something new.

I can’t believe it has only been five days. It has felt like a couple of weeks, learning all this new information and meeting all these wonderful people in the program. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of loss that something so nice was already over so quickly. But before I could dwell on this any further, certificates were being handed out to all the participants who attended the program…We clapped and cheered for each one of us as we went up to ceremoniously accept our certificates from Andrea [Chambers, from the Center of Publishing at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Education] and Alexandra Bueltemeier [from KITAB] .

Dr. Mohamed Ghiath Al Maktabi (From Dal Al Maktabi/ Syria) was just hilarious, as he insisted that Andrea first be able to pronounce his name properly before accepting the certificate! That was a good five minutes of Andrea trying desperately to pronounce his name while the rest of us cracked up laughing!

Looking at the long table in the restaurant that night while we were having our farewell dinner that night made me realize and appreciate all the work that was put into creating such a program. Not a detail was overlooked and the content of the program was very well thought out and addressed various issues and offered information that we very much needed to know. I can’t wait to go back home to apply all that I have learned. I feel so grateful to have attended this publisher’s training and am looking forward to the next one in June 2011!

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Guest contributors to Publishing Perspectives have diverse backgrounds in publishing, media and technology. They live across the globe and bring unique, first-hand experience to their writing.