Electric Book Works Web, mobile and print publications

Changing the way textbooks are made

The Economy

The Economy is a ground-breaking, open-access economics textbook from the CORE project published in two languages and several formats:

The system behind its multi-format design sets new standards for textbook production. Its sheer size is unusual for multi-format publishing: it contains over 500 000 words in over 1200 printed pages, over 1300 images (including over 500 interactive slides) and 230 interactive questions.

To produce this huge book in under ten months – from copy-editing to print-ready pages and a live website edition – we used our open-source Electric Book workflow. This workflow lets multiple editors and designers work on the book simultaneously, editing version-controlled, single-master content files, and seeing their changes instantly in both print and screen versions.

The Economy book cover

This method of book production streamlines the publishing process in revolutionary ways. Most importantly, the workflow lets us output print-ready files, a mobile-friendly website, an ebook and apps from the same master files. So there is no need for time-consuming post-production conversions. And after publication, our clients can also continue to make changes to the content directly online, and release new updates of their book at any time.

The Economy pages

In the page design of The Economy, our first priority was to create a beautiful book. We intentionally designed it to look less like a conventional textbook and more like an informative and visually engaging resource. Designer Karen Lilje conceptualised it on paper and then realised it on screen. Once the design was finalised, our technical director Arthur Attwell recreated it with CSS, the code stylesheets that would control page layout for print and screen – effectively automating 95 per cent of a traditional typesetter’s role.

And all of this code could then be reused as-is for other CORE projects, such as Economics, Society and Public Policy and Doing Economics, saving costs and time.

The page design is simple and flexible, accommodating multiple in-text and sidebar elements across the pages, while maintaining a strong visual identity throughout the book. It includes graphic details that make the content more engaging and easier to interact with. Working with the CORE team, we used colour keys to help teachers and students connect content in the book. Then, working from hundreds of visual and data-based source files, designer Jennifer Jacobs created over 560 figures. Since many of these figures are animated with filmstrip-like images, she created over 1300 full-colour images.

The Economy website

The website edition of the book makes more than the print-edition can of the digital platform: embedded video, interactive, self-marking questions, animated figures, and popup references and definitions.

The Economy mobile

The website is mobile friendly, accessible, and can be easily and conveniently used as an open educational resource.

Read more about how we did this in our Thinking section.

14 December 2018