Wed 13 February 2013 at 11.00 am

An overview of digital production at Osprey Publishing

Steve Meyer-Rassow and Ben Salvesen (Osprey)

Taking Place: Willow Building (room W01), Headington Hill Campus, Oxford Brookes University, OX3 0BT

Missed this event?  Find out what our students thought in the summary blog below...

By Wanna Uthaiwat

Steve Meyer-Rassow and Ben Salvesen of Osprey Publishing were kind enough to the take time out of their busy work schedules to give us students an entertaining presentation on digital production at Osprey.

The first half of the presentation on XML workflow was covered by Ben Salvesen, Osprey’s Publishing Solutions Manager. He opened with an introduction to XML (EXtensible Markup Language), and explained how it is central to Osprey’s production methods of all new titles.

Author manuscripts usually begin life as a Word document. Next, an editor applies styles in Word to describe the different elements of the text such as: chapter names, headings, captions, etc... Once styles have been applied, the content is uploaded to a CMS (Content Management System) called PDQLibrios. This is where the Word document styles get magically converted to XML tags. The next step is to choose a template that can be applied to the tagged up content. These style templates are extremely useful for publishing companies that are creating their own ebooks, in that they may be used for styling the appearance of the manuscripts, before outputting files to InDesign, ePub and PDF. For Osprey, the XML templates allow uniform and consistent design layouts to be shared across all of Osprey’s imprints, including Shire Books, Angry Robot Books and Old House Books & Maps.

Steven Meyer-Rassow, Osprey’s Digital Production Manager, then spoke about the conversion process of Osprey’s 2,000 backlist titles. He explained the work involved in taking the existing titles in print-ready format and converting them into ebook format (from pdf to ePub). Having digital versions of backlist titles not only makes use of already published content, but also allows for books to be split up into chunks and distributed to end users in new, more practical ways.

The current production challenges that Osprey faces in digitising their print books are the recreation of maps, tables and illustrations on a small device such as iPad or Kindle. However, future product enhancements for their frontlist publications currently being explored include ePub3 and the use of JavaScript, allowing for audio, video, animated content and interactivity.

Of all of the topics discussed, the most memorable points I took away were:

  • Osprey’s use of XML and design templates is a great way of illustrating how a company is able to reduce expenses by bringing the bulk of design back in-house.

  • Digitising backlist titles facilitates innovative new business models. One book could be divided and sold to end users in various ways, for instance, by subscription.

  • The overwhelming message that technology is changing very fast and that Osprey, as a small publisher, are keeping up with these advances (utilising ePub3 and creating interactive ebooks).

As an MA Digital Publishing student here at Brookes, I found Steve and Ben’s presentation to be truly informative for my studies. Some of my modules include ePublishing and Digital Media, in which I am learning how to create flowable ebooks and must also learn the basics of website building. The explanation of XML workflow gave me a clearer understanding of how XML is used in the stages of ebook production. Furthermore, my Major Project involves creating a prototype of an interactive ebook , knowing that publishers like Osprey are headed in that direction gives me confidence that there will be room for me in the industry once I complete my degree.

True to our expectation of digital experts, their presentation was full of digital examples and visual demonstrations, and their slides were not too text-heavy. It was a nice break from lectures!

Wanna Uthaiwat, is pursuing an MA in Digital Publishing at Oxford Brookes University. She did an undergraduate degree at the University of California Riverside, majoring in English and minoring in Political Science. Prior to studying in Oxford, she was an Executive Assistant and Sales Manager of a small import and distribution company. After working in sales and marketing for approximately 3 years, she decided to return to the arts and study a subject which she is passionate about. Find Wanna on LinkedIn