DIGITAL PUBLISHING PRODUCTION
Production is what we call the series of processes that takes a final, approved manuscript into its polished, readable form. Production encompasses copyediting, the layout of your text and media objects, and the proofing of those typeset manuscripts as well as the creation of various formats of those texts and the ultimate publication of the content to your website.
Production is what we call the series of processes that takes a final, approved manuscript into its polished, readable form. Production encompasses copyediting, the layout of your text and media objects, and the proofing of those typeset manuscripts as well as the creation of various formats of those texts and the ultimate publication of the content to your website. The Production stage involves a host of people in the publishing cycle. These collaborators bring a range of specialized skills and must, ideally, be managed by a production editor who can track and coordinate the movement of the articles.
Although some commercial publishers have in-house production staffs, most contract out at least some services, such as copyediting and proofreading to freelancers. Smaller publishers and independent operations, such as our library-supported journal staffs must make decisions about whether to manage all production tasks “in-house” with editorial and staff fulfilling all roles, or whether to employ freelancers or vendor services. The decision to contract work is largely one of cost versus time for many editorial staffs and publishers; paying a freelancer to do time consuming work like line editing can reduce the burden on editors, but without a source of funding, apportioning out time-intensive and detail oriented work to editors and staff members may be the only option. It is also important to remember that copyediting and typesetting are specialized, learned skills. Hiring a freelancer or vendor may also bring expertise to these tasks that no one on your current staff has. However, managing freelancers, including advertising for one, hiring, chasing past due work, and checking for quality, can be time consuming. Using a vendor who manages freelancer labor in turn might be the best solution for the time-strapped editor, but can often be the most expensive option with the least amount of control over the quality of the work.
Copyediting is a specialized skill requiring a strong command of language and style as well as a keen eye for detail and consistency. It can also be one of the most time consuming production processes. Even for small editorial operations, hiring a copyeditor can sometimes be in reach financially and can improve the quality of the publication by advancing the speed of production and the overall quality of the final edited work. A professional copyeditor might charge as much as $35 per hour but, depending on the experience of the editor, you might be able to contract services at a much more reasonable rate, for instance by hiring a graduate student who is looking for experience before advancing to a wider market. Advertising on campus or directly to English or Creative Writing programs might be a way to find a freelance editor and provide opportunities for students to gain valuable resume experience in turn. Translators or copyeditors who might help with authors writing in English as a second language might also be sourced from graduate programs in translation or languages on campus as well.
Copyeditors don’t just check to make sure the rules of grammar are followed and spelling is correct; they ensure that all aspects of written style are consistent across your articles. This includes making sure that captions and bibliographic references follow a consistent format and that conventions like numbering, callouts for figures and tables, and footnotes and endnotes. Whether you are using freelancer or taking on the work of copyediting yourself, your style guide will be an invaluable reference tool for ensuring the quality and uniformity of your content. You can read more about style guides in Week 4.
Although some publications use a simple running text format, like what you’ll see on many blogs today, most digital publications still produce galleys – downloadable, printable, or otherwise portable versions of the article – that mimic the look of a styled, print publication. This adherence to styling approximates the look and feel of traditional, established publication and can lend a sense of professionalism and authority. A typeset page can also help to condense and organize information better than a long running text. Typesetting is a job that can be transferred to a freelancer or vendor, but many formats can be typeset and produced with tools that are easily procured and relatively quick to learn how to use. In fact, many large commercial publishers require authors to submit typeset manuscripts to cut down on their own production processes, so understanding how to use templates and software tools to produce formatted manuscripts can be a beneficial skill to emerging researchers and scholars who hope to publish in these venues in the future.
- Microsoft Word: The popular word processing software Microsoft Word can be used as a tool for typesetting through the use of templates. Templates, marked up identify elements of the text including headings, paragraphs, footnotes and so on, and set consistent margins, column sizes and other page elements, can be used to apply these styles to any manuscript. Microsoft Word templates can be shared simply by sending a template file as a word file and require very little training to use. Because of the ease of use, the ability to customize the templates, and the absence of cost, they make a good option for many independent editorial boards and publishers. Templated documents in Microsoft Word can be exported in PDF formats or HTML which, with some cleanup, can be used for publishing on the web and can display multimedia content.
- InDesign: Another popular local software solution to typesetting is InDesign. InDesign is a software designed by Adobe that can also be used with templates to ensure consistent styling of text and overall appearance of documents, and offers greater flexibility in the design of the template. This customization might be useful in the creation of artistist and bespoke presentations or especially image-heavy publications. InDesign does offer additional outputs including ePUB. Both the software for InDesign and templates usually need to be purchased and the learning curve for the software is more steep than that required for Microsoft Word templates. Although InDesign can offer a customized and professional looking typeset, it may not be the best option for an editorial board to adopt unless they are willing to commit to continued access to the software and to training or hiring someone who can use it.
- LaTex Editors: A LaTex editor is an application which transforms text that is marked up by the author or typesetter into a typeset document based on an installed template. In a LaTex editor, the author or typesetter adds notations to a document’s text to denote, for instance, that a line of text is a title, header, or footnote. These notations, called markup, are interpreted by the editor and translated into styling. For instance, the markup “\title” placed before the title of the article would tell the editor to render the title in a particular font and size. LaTex editors are a popular method of typesetting for many publishers and scholars, especially in science and medicine, where the editors are particularly helpful in rendering tables and equations with consistency. Thus there are a huge number and variety of templates available for download and most LaTex editors can produce galleys in a range of formats, including PDF, HTML, and XML. However, a LaTex editor requires learning how to use the markup language to notate manuscripts. Although there are a variety of free-to-use editors on the web, and the acquisition of software therefore isn’t necessary, a LaTex editor may not be a good option for a group that isn’t ready to commit to training staff year after year. Some applications like Overleaf are developing rich text editors to make it easier to use the editor without learning markup so these options might become more appealing over time.
Each publication has different audiences and kinds of content, and therefore the kinds of formats they need to publish in will also vary.
- HTML: HTML is the markup language that largely powers the web. HTML documents use tags in combination with style sheets to control the display and styling of content and produce links between content. HTML is flexible in that it can be adapted to different web displays; HTML texts can be adapted to make them easy to read on mobile devices like tablets and phones. Therefore it might be a good format to produce your content in if you think that your publication has an audience that is likely to read your content primarily online, or wants a variety of access options. HTML is a dynamic format that can support embedded videos and other media content, so if your publication is multimodal by design, an HTML workflow may be for you.
- PDF: PDF documents are a staple, stable file format that makes your content downloadable, portable, and can aid in preservation. A PDF document does not require a particular software program to access (like a MS Word document that, for the most part, requires the branded software program to open and use), but can be displayed by a variety of browsers, programs, and devices. Because of this interoperability and the static nature of the file, PDFs are a preferred format for long term storage. They are also easily downloaded and shared (for instance, as email attachments) because they can be relatively compressed and don’t need to be packaged with external media files.
- ePUB: ePUB is a format that is used for e-books. If you are producing books or full issue galleys that might benefit from the organization and functionality of using an e-reader or e-reader app, this format provides compatibility with many devices and applications.
- XML: XML (Extensible Markup Language) is another markup language (like HTML) which can be used to control the organization, appearance of the content it captures. However, XML is not based on a set of pre-defined tags but allows the user to create and direct the behaviour of the markups, making it particularly flexible and customizable. XML works independent of any software making it a good tool for sharing and storing data, which is why XML is used by publishers and content aggregators, who require journals to submit their files in a particular XML markup ensuring compatibility with their own platform. Each XML standard relies on a customized set of instructions – the Document Type Definition, or DTD – that defines the structure and tags in the markup, so a certain amount of knowledge and expertise is required to produce XML files. There are limited tools available to help generate XML without hand coding.
Digital open access publishing can be inclusive and democratizing because it widens the reach and removes financial barriers to scholarship. However, without properly adhering to guidelines and procedures for accessibility, your content may still not be available to individuals with disabilities, especially visual impairments. Texts that are not machine readable or well organized cause difficulties for screen readers, a kind of assistive technology that reads computerized texts aloud. Other web design choices, like color schemes with low contrast, or failing to include descriptive text and audio, can make your site inaccessible. These same principles hold true when creating galleys. Article text should have good organization and use consistent styling for headings, paragraphs, captions, and citations. Images should be given descriptive alternate text. You should not rely on color or other purely visual elements to convey information.
For more on web accessibility and creating accessible PDF documents, visit the Production section in Tools and Templates.
New articles and journal issues will be published to your journal website, but your publication doesn’t necessarily live in just one place on the web. Depositing copies of your content or linking access through indexes or databases is an important way to increase the visibility and reach of your journal. Although your work can and likely will end up living in more than one place on the internet, you should consider what will be the “permanent” or most stable home for your content. Digital publishing poses very immediate challenges to discoverability and preservation of scholarship. Should the publication or website that an article is published cease to operate, ongoing access to that research may be cut off. This is why it is important to embed preservation in your production practice, to ensure the ongoing safety and utility of the articles you work hard to bring to publication.
One way to preserve your content is to place it in an institutional repository. Here at Columbia, our Academic Commons repository provides a means of storing content longterm, with the assurance that regular preservation checks and actions will be made by the repository’s administrators. The AC repository also provides each article with a stable URL, and this location can be registered for a DOI (Digital Object Identifier), a unique code that is recorded and can be used cite the article and links to its stable URL home. Whether or not you have access to a repository, you can still put a thoughtful web archiving policy in place for your publication, and there are a variety of tools and organizations that can aid in preservation. LOCKSS and CLOCKSS are two versions of a libraries/publisher collaboration to create accessible copies and archives of digital publications, Portico is an independent organization providing preservation services, and many regional consortia have set up hosting services for e-publications to provide stability and preservation. Talk to your librarian or archivist about the tools and repositories that are used by your institution, or in partnership with consortial partners. All the work that goes into the review, editing, and production of your journal should result in a permanent, meaningful contribution to the scholarly record, which your plan for preservation can ensure.