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  • Writer's pictureRaphaël Freeman

Technology in Traditional Book Manufacture

So most people don’t actually know what is involved in manufacturing a book. It is assumed that “it’s just done on computer” and yes a computer is very much part of the process.

Books today appear in two media: the first one is paper and I think most of us agree that this should be called a “book.” The second one appears on glass or plastic and tends to be knows as an ebook.

However looking at the traditional format or as a friend of mine likes to call it, “the dead wood version” most of the process of production has indeed become digital.

Authors write their manuscript in Word and typesetters layout them out in InDesign and the final PDF is sent via the internet to the printer where the digital file is imposed digitally and sent direct to plates.

Alternatively the book is created as a digital ebook.

However when printing a traditional book, the first time that the words actually hit paper is when they are actually printed…

Well almost.

You see one bit that I missed out was the editing of the manuscript. Now editing goes through various stages of line editing, copy editing and proofreading (there are different systems) and most of this is done in Word before typesetting.

However after typesetting there is a dispute. As a typesetter with multiple displays (yes four of them!) I prefer to receive a marked-up PDF. The advantage of this is that I receive the PDF from the client immediately (the postal service can take a few weeks to deliver a manuscript) and Acrobat nicely displays all the corrections that I can tick off once complete. A “how-to” is on my site [here].

However interestingly enough proofreaders find it hard to proofread on screen. I guess the 72 dpi landscape screen that most of use isn’t quite as a 600 or better still, 1200 dpi laser printed pages (press is around 3,000 dpi). So the compromise is to correct on paper and enter corrections on screen. Not the most efficient of workflows.

It occurred to me that perhaps the iPad could be a solution and indeed Adobe has just released a new version of Adobe Reader for iPad which handles corrections better than before. On my iPad 3 it’s still slow and although the drawing is great on it, selecting text isn't so easy although you can mark to delete quite easily. For some reason they didn’t give the option to insert or replace text which unfortunately makes it more or less useless.

Oh well Adobe at least you are trying.

If there are any editors or proofreaders out there using their tablets to do their job I would love to hear from you!

If you have a book that needs typesetting, then please feel free get in touch with us to discuss your requirements.

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