Terese Bird

Terese Bird portrait

As with all good people you discover online, I came across Terese Bird by way of her high quality work around all things digital media. Terese kindly offered to be interviewed about her typical day and interest in digital books. Thank you Terese for taking the time to answer my questions and being my first interview subject!

Tell us about yourself

I am a learning technologist with the Institute of Learning Innovation at the University of Leicester. We primarily do research into learning and learning innovation, disseminate findings, and construct practical teaching and learning models which apply the findings, for our own university and beyond. I assist with the research in ways such as figuring out how to implement new or tricky technological trials or solutions, setting up and analysing data from online surveys, and conducting focus groups and interviews. I present findings in workshops and conference presentations, and write about project findings whenever I can — through blogging, project reports, and other writing projects.

What’s a typical day like for you?

I don’t think I have a typical day. This morning I had to buy milk, coffee and tea on my way in to work, in preparation for day 1 of a two-day workshop on Learning Design – the 7Cs of learning design, which is a framework developed by our director, Professor Grainne Conole. Once at work and seeing to the refreshments, room, and technology, I greeted guests — 12 medical educators from one of our local hospitals, plus a few visiting scholars at ILI — and got everyone settled into the session. While Grainne taught her sessions, I helped discussions, took photos and tweeted about the session on our Twitter account @learninginn. I spent lunchtime setting up laptops and testing microphone and playback facilities on the demonstrator computer, in readiness for the session I later taught on Rich Media Learning Materials — the strengths and weaknesses of and tips to create text, audio, and video learning materials especially usable on any mobile device. Once the workshop ended at 4pm, I spent the rest of the workday, and much of my evening, setting up meetings and replying to emails.

How did you get interested in digital publishing?

I got interested in digital publishing in 2009 because it was a focus of research in the JISC-funded DUCKLING project our team worked on. My job was to figure out how to load locally-authored learning materials onto Sony e-readers (the first e-reader available in the UK), to be shipped to distance masters students around the world. I stumbled upon the software Calibre and just fiddled with it until I had a method of nicely converting Word documents into first lrf, then epub. This was pretty ground-breaking stuff in 2009, and it helped me to win the ALT Highly Commended Learning Technologist of the Year 2010.  (Sorry for the plug but I’m kinda proud of that.)

What are your go-to tools or software for writing?

My go-to tool for my own writing is either directly into WordPress, or Microsoft Word. Hey, it works. My go-tool for an ebook is iBooks Author. It’s free and it offers good-looking templates, because I cannot design my way out of a paper bag. It saves as a pdf and as .ibooks, which might be all I need. If I need epub, then I copy and paste the text and images into Pages and export as epub. If I had a copy of Indesign I would probably just use that to do everything, but Indesign isn’t cheap and it doesn’t strike me as simple to use, so for now I’ll stick with easy and cheap (iBooks Author and Pages).

Where would you like to see digital publishing going?

I would like to see digital publishing offer financial rewards primarily to the author, and to the publisher as long as s/he offers added value. I would like good textbooks to be available in rich, innovative formats at low prices for students. I would like to see teachers and academics being empowered through academic publishing, and I would not like to see publishers trying to take over teachers’ roles as is beginning to happen now.

As for the technology of digital publishing, I don’t really think it’s necessary for there to be one uniform way for all mobile devices to be able to read an ebook. I don’t mind there being an Apple and an Amazon and a Samsung and a Google. Companies need to earn money because people need to earn money.

If the Napster model had prevailed over iTunes, musicians would be earning less money these days. I wish publishers could find a way to really add value, to support authors and allow digital innovation all at the same time.

In a few years we’ll probably have people crashing into each other on the pavement because they’ll be wearing Google Glass and trying to read ebooks and walk down the street at the same time. Or even worse – trying to read ebooks and drive at the same time! You read it here first!

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