Introduction

This introductory course is for publishing professionals who want to work on digital projects with confidence. Perhaps you want to do work for web-development clients and app developers. Perhaps you need to brief technical colleagues. Perhaps you need to build your own website, or help your company improve theirs.

This course will cover the fundamental skills that you absolutely can’t do without. We have a lot to get through!

What we’ll cover

  1. Context
    The first section sets out some big, important features of the multi-format world that we need to know about. We’ll talk about personas, user experiences, and accessibility.

  2. Connecting humans and machines
    As production and distribution becomes automated, we need to learn how to talk to machines. Here we’ll talk about preparing documents that computers can process.

  3. Choosing tools
    Each of us need to refresh our toolboxes. We can throw out some old tools (like MS Word), and try out new ones till we find what works for us. There’s no Swiss Army knife for multi-format editing. So what should we learn and look for?

  4. Version control
    When we plug our work into the Internet, our new tools give us easier collaboration with proper version-control. We’ll talk about different approaches to version control, and teach you some powerful new tricks.

  5. The shape of a publication
    We already know so much about how people read in print, and we’re only beginning to understand how devices and software influence the way our readers experience our work on screens.

  6. Text
    You might want to skip straight here: a list of common multi-format challenges and tricks for dealing with them, including links, cross-references, capitalisation, indexing and mathematics.

  7. Images
    In the past, we only had to get a 300dpi image to the setter. Things are a bit more complicated now. But fun! We’ll cover a short list of image must-haves.

  8. Interactive elements
    ‘Interactivity’ is publishing’s favourite buzzword these days. We’ll touch on some of the main ways that users might interact with books, and how those features might work in print and on screen.

  9. Data as content
    Books often contain little databases, like glossaries, bibliographies, and lists of abbreviations. Some books are big databases, like dictionaries and catalogues. We’ll talk briefly about what this means for preparing and structuring manuscripts.

  10. Quick reference
    At the end of these notes there’s a short list of foundational technical concepts that you need to know. We’ll have raised them all by the time we’ve got through the course. So this list is for you to refer to later, if you need a quick reminder about a key concept.

Through the looking glass

First things first, let’s have a sneak peak at what you’re going to understand by the end of tomorrow.

That window that just opened is showing you the code behind the web page. In the code view, you should see something like this:

<h1>Multi-format publishing</h1>

Double-click that code, and change the text between the h tags. Then click anywhere else. You should see the heading on the actual web page change. If so, well done! You just edited a web page.

Don’t worry, your changes are just temporary, and only exist in your browser for the moment. Refresh the page, and the site will go back to normal.

Those little windows show you three main things about the web page you’re on:

  1. Its HTML: the content on the page
  2. Its CSS: the design of the page
  3. Its Javascript: code that can change anything about the page, often used to add interactivity.

The inspector windows, which are also called the dev tools, are the single most important tool in your web-development life. It is miraculous that the Web developed in a way that lets anyone learn openly from anyone else’s website code. It is a privilege we treasure!

Your facilitator may show you around the dev tools in more detail. If there is time, you may change the styling of the page with CSS, or even change how it behaves with Javascript.