I wrote this book as a course at Electric Book Works for book designers, typesetters and production managers, though it’s useful for anyone working in book publishing. When I say ‘design’ I usually mean every aspect of the project design of a book: concept, commissioning, writing, editing, layout, proofing, production and distribution. But in this short book I focus on the things most production staff deal with on a daily basis: the process of typesetting. Then, what you learn here has implications for every stage of publishing books. There are things the commissioning editor can do to help prepare a book for its future life as an ebook, for instance, if they understand how their decisions affect ebook production.

This book’s in four parts:

  1. Overview: To make sensible decisions, you need an overview of the digital publishing industry, where ebook formats like EPUB fit in, and how traditional book files are converted to ebook files.
  2. An intro to code: Just like you once learned how litho printing works, now you need some technical knowledge, especially about major ebook file formats, and how HTML and CSS code work.
  3. Converting ebooks: Practically, how are print books converted into ebooks? This is a quick primer of the basics.
  4. Practical typesetting: When you get to your office, you should be able to start prepping files (mainly in InDesign) in ebook-friendly ways. This is the crux of what you need to do.

My priority is to equip you to design books in a way that is not print-centric. As books are read more and more on screens, the designer’s job – and the job of those briefing and managing designers and typesetters – changes in important ways. The best, most valuable designers will soon be those who future-proof their content, making it easily reusable for distribution to laptops, ereaders, mobile phones, and a range of apps and devices we haven’t heard of yet.

In short, you need to be able to work towards much more than good old PDF. In particular, you need to know how HTML works, because it has become the most important computer language in publishing.

I’m going to assume that you like working in something like InDesign. You want eventually to create print books and ebooks at the same time, and where you can, to make those ebooks look good. I don’t try to give you aesthetic design guidance; I simply aim to give you the knowledge you need to prepare your print-oriented work for on-screen reading, particularly as ebooks.