ARLIS Conference: Self-publishing in education

Yesterday I was invited to speak at the Arts and Library Society annual conference. I spoke for 40mins about how staff and students have been self-publishing and the need for libraries to add ‘self-publishing’ to their long list of topics requiring support.

I see self-publishing as an opportunity for libraries to really shine in their support for staff in particular. To quote Craig Mod:

The way books are written has changed.
The canvas for books has changed.
The post-published life of a book has changed.

I enjoyed the talk and hope that my hopping around style of delivery still gave a sense of the topic.

I was lucky to also see a few of the other talks and it really opened my eyes to publishing in the arts and museum arena. I think i’ll be hanging around some of the museum curators to see if I can get my hands stuck into a new pet project!

The slides can be found on Google Docs (the PPT is busted) below and if anybody needs me to add some context just get in touch.

David Hopkins

David Hopkins @hopkinsdavid is a learning technologist, biker, and popular blogger. When you want to know about something about e-learning, check David’s blog first – don’t waste your time. We talk about David’s new book, QR Codes in Education, the writing process, making ebooks, and our lofty dream to make more books to which end the score is David 1 – 0 Zak.

Length: 42mins

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Show notes is a great beginners guide to self-publishing and covers many of the issues around the current ecosystem and pricing. Craig Mod produced this must read essay about the new ecosystem for authoring. Start with this essay then read every other essay too! The first tool that many of us will use to make an ebook. Use it and ensure you test widely. My testing tips and tools for ensuring a good reader experience.

Hayley Atkinson

Zak and Hayley Atkinson talk about self-publishing students and the challenges of making your own books.


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Show notes and links
The blog that Hayley uses to showcase some of the recent projects at Leeds on using ebooks with students.
The best way to get in touch with Hayley is via her twitter account.
Hayley and the students are using Apple ibooks author to self-publishing their own books.
For non Apple users, Calibre is probably the best tool to get you started with making your own books.
If using the epub format make sure you check it validates as this is required by many of the ebook online shops and helps reduce the chances of errors for the reader.
Using Creative Commons licensed materials is a free and legal way to use third-party text, images, video and audio. Always link back to the source so that others can also share the material and why not consider sharing some of your own materials using a Creative Commons license.

The Guardian has packed its bags and is moving to a new home

Today in Going global on our digital journey The Guardian announced it will soon move from its current web address to

The interesting part is that only 1/3 of the visitors are from the uk and it ‘s a bold move to now address this global opportunity. If a service realises their core audience has changed, many would just bury their head in the sand with that news. It is great to see The Guardian draw a line in the sand and hop over it.


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!

A blog as ebook

This week Amber Thomas released an ebook of all her blog posts from the Jisc digital infrastructure  team blog.

Having read pretty much all of those posts over the years and getting a lot out of them, returning the favour by way of an ebook was the least I could do.

Amber explained how everything went pretty well so I don’t have much to add except that including any comments from a blog is a rather interesting point for consideration which i’ll save for a future ramble.

So dust off your ebook reader (oh no he didn’t!) and enjoy the best of Amber Thomas.

Hello World: travels in virtuality – the ebook

At the weekend I wrapped up a project turning ‘Hello World: travels in virtuality ‘ by Sue Thomas into both Kindle and epub files.

The book was originally released in dead-tree’s format back in 2004 and digital publishing has allowed us to breath a new lease of life into the book and be easily available to the world!

If you want to hear more about how I made the book let me know and i’ll write something but you can just as easily read Ahab! by Craig Mod which covers all the ground and points you to a helpful sample project.  One of the key resources in Craig’s article is to the Kindle previewer which will display the ebook file in all generations of Kindle, saving you having to purchase all of the devices. My top tip is to start with the newest versions and work back until you get bored.

The Kindle version is now available to purchase for only £2.05.

04 Publishing jargon

On my ebook publishing journey I have begun to stumble across processes, stages and phrases that use traditional print terminology. I will note them here for my own sanity and maybe that of others as I figure where it makes sense we should use existing and established phrases.

  • Galley proof – used to describe review copies of a print book
  • Uncorrected proof – commonly used in place of ‘galley proof’ for digital books
  • Name of punctuation and general typography – a list down the right of key technical terms…. a tilde is not a squiggle!

Force Kindle to display frontmatter first

When you first load a kindle file it may start on any number of pages as set by the book designer. I am not sure if an ebook should start on the cover as this is visible in the library.

Anyway, a problem I had today was that my book kept starting on the first chapter and bypassing the frontmatter, foreword and introduction.

After various wimperings on the #eprdctn hashtag I stumbled across the solution and am documenting it before I forget.

To control/force the kindle to start on your page of choice you need to do the following it seems:

  1. open content.opf
  2. scroll to the GUIDE section
  3. You only need three items in here – i originally had all chapters but reading around seems to say this is pointless: cover, toc, and your chosen first page as references.
  4. Change/add a reference for your chosen page to <reference type=”text” href=”frontmatter.html”/></reference>
  5. Done

Setting the reference to type fixed the problem. I had read that you need to use “start” but that seemed to be where I failed.

It is interesting to think about what page should be first, would a reader care about frontmatter or just the author and publisher?…. a post for the future me thinks.

Thanks to Tom for leading me to the correct path.