Internship: finishing things up (finally)

First off, I admit to being horrifically late with some of my internship documents.  I will say, though, the reason most of this is late is because of the internship itself and where it got me – which was into a full-time position at IT Training, and into the role of Materials Coordinator (where I focus on digital publishing in the context of IT Training’s workshop materials, which is what my internship focused on!).

The internship ended up evolving quite a bit over the summer of 2015 – what originally started out as a conversion project from InDesign to an XML format that could be read by FrameMaker, as well as making materials more accessible, ended up going in a slightly different direction.  I ended up programming in Javascript to convert symbols into text in order for them to display correctly in IT Training’s new materials template, developing standards for materials development and screen capture guidelines, helped shape the guidelines for creating alternative text for images, and edited a lot of materials to ensure they met IT Training’s style guide.  I learned a lot about issues for digital publishing that I hadn’t really thought about previously – such as image resolution and placement concerns, the different types of programs that are involved in digital publishing, the role that programming languages play in the digital publishing process, and accessibility issues that arise when images and text are combined.

With my focus being in digital libraries, I feel that a lot of what I learned in my internship was relevant to my specialization.  Digital publishing is a key part of digital libraries, as the information needs to be digitized in some way, and made accessible to interested parties.  All of what I learned will be especially useful in constructing digital libraries and creating the digital documents people will use for research or personal enrichment and learning.

This blog, now that I’m finally wrapping up the last pieces of my internship, will go forth and be a record of my experiences in IT Training – not just in the Materials Coordinator world, but also as I research new technologies and modalities to help me deliver the best trainings I can to participants.  It’ll also be a place for me to ramble about my love for digital librarianship, and hopefully encourage others to explore digital librarianship as well.

Literature summary: How Are Books Changing? by Daniel Berkowitz


How are books changing?  The title of this article asks a very good question, a question that effects not just authors, but libraries and digital publishers of all types of content.  The author of the article discusses how people today tend to read on devices such as smartphones, and as a result, digitally published books are getting shorter in order to try and hook readers and appeal to their shortened attention spans and smaller amounts of time devoted to reading.

IT Training is currently facing this as well, thinking about how to change our digitally published materials and other training content to appeal to people who want to learn something in a short amount of time.  People may simply need to learn something quickly because they’re in the middle of an important task and need to learn an associated skill in a short amount of time, or people might not be able to focus on trying to get through a long amount of material to learn what they’re hoping to learn.  As a result, IT Training is rethinking its traditional workshop materials model, and seeing how best to focus our efforts to get our information to interested people in the quickest amount of time.

Literature summary: Some EPUB identifier best practices, by Joshua Tallent


“Future-proofing your content is one of the most important steps you can take as a production specialist” is one line that especially stood out for me in this article.  Ensuring you don’t have to go back and tweak your EPUBs or any other digitally published documents you may have created is especially important.  This article discusses future-proofing your documents with a specific focus on working with the metadata and ensuring the unique identifiers associated with your EPUBs are consistent, especially if they’re going to be sold on a site such as Amazon or other sites that sell books.  Digging into the metadata for your publications and ensuring that the <dc:identifier> element is containing the information you want (in the case of the article, an ISBN) will help avoid potential errors in the future.

It also may be a smart idea in general to take a look at any metadata generated for a digitally published file before it’s shared publicly and ensure that it’s sharing the information that’s needed – if your document is including incorrect metadata, or the program you used to create your document is including its own metadata that may conflict with information you’re attempting to share, I feel it’s a good idea to get that taken care of before publishing. This will avoid having to go back and get things fixed at a later date, or having your digital documents shared with incorrect information being presented.

Literature Summary: 4 major challenges the digital publishing industry is facing, by Jeff Weisbein


Digital publishing is becoming more and more prevalent, and this article focuses on how the digital publishing field is evolving and challenges that people in the digital publishing field are facing.

The first two challenges mentioned in the article focus on data – specifically, analytics and what they mean for digital publishers.  Data on page views, downloads, and demographics that can be used to drive advertising are concerns to digital publishers.  Now, I love digging into data and seeing what I can find out – and if one has an idea about what they’re looking for, analytics can be incredibly helpful if one is trying to make decisions about what to publish, who to market it to, and so on – and I think digging into data on who’s reading or downloading specific items could be especially helpful to digital librarians and curators as they create and build their collections.  The information gathered on what items are accessed most often, for example, could help a digital collection manager determine where to expand their collection and where to reduce attention.

The third and fourth challenges, focusing on engagement and what to write next, could easily be refocused towards a digital collection viewpoint – determining visitor engagement with the information being presented can help a digital curator determine which sections of a collection may need more attention and re-tooling to make them more inviting to users, or to see what’s working well for a specific collection.  Instead of thinking about “what to write next”, a digital curator or collection manager  could be thinking about “what to add next”, to a specific collection.  What do people want?  And how can it be presented?  Using data collected from visitors to a specific collection can help answer those questions.

Literature summary: The Lost Art of Indexes in Ebooks by Joe Wikert


This was an especially interesting read, focusing on something I haven’t really thought about as part of the digital publishing process: indexes in an ebook.  While yes, a reader could simply search for a term they’re looking for in a book, it’s not quite the same as going to the index of a book and seeing how a term might be used in context and where exactly it’s located in regards to a specific context.  Indexes aren’t something that IT Training relies on in its materials development, instead using a table of contents to help users navigate through a set of materials. While that table of contents can help if someone’s got a broad idea of what they’re looking to learn, if someone’s looking for something in a very specific context, it’ll be rather difficult to find what they’re looking for without doing some digging.

However, given the overall lack of indexes, and the ability to search for specific terms (even despite the lack of context), I wonder if the typical reader even notices the lack of indexes in most ebooks.  I know that I haven’t particularly noticed it, myself, until I came across this article.

Literature Summary: OverDrive working on PDF conversion… by Matt Enis


This article drifts away from technical writing publishing, and more towards digital publishing in general – specifically focusing on transforming PDF documents into the EPUB format.  OverDrive, a company that I’ve mainly encountered in the context of e-book delivery for Monroe County Public Library’s digital book collection, is working to make their collection of PDF files available in the EPUB format, which has many benefits for people interested in viewing documents on a wide variety of devices.  EPUBs can easily adapt to a viewer’s device, rearranging text and scaling graphics appropriately – while PDFs, on the other hand, act as a screenshot of a page, leaving the viewer with zooming in and out as their only option for consuming information on devices that might not have an optimal viewing experience for PDF files.

I can see where some difficulties might pop up in the PDF to EPUB conversion process – especially in documents where text and images are precisely laid out, like in a children’s book.  However, the goal that OverDrive has – “[giving] every library and school access to every title, under every available model”, as Steve Potash said in a recent interview, is a worthy one, and any breakthroughs that OverDrive has in the PDF to EPUB conversion process could be beneficial to anyone working to convert PDF documents into other formats to make consumption easier.

Literature Summary: Which is better: FrameMaker or InDesign? by Peter Gold


I found this article interesting, considering I’ve used both FrameMaker and InDesign for publishing digital documents.  While I love designing documents in InDesign, if I’m creating something that needs structure and needs to be easily shareable, not to mention something that needs to be in XML that’s easy to work with, I’ll choose FrameMaker.

This article highlights many of the reasons I’m glad our materials are created in FrameMaker as opposed to InDesign.  Text variables are something we rely on heavily when creating materials, to make sure things that are referred to frequently (exercise file names, workshop names, and so on) are correctly spelled and capitalized, and it also speeds up the development process when all an author needs to do is simply click on a variable in a list to add it to the text.  InDesign doesn’t have nearly as much flexibility when it comes to variables.

Another thing that FrameMaker handles better than InDesign is XML.  I’ve viewed documents exported into XML from FrameMaker and InDesign, and in order to have text elements marked up properly in InDesign, you need to go in and map each individual paragraph style to an XML element.  FrameMaker does that automatically, and in a way that makes sense to whoever’s editing an XML document outside of the originating program.  While you can pop open an InDesign Markup Language (IDML) document in a program like oXygen XML Editor and see the text marked up, it’s still a bit of a mess.

In short, this article reminded me why I use InDesign for some things, and why it frustrates me for other uses.  🙂