The sometimes troublesome BookNet Canada issued a call for presentations for its annual Technology Forum. The deadline for submissions is six months in advance. Just the day before, an entire Toronto publishing house was shuttered by its corporate parent. Do you think anything might change in the publishing industry between now and then?

My submission was, in some ways, obvious:

Structured documents for managers and editors:
How to commission and evaluate E-books

  • You’re a manager or editor who commissions work for E-books, for the Web, or for (iOS) applications
  • You haven’t had to deal with developers (i.e., programmers), but you’re doing that now or are about to start
  • You are having trouble getting your head around the technical aspects of E-books, or your imprint has E-books that don’t work

This session will equip you with basic concepts and vocabulary to commission and evaluate the structured documents required by E-books.

What you’ll learn

You can’t just ask for a “manuscript” delivered as an “MS Word file”; there are specific requirements nobody has told you about – until now. We’ll teach you about structure.

This isn’t about dramatic or three-act structure. It’s about how writers mark up and annotate their text so that machines can do things with it.

We’re going to teach you document structure or structured markup. We’re keeping things at a managerial level. We’ll teach you the basic concepts and the vocabulary to go with them. We’re also teaching ways to specify deliverables and evaluate whether those deliverables have been met.

You need basic knowledge of document structure if you hope to credibly manage E-book development. Nobody’s bothered to give you this training before. We will.

What are structured documents?

You’re swimming in them. Every Web page you browse (Flash excluded), every Web app you use, every E-book you read, and every app with a lot of text you tap through all use structured documents.

The easiest example is the Web, which cannot even function without structured documents. HTML, the language of the Web, is a form of document structure. Every E-book is a structured document. We’ll teach you enough to manage the writers and developers who supply content to you.

Why this is something you’ll want to learn

  • Few managers, and no editors, in Canadian publishing understand document structure. Walk into a meeting with this kind of knowledge and you’re already one step ahead.
  • You can bypass the funding agencies. Got an idea for a Web site, a Web app, an iPad app? Is there a lot of writing in it? Well, you don’t need to apply for grants from conventional funding agencies. You can just go out there and join forces with computer programmers and other developers. It will suddenly be possible to talk to those developers; you’ll speak enough of their language to do business.
  • One skill, many venues. Once you learn the basics of managing structured documents, you can use those skills everywhere – often the very same skill with no modification.

What this isn’t about

We aren’t going to teach you how to write anything, let alone how to write structured documents. We’re giving you basic understanding, a vocabulary, and a set of tools.

Skills you’ll learn

  • A new sense of the word “semantics”
  • Separating content from presentation
  • Recognizing structural elements in existing documents
  • Standards you can require vendors to meet
  • Verifying that vendors really have met those standards

The standard we’ll teach you is HTML – real, valid, correct HTML you can use anywhere, including in electronic books.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2010.10.07 13:25. 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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