After a meeting with Quill & Quire editor Stuart Woods in April, I sent along a solicited query for a short-term column in his publishing-industry journal. It would teach Q&Q readers what’s involved in creating electronic books. Read the series and you’d go from zero knowledge to, say, 80% of what you actually need in order to create a real E-book. This is 80% better than nothing, I contend.

Now, what do you think happened to this proposal, which, I reiterate, was solicited?


  • Book people are generally afraid of computers (Windows users especially, and with reason). They generally don’t know how to use computers beyond a barely functional level (often not even that well, in my own direct experience).
  • Nobody has attempted to explain E-book concepts in the two ways necessary to make them comprehensible to book people:
    • Those with a copy or editorial orientation need everything explained, step by step, in prose. You have to start absolutely from scratch and assume no technical understanding.
    • Those with a design orientation need everything explained graphically, with illustrations and pictures but barely any blocks of text.

Unless Q&Q is willing to bankroll the design and production of full-scale posters, which could actually generate revenue for me, the designer, and the magazine, Q&Q really has no choice but to concentrate on readers with an editorial orientation.

Time-limited series

This thing is not going to go on forever. It should be billed up front as, say, running through 2010 and that’s it. E-books won’t go away starting in 2011, but by that time a new angle is going to be necessary.

There has to be a defined endpoint or the technically unsophisticated people who are the intended audience will think there is no end to the topics they have to learn about. They’ll feel overwhelmed and they’ll tune out.


We’re building from the bottom up. We’ll teach you everything you need to know to construct an E-book, from individual characters to the final package readers enjoy on whatever device they prefer to use.

Likely article topics:

  1. Myths. Disabusing you of a few notions about electronic books.
  2. A new way to think about books – structurally. Think bones, not clothing.
  3. Character encoding. The smallest atomic component of an E-book is a character, and you need to learn just how simple it is to get characters technically right.
  4. Language. How to properly express the actual human language of a book. Especially important for bilingual books, but people get this wrong all the time.
  5. E-books are miniature Web sites. The commonality between electronic books and the Web. (Has nothing to do with hypertext fiction or similar pipe dreams of the previous century.)
  6. Structure (many entries). Learn how to look at a manuscript and assign the right structural elements to every part.
  7. Images. Of course E-books can contain pictures. Here’s how to handle them properly.
  8. Tables. Don’t believe the hype: “Complex” books with tables are readily produced in E-form.
  9. Accessibility. Who needs alternate formats? E-books are almost automatically accessible to disabled readers, a market you can own immediately.
  10. Templates. Automate the whole process.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2010.07.19 13:07. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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