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digital publishing

My week-long internship at Palimpsest

May 24th, 2017 by isabella_pioli | Posted in Blog, Internships | Comments Off on My week-long internship at Palimpsest
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In all honesty, this was my first internship. Understandably, I was nervous, so much so that my internal monologue on the way to the first day of my internship was, “You cannot possibly mess up so terribly that they don’t want you to come back.” I prepared myself for all the clichés of internships, but I must be the luckiest person because my internship was a godsend. Everyone was so nice and friendly and encouraging. It wasn’t the coffee-fetching nightmare most internship stories seem to prepare you for – I was the one offered tea. So aside from the societal niceties, the internship was a learning experience. I asked questions about the programs and how they were used. I asked about day to day stressors, personal motivation, and whether the work was rewarding. I had the mind-altering revelation that when so many people are working on a book, a lot of people have to keep the plot a secret, and are usually legally obligated to do so. Overall, the best thing I learned is that my past work experience and my education can easily be applied to many aspects of the work done at Palimpsest. Learning that I am actually employable is a huge relief. So what exactly is it that Palimpsest does? I figure the best way to explain that is to tell you about my week.

Monday was typesetting. Not the old fashioned kind that I had training in from undergrad, but typesetting digitally via InDesign. The page layout is specified by the publisher (margin measurements, line count, where the page number should be). The text is then inserted into the document and it is then that the text is formatted (paragraph styles, flush-left openers). I forgot to bring a notebook the first day, which was a huge mistake because learning from someone who knows the ins and outs of typesetting like I know the plot of Pride and Prejudice means that there was a lot of detail and shortcuts that I could have been writing down. That was the first big lesson. BRING A NOTEBOOK. You may look like an overachiever, you may look too eager, but you will be the most prepared. Thankfully, I already knew the basics. After a one-on-one lesson, I was given a desk and a job spec and sent off to try and apply what I had just learned. Again, I must repeat this would have been easier had I brought a notebook. Palimpsest has paragraph styles for every inevitability and they are a time-saver. It’s just figuring out which one to use and when to use them that was a struggle. By the afternoon, I was given a massive manuscript full of editor’s corrections and had to input them into the text of another project. That was quite a bit of fun. Deciphering an editor’s handwriting is a new form of code-breaking. The standard editor marks are used, but text insertion is just a lot of eye-squinting and hoping for the best. But really, if the editor’s handwriting cannot be understood, the proofreaders can usually figure it out, and if the words are still unintelligible, an email is sent to the editor to clarify. That was my first day done.

Tuesday was digital publishing, and yes, I brought a notebook. There is certainly a more technical aspect to the digital publishing process, but my describing it would be lacking. My brain may have gone into overload as soon as I realized that coding was involved. What I can explain is the process of checking the document before and after uploading it to ePub conversion website. Trying to explain this makes me feel extremely inept, but I’ll forge on. While the original typeset document was made in a more recent version of InDesign, the file gets converted into an IDML so that it can be read by earlier versions. The file is then opened in an older version of InDesign. The paragraph styles are checked. The copyright page is double-checked for being the e-book version, not the physical edition. URLs are hyperlinked, images are embedded, and the color is checked as RGB not CMKY. After all this, the file is then uploaded and converted to ePub. Then the ePub is checked for errors and if there are any the process is done again. Digital publishing is an involved process and while it was being explained, it sounded doable. I am one of the most technologically inept people ever. I’m not a grandma who doesn’t understand the internet or how to use “The Facebook”, but I struggle. This is a process that I could eventually learn, but it was certainly the most trying part of the week, well outside my comfort zone. In the afternoon, I went to work with customer service and it was here that I realized that my past work experience is applicable to publishing. Emailing vendors, inputting job information, staying on top of incoming emails – been there, done that. The nicest part of this form of customer service is that there is no person-to-person aspect of it. No fake smiles, or earnest customer service personas, just emails and data entry. It’s like raking a zen garden for me.

Wednesday was proofreading and I was given a checklist. I love checklists. It was an ebook checklist. Basically, the ebook creation of Tuesday was then corrected on Wednesday. Is the copyright page accurate? Is there a hyperlink to the publisher’s website? Is the body text justified? Does the linking in the book work? When you click on a footnote does the ebook take you there? When you get to the footnote can you go back to your place in the text? Do all the formats work on the differing devices: Kindle, ePub, Apple? Like I said, I love checklists. In the afternoon, there was more proofreading. It was nice, but the level of attention to detail is certainly a learned skill. Also, trying to not read the books I was proofreading was really difficult. The easiest way to not read the book was to realize that if I had a choice, I would never read some of these books. Once the plot was dismissed, it became easier to pay attention to hyphenation, spacing, and stacking. I also learned that proofreaders have to depend on the aesthetic decisions of editors. To all, widows are never welcome, but orphans are fickle things (please read this as the typographical terminology, not humanitarian terminology). Some editors don’t mind if three lines end on the letter e whereas other editors circle every stack they see. Double stacks are forgivable if only one word, triple stacks are unacceptable. So on and so forth. It is a lot of detail and when I closed my eyes that night, I dreamed of stacks I had missed.

Thursday started with operational management. If you think about what keeps a company going, operational management is that. Keeping the office supplied, mailing and receiving packages, scanning in books, dealing with outsourcing, and general office management. It was a lot of singular responsibilities that culminated into a very busy job. Having to juggle multiple responsibilities can be exhausting, I learned that a few years ago being the bookkeeper/office manager/customer-service person at a small company. I was taught the various aspects of the job and then got to scan in a book which would later be outsourced for keying. Then I went back to proofreading where I went through a few more manuscripts. I found most of the mistakes, but I still need a lot more practice.

Friday, I was supposed to start in proofreading and then go back to typesetting later in the day to enter more editor corrections. However, Friday was chaotic and very stressful in the office. But that was another kind of learning experience. How a company handles pressure and treats its employees during stressful times is important. I’ve had jobs where the stress in the office impacted everyone negatively. If anything, I thought that was how stressful moments were typically handled in a work atmosphere. Palimpsest seemed to become stronger. They were kinder, more considerate towards one another. They took a step back, re-assessed, re-prioritized, and pulled through. It was impressive to say the least.

After a week of working at Palimpsest, I realized that I could be very happy working in book production. However, I’m still going to keep my options open. Trying new things can be scary, but asking questions can help mitigate those fears. Honestly, the hardest part was waking up early to make the bus on time. The people at Palimpsest were what I hope to find in my future employment – kind, supportive peers. The work was stimulating and feeling like a part of a bigger picture was the ultimate reward.

by Isabella Pioli

On PhD Research and Longselling Books

November 24th, 2016 by Helena Markou | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on On PhD Research and Longselling Books
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One year into my PhD exploring the sales life of contemporary trade non-fiction books and I still feel like I am just scratching the surface of my topic. So what is life as a researcher like? On a day-to-day basis I divide my time between:

  • immersion in my subject area – reading journals articles and scholarly publication to keep up with innovations in the fields of publishing studies, literary studies, and the broader fields of cultural studies and digital humanities.
  • writing – ranging from annotated bibliography entries, notes made at events, results and findings of my research and data analysis, or blog posts like this one. The important thing is to write often.
  • wrangling sales data – using a combination of familiar tools and techniques such as vlookup in Excel, box plots in SPSS, or tools that are new to me such as big data analytics using python and weka.
  • skills training – living half way between Glasgow and Edinburgh allows me to take advantage of many events organised within my own institution, University of Stirling, or the other institutions that make up the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities.

But why study the sales life of books at all? Well because the UK produces huge quantities of books. It has the highest per capita output in the world and the third highest number of new and revised titles published each year (behind China and the USA). This number of new and revised titles has risen steadily since the end of the Second World War from an almost standing start of 6,000 new titles in 1943 to over 200k in 2015.

Graph: Volume of New and Revised Titles Published in UK by Year

Graph: Volume of New and Revised Titles Published in UK by Year

[Various Sources: Bookfacts, Nielsen BookScan, Publishers Association (2016)]

These statistics alone invite many questions: who is writing all these books? How many more people are involved in the design and refining of these products? How and why does the machinery of publishing manufacture and distribute at such a vast scale? However, my research is more interested in the next stages of the supply chain. What happens when these new titles are added to those already in print; the millions of titles which make up UK publishers’ back catalogues known as the backlist? How are all these books, both new and established, squeezed into bookshops (physical or otherwise)? How are they merchandised and sold? How long is the window of opportunity for them to succeed or fail? What does success look like in modern bookselling terms – and which authors and titles have achieved this? In the so-called age of abundance, which books have persistent sales and why?

My research objectives are ambitious (or so I’ve been told); to quantify the average sales life of non-fiction titles by subject category, identify longselling titles that have remained relevant to the UK book buying population over long time period, then explore the qualities, and cultural significance of some of these books via case studies.

An example of a longseller from one of the slowest selling bookshop categories,   “Music and Dance”, is The Inner Game of Music by Timothy Gallwey and Barry Green. Originally published in 1986, this book is not the bestselling title in its class (that would be the BBC Proms Official Guide), but it is one of the few titles that appear in the top 5000 physical book sales charts for both 2001 and 2015.

Ranked 54th in the category of Music & Dance in 2001, it sold just under 2000 units and continued to rank in 312th position in 2015 with a modest 500 units sold in that year. Clearly, the sales for this title are declining, however three decades of bookshop sales is a noteworthy achievement and warrants a closer look.

Scrutinising the quantitative data alone provides some clues that The Inner Game of Music might be atypical for a book about music. It is certainly not a beginner’s guide to guitar, or piano, as are most of the other longselling titles within Music and Dance. However, the next step in the research journey is to explore the historical and commercial context for this book’s success and the opinions of its readership.

Initial investigation uncovers that the “inner game”, as a concept, was not originally developed for musicians. It is a spin-off from Gallwey’s NYT bestseller The Inner Game of Tennis, a book which teaches tennis players to improve their practice through awareness of psychological barriers, removal of self-doubt, and correction of bad habits.   This philosophy is something Gallwey adapted and applied to other walks of life (golf, work, stress and music). He appears to have made a successful career out this brand through consultancy, public speaking and book sales. The Inner Game of Music also appears frequently on university reading lists, lending some academic weight to its commercial popularity.

This looks like a promising start for a case study, offering up a number of avenues for further research. How do readers discuss the book via online reviews? How is the book is positioned and sold within general and specialist bookshops; What is the impact of proactive and consistent marketing of the book by the author? Is self-improvement a common theme within longselling books?

All these questions demand answers, provoke my curiosity and spur me on to continue researching longselling books. And on that note, I guess I had better finish procrastinating via this blog article and get back to the PhD.

 

Helena Markou’s professional career spans publishing, bookselling and digital consultancy.  Within her academic career she has lectured in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University and Digital Book History at the School of Advanced Studies, University of London. She is in her 2nd year of an AHRC funded PhD at University of Stirling. You can follow her online @helena_markou

Publishing Prizes 2014-15

November 13th, 2015 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Prizes 2014-15
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The Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication at the University of Stirling is delighted to make the following awards to students who are graduating from the MLitt in Publishing Studies 2014-15.

  • The Freight Books Prize for Publishing Design – Kerry McShane
  • The Faber & Faber Prize for Digital Innovation – Sarah Boyd
  • The Publishing Scotland Prize for the Best Dissertation – Sarah Webster
  • The Routledge Prize for the most Distinguished Student on the MLitt in Publishing Studies – Heather McDaid

All the prizes are sponsored by our Industry Advisory Board.

Outlander

Kerry McShane is the recipient of the Freight Books Prize for Publishing Design. For this, she produced the design project The Outlander Kitchen, focusing on a set of recipes inspired by the books and TV series by Diana Gabaldon. For this, Kerry wins £100 of cash and £100 of books of her choice from Glasgow-based publisher Freight Books. Kerry is currently working as an associate editor at Gibbs Smith in Layton, Utah.

Sarah Webster’s prize-winning dissertation, for which she will receive £100 of books of her choice from Publishing Scotland, is titled ‘To what extent does book jacket and cover design influence sales?’. The dissertation, as its abstract explains, ‘concludes that cover design significantly influences book sales. It further supports the idea that the continued investment in quality, cutting-edge jacket design, coupled with a greater level of market research by publishers in what retailers and consumers want, will ensure that the print book continues to thrive, whilst forcing the design of the ebook as we currently know it to seek further improvement.’

VAMPSarah Boyd is the winner of the Faber & Faber Prize for Digital Innovation, for her work on an interactive poetry app, VAMP. Sarah’s award consists of a placement with Faber & Faber in London, during which she will have the opportunity to meet with staff from Faber Digital, Faber Factory, and the marketing team. A previous recipient of the award, Claire Jeffery, writes about her experience here.

Finally, the recipient of the Routledge Prize for the most Distinguished Student on the MLitt in Publishing Studies, thus winning £200 of books from Routledge, is Heather McDaid. Heather’s overall grade profile on the course was consistently high, as was her wider contribution to the life and environment of the MLitt in Publishing Studies. Heather is now publishing assistant at Bright Red, and social media officer for SYP Scotland, as well as freelancing.

Professor Claire Squires, Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, commented that ‘Every year, we’re impressed and delighted by the quality of work produced by our students on the MLitt in Publishing Studies, and the commitment they show to the development of their careers in the publishing industry. It’s wonderful to be able to award some of the very best of the work with prizes from our Industry Advisory Board partners. We congratulate the individual students on their creativity, knowledge, skills and understanding of the publishing industry, and are particularly delighted to be able to have prize-winning work which celebrates digital savvy and entrepreneurialism – key attributes for the publishers of the future.’

 

Publishing Prizes 2013-14

April 12th, 2015 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Publishing Prizes 2013-14
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The Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication at the University of Stirling is delighted to have made the following awards to students who graduated from the MLitt in Publishing Studies 2013-14.

  • The Freight Books Prize for Publishing Design – Laura Jones
  • The Faber & Faber Prize for Digital Innovation – Liam Crouse
  • The Publishing Scotland Prize for the Best Dissertation – Fanny Schmidt
  • The Routledge Prize for the most Distinguished Student on the MLitt in Publishing Studies – Laura Jones

All the prizes are sponsored by members of the Centre’s Industry Advisory Board.

Laura Jones's prize-winning Read. Write. Ink.

Laura Jones’s prize-winning Read. Write. Ink.

Laura Jones is the recipient of both the Freight Books Prize for Publishing Design. For this former, she produced the fascinating design project Read. Write. Ink., focusing on collectors of literary tattoos. It features writers close at home including Vicki Jarrett, but also examples she sourced via Twitter. For this, Laura wins £100 of cash and £100 of books of her choice from Glasgow-based publisher Freight Books. Fellow student Aija Oksman was Highly Commended in the Freight Books Prize for Publishing Design for her powerful project Pursuit: Empowering Post-Natal Depression.

Laura is also the winner of the Routledge Prize for the most Distinguished Student on the MLitt in Publishing Studies, thus winning £200 of books from Taylor & Francis. Laura’s overall grade profile on the course was consistently high, and alongside her Publishing Project she produced extremely strong work including the dissertation, ‘Amazon: Friend or Foe?’. Laura is now working at Glasgow publisher Saraband Books.

Fanny Schmidt’s prize-winning dissertation, for which she will receive £100 of books of her choice from Publishing Scotland’s BooksFromScotland.com, is titled ‘Copyright, Books and Social Media’. The dissertation, as tis abstract explains, ‘examines the interrelation between copyright and authorship on social media platforms, arguing that that it should be awarded with both a fair dealing exemption for the use of copyrighted material in those spaces and also a better protection of the copyright of original material produced for social media. It further examines whether or not social media content should be awarded authorship status in order to support the claim for copyright. However, the findings suggest that due to the high level of prosumption on social media, authorship in the traditional sense cannot be granted; calling into question the copyright legislation these websites should receive.’ A pdf of Fanny’s dissertation is available via this link. Fanny is now working at Bloomsbury Academic.

Liam Crouse is the winner of the Faber & Faber Prize for Digital Innovation, for his work developing the concept of and designs for a geospacial app mapping out the life of the celebrated Gaelic poet Duncan Bàn MacIntyre along the West Highland Way. Liam was the recipient of the inaugural Gaelic Books Council Scholarship at the Stirling Centre for International Publishing & Communication. His aware consists of a two-day placement with Faber & Faber in London, during which he will have the opportunity to meet with the heads of Faber Digital, Faber Factory, and the marketing team. A previous recipient of the award, Claire Jeffery, writes about her experience here.

Liam Crouse's prize-winning app The Duncan Ban Trail

Liam Crouse’s prize-winning app The Duncan Ban Trail

Professor Claire Squires, Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, commented that ‘It’s a great validation of our MLitt in Publishing Studies to have these industry-sponsored prizes, which showcase the work of the Centre and its students. We congratulate the individual students on their creativity, knowledge, skills and understanding of the publishing industry, and are particularly delighted to be able to have prize-winning work which celebrate digital savvy and entrepreneurialism – key attributes for the publishers of the future.’

Gaelic Books Council Scholarship report – Liam Crouse

February 9th, 2015 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Gaelic Books Council Scholarship report – Liam Crouse
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Liam Crouse, the first recipient of the Gaelic Books Council Scholarship, reports on his award:

Profile-Publishing1My initial interest in Scottish Gaelic literature was fostered during my undergraduate degree in Celtic and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. Two forms of prose, the short story and the novel, were instrumental by both fostering my linguistic ability and cementing my interest in Gaelic-language literature. Following graduation, during my return home, my once fluent conversational skills began to ebb. However, by engaging with the modern literature, I was able to keep some semblance of fluency. It was during this period that I recognised the importance of literature to minority languages – not only in terms of cultural value, but also to foster usage and regeneration.

Unlike the English-language publishing industry, in the Gaelic world we need more – more books, more authors, more publishers, more support. That was one of the reasons for creating the Gaelic Books Council scholarship. Initiatives within the past decade have focused on populating the literary corpus with quality works of prose. All the while continuing with those initiatives, new efforts are being exerted towards developing publishing capacity.

Through the course at the University of Stirling, I have gained an industry-oriented knowledge-base of the publishing industry, both in Britain and abroad. Courses in marketing strategies, business acumen, digital skills and publishing dynamics complemented each other in insightful and appealing ways. These skills were brought together in my publishing project – a geospacial app mapping out the life of the celebrated Gaelic poet Duncan Bàn MacIntyre along the West Highland Way, for which I was awarded the Faber & Faber prize for digital innovation. Towards the conclusion of the course, my thesis concerning the market for Gaelic books allowed me to investigate the multifaceted industry in a way which combined my zeal for the language with my interest in business and marketing practice.

Throughout the course, I gained first-hand experience working with publishers both big and small. The Gaelic Books Council arranged two internships at Gaelic-language publishers, one in Stornoway (Acair)and the other in Highland Perthshire (Grace Note Publications). While working with Grace Note, I helped in the translating of a children’s book which just recently was published in late November. I also secured an internship at the multinational publisher, HarperCollins, working on bilingual dictionaries. The contrast between large and small, multinational and local, and English and Gaelic made for interesting comparison.

I further became involved in Gaelic publishing in a more entrepreneurial spirit in December 2013, when news broke about the termination of Gaeldom’s sole magazine. A small group of enthusiasts and I rose to the challenge and established the first e-zine in the language called Dàna. The past year has been immensely enjoyable and enlightening, allowing me to directly apply many points from the degree. The e-zine is a tangible project with which I feel like I am helping to progress the language’s literature and we intend to continue developing the site’s outreach and influence in the coming years. It will certainly keep me busy!

The scholarship and degree have been both interesting and engaging. To those prospective publishing students: not only will it provide the keen librophile with a good balance of business sense, it will also equip you with the knowledge and connections that will allow you to thrive within the industry.

Note: Liam will shortly be taking up a post as Gaelic Development Office at Ceòlas Uibhist Ltd.

Visiting Speaker: Dr Sam Rayner

January 7th, 2015 by Callum Mitchell Walker | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Visiting Speaker: Dr Sam Rayner
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staffphotosam

On Thursday the 4th December we enjoyed the last visiting speaker of the semester, Dr Sam Rayner, the Director of the Centre for Publishing at the University College of London (UCL). Dr Rayner’s talk focused on her paper ‘Star Texts: The Next Generation’ in which she explores the dynamic modern world of publishing and its impact and potential impact on teaching and learning in society. Dr Rayner analyses the way in which publishers edit and package content for new readers and new markets, the shaping of the literary canon, and the emergence and significance of several types of ‘Star Texts’. Before beginning her talk, Dr Rayner pre-warned us of her use of Star Trek puns (which she admitted she had toned down), however the class was eager to hear about her research on ‘Star Texts’.

But what does Dr Rayner mean by Star Texts?

Dr Rayner began by expressing that throughout her academic and professional life (whether it be teaching, research, working in libraries or bookselling), texts and their status and consumption have been fundamental. This made her interested in observing how we read, keep, study and rate books. As a literary and publishing researcher, Dr Rayner recognised that certain terms related to texts with cultural standing—‘The Canon’ and ‘The Classic’, have “become elusive and complicated by two other means of quality control”—‘The Prize Winners’ and ‘The Book Club Recommendations’. Dr Rayner collectively calls these four groups ‘Star Texts’, and argued, “these texts create clusters in the impossible constellation of the research environment that they belong to”. This term, ‘impossible constellation’ comes from Prof. Ruth Mateus-Berr from the University of Applied Art Vienna, during a conference on artistic research, and she used the term to attempt to describe the “several contradictory methods, understandings and histories” that could be applied to artistic research. Dr Rayner believes that this ‘constellation’ was a particularly useful way of understanding how texts exist in the 21st Century. Her research therefore focuses on the tension between a literary work, and the responses to the literary work in question. Dr Rayner suggested that whilst the text remains unchanged, there is a constant transformative process of the work, born out of the interaction and response from each specific reader.

‘The Classic’

Dr Rayner went on to discuss importance of the transformative star text group of ‘The Classic’. These texts, Dr Rayner argued, are those that most commonly stand the test of time. But what makes a text a ‘Classic’? Dr Rayner pointed out that scholars have very varied views on this question. The ‘Classic’, academics argue, should arguably be “timelessly appealing” and “elevate its author to the status of a god”. Dr Rayner also added that ‘Classics’ can be very subjective, and one individual’s list of ‘Classic’ texts won’t necessarily be the same as that of another individual. However, we do find a curated ‘Classics’ section in a bookshop, and publishers for centuries have created ‘Classic’ lists. This type of text is chosen, designed and marketed by publishers rather than academics (not suggesting they are purely commercial products, however). Dr Rayner asserted that the ‘Classic’ should appeal to every type of reader. She also pointed out that publishers such as Penguin attempt to modernise by means of packaging, engaging with digital, and marketing these timeless texts.

‘The Canon’ 

Dr Rayner next went on to explain another type of ‘Star Text’ known as ‘The Canon’. The establishment sets this group for primarily educational purposes and to define identities within culture. This type of text exists to represent the view of the individual and the preservation of tradition. Dr Rayner went on to discuss how texts have become ‘canonised’ in education through curriculum and have moved away from chronological presentation, towards a clear genre focused syllabi of texts. ‘The Canon’, Dr Rayner believes is undergoing a time of extreme change, and the impact of celebrity culture and national feeling are determining the way texts are canonised in education. Dr Rayner also addressed the issue of whether or not students should be given a prescribed reading list, as arguably this is a means of industrially restraining the individual’s imagination. Perhaps a more effective system would rather encourage young people to love reading and get into a habit of it, Dr Rayner shared to the argument.

‘Prize Winning Fiction’ 

The next type of ‘Star Text’ Dr Rayner explained was the ‘Prize Winning Fiction’ category. Dr Rayner argued that in the modern world of publishing, being nominated for literary prizes quite often means being read or not being read by the reading public. Dr Rayner also discussed how effective creative writing courses are in the emergence of this type of text and the development of a synergy between academics, creative writing and publishing bestsellers. The question was also raised over what should constitute as a ‘prize winner’. Should it be by measured by unit sales or by its literary quality? Furthermore, who should decide on these status elevated texts? Academics, publishers or readers?

‘The Book Club Recommendations’

Following on from Dr Rayner’s previous group of ‘Star Texts’ was the final group of ‘Book Club Recommendations’. This group can also be a prizewinner, but experiences the treatment of being associated with a well-known figure or celebrity. In these cases, the power of an individual’s brand is worth thousands in sales of a title if they have been selected as part of their ‘book club’. This phenomenon arguably gave the book back its ‘social history’ and within these book clubs, the well-known figure(s) (such as Oprah or Richard and Judy) play an active role in choosing, recommending and associating themselves with a title. Dr Rayner described how in a sense these individuals act as mediators between the author’s text and the audience. Book clubs show more than any other type of ‘Star Text’ the tension between the cultural and the commercial that exists in the book trade.

Merely ‘Solar Flares’ or Eternal ‘Burning Stars’?

Dr Rayner developed her argument by observing the conflict between cultural and academic responses of texts and the importance of reader interaction and marketing campaigns on the success of these titles. In the vast ‘constellation’ of texts in the current market, Dr Rayner believes that grouping these ‘Star Texts’ helps us to identify what drives us when we choose what we are reading. The development of technology also makes the text organic, with digital transforming the way in which we read, store and share text. Dr Rayner’s paper raised several interesting debates on the textual environment and what defines a text as a ‘Star’ and indeed what cultural, academic and commercial forces play a part. By the end of Dr Rayner’s talk, we were ready to “boldly go where no researchers have gone before” and explore the future of ‘Star Texts’ and textual constellations!

 

 

 

Lectureship in Digital Media and Publishing

November 14th, 2014 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Lectureship in Digital Media and Publishing
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We’re very sad to announce that Dr Padmini Ray Murray will be leaving us at Christmas (for a post in India on the teaching faculty at the Centre of Public History at the Srishti School for Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore). We’ll miss her greatly, but we’re sure future collaborations will ensue.

That said, we’re happy to be announcing a vacancy for a Lecturer in Digital Media & Publishing, to teach and research both in the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication, and also in our Division of Communications, Media and Culture.

Full details and the job specification are available from here. Please do contact our Director, Professor Claire Squires, if you’re interested in informally discussing the role.

The Electric Bookshop birthday party

November 5th, 2014 by Paula De Lucas Gudiel | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on The Electric Bookshop birthday party
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B0F7SsXCQAAz8GZOn Thursday, October 16th was the 4th birthday of the Electric Bookshop. They celebrated it with an event in Edinburgh in which attendants could enjoy wine, cupcakes and three wonderful speakers. At the beginning of the evening, the members of the organisation of the Electric bookshop, Claire Stewart, Peggy Hughes and Padmini Ray Murray, discussed what their favourite moments of the year were. Primarely, for new comers as me, this was very helpful to know more about what they focus on. The organisation holds events to congregate people from various fields: technology, publishing, design and literature. As intimidating as this mixture might sound, they can be proud for having a big participation in their debates.

B0F80beIcAEWLOxThe first speaker to participate was Kate Ho, Managing Director of Interface3, which designs and exciting customer branded experiences using innovative technologies (such as Augmented Reality, Mobile Games). At the moment, Kate Ho is focusing on educational games, and she spoke about her project Stobhill, a 3D interactive experience based on Edwin Morgan’s poem with the same name. The game is set in a scary abandoned hospital that shares the name with the title. The players are supposed to use the audio of three people and their stories related to the building to work on their achievements in the game, and so find about the disturbing plot and terrorific resolution.

B0GG7KPCUAAsKGMThe second speaker who took part in the event was Alan Trotter. He is a writer from Aberdeen, winner of the Sceptre Prize for emerging writers and currently studying his PhD in University of Glasgow, researching for his project called Bodies of work: unusual uses of the physical form of the book. His work is characteristic for his study on the difference between printed text and text on the screen (HTML). In his participation, he talked about the play with form and this web-experiment he is working on.

The last speaker in the evening was Rob Morgan. Unfortunately, he couldn’t attend the event physically, but when the venue is organised by technology geeks, there’s always a way to sort out difficulties, so we could enjoy of his participation through Skype. Rob Morgan is a game writer, narrative designer and voice director. His participation was about the control and content of the player in a videogame, since this is very different from those in books. Fielectric-logo2rst, he discussed how the player interacts in the game, how he can control the story and the plot, but also how some games don’t give the player any choices to develop the plot in the game. Regarding the content of a game, he also explained how to create characters that the players can be identified with, how to make it exciting and interesting so the player can work on the development of the character, since he is the one in control of the storyline in the videogame.

This event clearly brought together different fields that, actually, work together most of the times. At the same time, it also was enlightening to learn more about how technology, set in the modern world, and literature, existing since ancient ages, come along so well together.

Behind the Digital Scenes at Faber & Faber

October 17th, 2014 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Behind the Digital Scenes at Faber & Faber
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FFAs the incredibly honoured 2013 winner of the Faber & Faber prize for Digital Innovation, I travelled down to London for an incredible two-day tour behind the digital scenes at Faber.

I visited three amazing departments with digital publishing at their core: Digital, Faber Factory and Marketing. And what was surprising was how digital was intrinsic to each, and yet, they were completely different.

The Digital department made the nerdish inner me very happy. Running through Faber’s app history, from the innovative The Waste Land app through its infamous Malcom Tucker and stunning Shakespeare apps, we arrived at its newest release The Animator’s Survival Kit. Faber took the teaching aid for animation and cartoon drawing by renowned artist Richard Williams and translated it into a digital format as only it could, once again breaking the mould for digital. The Survival Kit uses digital to teach, introducing features that add to the text, such as controllable animation sequences to see frame-by-frame movement, grasping a truth that not many understand: digital cannot simply be a copy of a paper product. The best bit, however, was when I got the chance to give feedback on the digital brief for an upcoming app… very exciting.

Suitably geared up from a morning in apps, I moved on to find out more about Faber Factory and its digital services for publishers. I was a starstruck in a different way, as I’d seen Faber Factory, one of the driving forces in the UK behind digitalisation among the smaller publishers, first-hand in my internship and repeatedly in my digital-focused dissertation. While gains of digital can be immense, the cost is prohibitive for small publishers, and increasingly large players in the market leave little room. And that is where the incredibly enthusiastic Factory team come in, managing, converting, and negotiating on behalf of their clients. I had a great time finding out more on what they did, and left very much convinced that one of the very few publishers offering services is doing it right.

A screenshot from Claire Jeffery’s prize-winning Jekyll & Hyde app

The next day I ventured further up the stairs to find out more about digital marketing. I’ll admit I expected to hear the usual vague buzzwords: ‘social media’, ‘online presence’, ‘SEOs’, etc. So when I actually arrived at the department it was refreshing to discover more about digital marketing beyond social media and videos. I saw how the traditional eclectic Faber was balanced with a new digital approach based on big data. Faber is one of the publishers just beginning to explore big data and it is amazing how much can be revealed. A search for my favourite author Jasper Fforde revealed key phrases, new releases, who was talking about him, which websites they visited… It was incredible and showed the impact that digital innovation is having on marketing. What I appreciated in my visit to marketing in Faber was the shift to a targeted approach based on statistics and information with the same heart and passion underneath, exactly as I’d always thought the process should be.

I saw three different sides to digital in my visit, each different and each needed. But what also really struck me was how, in little under a year through the Publishing Studies course at the University of Stirling, I’d gone from knowing a little about the publishing process to having a in-depth understanding not only of traditional publishing but also of the challenges and opportunities of digital publishing. I found myself debating all sorts of related issues with very passionate people and that was what struck me. To get into publishing you have to be absolutely passionate for what you want do. Every comma in every book, every new innovation, every campaign and every interaction along the chain is driven by people who care deeply about publishing.

On a personal note, there are a couple of things I will take away from this.

(1) Always say yes to a free book.

(2) There is only one way a literary trip to London should end: an Agatha Christie play, a visit to Baker Street and the exploration of many bookshops.

(3) Be completely and utterly passionate in everything you do.

I’d like to thank all the people from the University of Stirling and Faber & Faber who made the trip possible and everyone on the two-day tour who were so welcoming and encouraging.

Claire Jeffery now works at Prepress Projects in Perth.

 

 

By the Book: thoughts on the conference

June 2nd, 2014 by SCIPC | Posted in Blog | 1 Comment
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Rachel Noorda, PhD researcher in the Stirling Centre for International Publishing & Communication, reports on attending the By the Book conference in Florence:

Rachel Noorda presenting her paper

Rachel Noorda presenting her paper

I had the great pleasure of attending and presenting at the “By the Book” publishing studies conference which was jointly organised by Benoît Berthou (Sorbonne Paris Cité University), Miha Kovač (University of Ljubljana) and Angus Phillips (Oxford Brookes University) and held on May 23 and 24. The conference location was beautiful—and it was my first time to Italy—but the best part was listening to the exciting research that is taking place internationally in the publishing studies field. The conference brought researchers from the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Croatia, Lithuania and even South Africa. The focus of the conference was “the book and the study of its digital transformation” but the presenters approached this wide topic from various angles relating to their own experiences in publishing and academic areas of expertise.

This was my first experience presenting a paper at an academic conference. It was a perfect conference to be my first because it was small and intimate, with researchers who were all interested in publishing. I spoke about books as souvenirs, using data I collected from observing the bookselling practices of gift shops at heritage sites in Scotland, particularly those sites run by Historic Scotland.

Stevie Mardsen, fellow PhD Publishing Studies student from the University of Stirling, also presentedFlorence at the “By the Book” conference. Not only was her presentation stellar, but it was comforting to have a friend at the conference right from the beginning. Stevie’s PhD research is focused on the Saltire Society’s literary book awards and so her presentation addressed the importance to some judges to have a physical copy of the book for judging and how this affects the judging process.

All in all, a wonderful experience! There was talk at the end of the conference about holding a similar conference next year, and if so, I will certainly be in attendance.