There are many analogies that could be used to describe a publisher, but one of the most apt appears to be that of the midwife/doctor/surgeon whose responsibility it is to oversee the delivery of a baby.
Surrounded by technology and a skilled team of professionals, and with the use of tools (the most important of which is knowledge), the midwife/doctor/surgeon delivers the baby into the world with as much or as little intervention as is necessary.
It goes without saying that each birth is coordinated with a number of other births that are occurring in the hospital/locale (read publishing house) at the same time. Recently, however, the frenetic nature of publishing has been on the increase as the number of multiple births (read book formats) has grown, and this is where the analogy of the hospital birthing unit starts to falter as the number of triplets and quadruplets shows no sign of abating. In fact quads have become the norm, and even sextuplets are not unusual for a publisher such as O’Reilly Media, for example.
There has always been, for the living memory of most readers, the hardback and the paperback, which are sometimes twins, and sometimes siblings with a short age gap between them. Now there is, for the average book, a paperback, a hardback, a Kindle eBook, and an ePUB eBook, and perhaps other accessible and audio formats as well.
Wait … I promised in my last post to discuss the beginnings of Gylphi along with two of the publications that I was working on last week. Don’t worry … this (although it might seem otherwise) is getting there in a loose and roundabout way. For Gylphi was incorporated as a company in November 2007, and shortly afterwards I attended a Publishing Expo event in Earls Court where I listened attentively as a speaker declared that the place we would be reading content in the future would be on mobile phones.
At the time, the experience of reading on a mobile phone was disappointing to say the least, and when Gylphi came to releasing its first publication (the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry) in 2009 there was no real alternative but print publication. Of course there was PDF technology and online hosting, which had been around for many years previous, but the aim agreed with the editors from the start was to attract a readership first and foremost wishing to read each issue as a whole and this meant providing it in a form that could be carried anywhere – i.e. dead tree format.
Now that the journal has three issues behind it, not only is it time to implement electronic delivery for researchers, but the opportunity to distribute content for reading on personal devices such as the Kindle, the iPad and the Sony Reader also means that now journals can be read in an electronic form in a way similarly personal and individual as a printed paper copy. Making the prospect of electronic delivery far more appealing for journals such as the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry, since it is now possible to read electronic publications as a whole without having to necessarily divide them into individual articles.
These technological advances, and the development of the eBook, also mean when a book now comes into production, such as the one I mentioned in my last post (David Mitchell: Critical Essays) that from the outset it is formatted and edited using technologies which enable parallel preparation not only for print and for current eBook formats but also for future electronic formats yet to be developed.
The dual print/electronic considerations in addition spread beyond the text and include cover design and typography. Meaning that the important components of this baby of ours are now being gradually put back, setting it up to grow and fully develop in the electronic realm. All of which is a welcome change from the reality of reading books on mobile phones only a few years ago.
To conclude, this places me in a positive frame of mind for the future, and this sets us up nicely for the next post, which will discuss the recently signed ‘Arts Future Book’ project and book series, as well as the concept of the academic book series in broader terms, and more specifically the range of other book series currently commissioning titles for Gylphi.