Electric Book Works Publishing reinvented for the digital age

Electric Book links: publishing tools, music metadata, and medieval snails

‘How did you go digital?’ Bill asked. ‘Two ways,’ Mike said. ‘Gradually and then suddenly.’

In this month’s links, new awards for open publishing and a bold announcement from Pearson suggest that the snail’s pace of evolution in publishing might be giving way to some sudden changes. I’ll miss the snail’s pace, actually: at least we could all keep up.


We’d all love to see open approaches to publishing recognised more widely, so it’s exciting to hear about the inaugural Open Publishing Awards, hosted by the Coko Foundation. Nominations open 19 August, and the awards will be announced in Edinburgh this October.


John W. Maxwell and a team at Simon Fraser University have put together a thorough, insightful, highly readable analysis of open-source publishing tools, including our Electric Book workflow and many others we admire. If you work in scholarly or digital publishing, this is compelling, important reading.


If you’re in books you know that metadata is a common pain point. But when you compare our challenges to the music industry’s, we have it pretty good. This in-depth piece on the problem in The Verge is fascinating reading for metadata and systems nerds like me.

In other news, you’ve doubtless heard that Pearson announced that all of its US titles will become ‘digital first’. In a podcast interview, CEO John Fallon said ‘the $300 textbook is dead.’ This is not groundbreaking, of course, since sensible publishers everywhere have been experimenting with this, or just getting on with it, for many years. What will be interesting is whether the emphasis on digital has an effect on skills and tooling in production teams. If you’re an editor, designer, setter, or generalist freelancer, is this a good time to learn to code ?


We’re looking for a warm, outgoing, super-organised person with a passion for solving problems to join us for a three-month contract – maybe more – based at our office in Cape Town. Here are the details .


In celebration of the snail’s pace: ‘everyone knows that medieval art is filled with snails fighting knights, but there’s actually a whole medieval snail ecology and society, from snail-birds to snail-monks. And, ofc, snail-cats.’ This illustrated thread from medievalist Erik Wade is trippy and wonderful.


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Arthur Attwell 15 August 2019