The Publishing Program is accepting Sessional Instructor applications for the Spring 2020 (1201) semester.
Application Deadline: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 (4:30pm)
The Publishing Program is accepting Sessional Instructor applications for the Spring 2020 (1201) semester.
Application Deadline: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 (4:30pm)
It’s been too long. Back in 2013, I wrote about moving Publishing@SFU’s web infrastructure off of physical servers in my office and onto nice virtual servers on SFU’s shared hosting service. It was so nice to not worry about power outages and other physical-world hassles. It was as though those servers didn’t even exist anymore. Out of sight, out of mind.
The problem with “out of mind” is that it really is that. So over the intervening years, while our website chugged along and gathered a lot of content, we probably didn’t spend as much time keeping it all tuned up and upgraded as we should have. The inevitable would happen… and it did.
We got hacked last Thursday. Or probably at some point well before that, but the site went down on Thursday. Juan and I had a good look at the back end of the site, wondering if we could recover from it. But that server install was fully six years old, well past its upgrade lifespan. So we pulled the plug. Well, virtually we did: we requested a service ticket for someone to pull the plug. Metaphorically, I mean; really, what happened is someone at SFU IT typed some keystrokes and publishing.sfu.ca ceased to exist.
We are back, a week later, with a properly managed and backed-up host on Reclaim Hosting. Interestingly, if you read that same post from 2013, in which I talked about moving to new server infrastructure, I also remarked that we were excited about working with Reclaim Hosting for our (then) new PUB101 course. So after six years of absolutely stellar service from Reclaim on behalf of our students, we are finally moving our own stuff onto their planet as well.
As always, I can’t say enough good things about Reclaim. They are completely on the ball, their priorities are right, and they just keep getting better. Jim & Tim & crew, you’re the best!
SFU Publishing is extremely pleased to announce that Dominique Raccah, the awarding-winning entrepreneurial Publisher and CEO of Sourcebooks, is the Jim Douglas Lecturer for 2019. Sourcebooks is America’s largest woman-owned book publisher as well the largest trade book publisher in Chicago.
September 25, 2019 @ 7 pm
Room 1400 – SFU Harbour Centre
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a free seat
Dominique founded Sourcebooks from her home in 1987. Originally a source of financial information for bankers, Dominique has lead a continuously growing, pioneering general book publishing house that happily produces everything from adult and teen fiction, to top titles in children’s books, to baby names and college guides.
The publisher has created scores of New York Times bestsellers, hundreds of national bestsellers, and #1 selling titles in perennial categories. Sourcebooks today has over 140 employees, publishes more than 350 new titles each year, and is proud to be one of the top book publishers in America. Dominique has been widely recognized as a leader in innovation in book publishing – Sourcebooks has won every innovation award that the industry gives – as well as in the field itself, being named Publishers Weekly Person of the Year in 2016.
Dominique is deeply interested in expanding readership, creating a world of readers, and connecting authors and readers in new ways. An inspiring and passionate presenter, Dominique will speak about innovation in publishing, the future of book publishing and entrepreneurship, and women in the publishing industry.
The Publishing Program is reposting for a TA (Teaching Assistant) for PUB 131 – Publication Design Technologies for Fall 2019.
Application Deadline: Thursday, August 22, 2019 (4:30pm)
Email Applications to: email@example.com
Posting Details and Priority:
UBC Press is looking for a person to join them in the marketing department. This is the Manager of Advertising and Promotions, and it oversees catalogue production and design, advertising, and all marketing materials design and production, as well as the overall look of the Press’s materials. They are looking for someone with strong design and project management skills and experience.
All the details can be found on the UBC job postings page: https://www.hr.ubc.ca/careers-postings/staff-s.php. Search “UBC Press” to pull up the job.
The Publishing Program is now accepting TA (Teaching Assistant) applications for Fall 2019.
Application Deadline: Monday, July 8, 2019 (4:30pm)
Email Applications to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posting Details and Priority
The Publishing Program is accepting Sessional Instructor applications for the Fall 2019 (1197) semester.
Application Deadline: Wednesday, July 3, 2019 (4:30pm)
Story by Jazmin Welch, Master of Publishing student
The MaRS Discovery District was buzzing with excitement this past week as I entered into BookNet’s annual Tech Forum & ebookcraft conference. I felt an overwhelming sense of curiosity, not knowing exactly what I would discover, but eager to soak in as much as I possibly could from some of the most innovative and prominent leaders in the publishing industry today. With my laptop open ready to take notes and a coffee in hand, I was all ears.
It was an absolute pleasure to see that the 2019 programming for both ebookcraft and Tech Forum had a strong focus on accessibility and diversity. Arguably publishers are still some of the most prominent gatekeepers of what content reaches consumers and therefore publishers have such an important duty in ensuring that diverse voices are heard and that the content they produce is accessible for all. I didn’t expect that I would be touched by the presentations at a conference about technology in the publishing world but it made me proud to be part of this traditionally colonial industry, whose current members are working incredibly hard to break away from the darker areas of it’s past to create a truly inclusive industry.
I had the incredible opportunity to chat with people from all over the world, including two men from O’Reilly in the States, and two women from Book Wire in Brazil, along with many young women from Penguin and Simon and Schuster among others. Their questions and comments brought so much more to the table.
Here is a recap of my highlights from the conference!
Ritu Bhasin of Bhasin Consulting Inc. was a stellar presenter, I felt like I was watching a Ted Talk, but the best part was that she gave the audience actionable tools to start using right away in order to create inclusive companies.
I didn’t realize that there were different levels of diversity. Compliance represents the level to which a company is simply following government regulated diversity legislature, diversity is the quantitative representation of groups which often feels like tokenism since it’s just looking at the numbers (for example how many women or visible minorities are working at a company), and lastly inclusion is the true qualitative inclusion of diversity into the company by allowing employees to bring their authentic selves to work. It is at this stage that anti-oppression and decolonization can really start to take place, and where employees don’t have to mask or deflect biases. At the inclusion level, companies can start to attack the system and unwind the underlying ideologies.
From here Bhasin went into a detailed analysis of bias which to her is the fundamental problem underlying the diversity issue. People are prone to bias as we are programmed to be afraid of people who are different from us. Bhasin takes care to back up her talk with neuroscience, really grounding her action steps in research. She says that to attack our own personal biases we need to start recognizing difference. The old way of thinking about diversity is to believe that we are all the same, but in order to actually catch ourselves and start to break down our inherent biases we need to make our unconscious decision making conscious. Bhasin defined a 2 step process:
Bhasin also provided 4 strategies for inclusion:
Expand your circles and practices: have more meaningful, deeper conversations, understand differences and acknowledge who you’re talking up versus talking down.
I found the candid fireside chat that Bhasin had with Leonicka Valcius following the presentation equally eye opening. I’ve already started to put her methods into practice. As a straight white cis woman, I have a privilege that can’t be denied and although I grew up with the ideals that everyone is equal and deserves to be treated equally, I understand that there are relentless underlying biases that are so deeply entrenched that I personally have so much work to do to unravel hundred of years of sterotying, bias and inequality. One thing that can be hard is having those meaningful conversations that I recounted above. Bhasin acknowledged that people typically avoid conversations with those different from us in order to not offend. I can attest to this, I think I’m being overly nice and then just end up saying nothing which will do us no good in terms of breaking down those biases. Bhasin recommended asking for permission. for example, upon engaging with a person who told her that they suffer from bipolar disorder, she said she asked them if she could have permission to ask her about her experiences as a person living with bipolar disorder. From there the deeper conversation could begin. I thought this was a very simple and powerful tool to open up the floor for meaningful discussion.
Both Noah Genner of BookNet Canada and Kate Edwards of ACP presented on the state of diversity in the publishing industry. The 2018 Canadian Book Publishing Diversity Baseline Survey shows that the industry is still overwhelmingly run by white people especially in leadership positions, and is mostly composed of women, but less so in leadership roles. Edwards noted some of the initiatives that publishers are starting to implement to increase diversity in their companies. These included:
Genner’s data looked at diversity from the book and content perspective. BookNet’s survey found that 62% of respondents say they seek out diverse books and 22% say they can’t find what they’re looking for. People want to see books that represent themselves. The results are in! These are high stats and as members of the publishing industry we should be acting on these numbers.
The numbers presented by Genner and Edwards tied nicely into a presentation by Wattpad with Ashleigh Gardner. Wattpad is harnessing data and technology to bring more diversity into publishing. Because of their incredibly large user base of writers and readers they are able to see where people are located and the type of books they are reading. Emerging trends that Wattpad is tracking show a strong business case for diversity in publishing. For example a prominent tag right now is #muslimromance. LGBT stories are also growing in demand. People are looking for more diverse titles to read and love reading about strong women. The traditional publishing industry can be problematic to publishing diverse voices since publishers use comp titles to make a sales case for new books. In this model, diverse voices aren’t published simply because they haven’t been published in the past, but this issue is eradicated with Wattpad where users post their own stories and self tag them for Wattpad readers to find. If a book becomes popular and is read by thousands of people, there is no need for a comp title. The proof is in the data!
We continued to dive head first into data with a stacked panel on AI featuring Wendy Reid from Kobo, Joshua Tallent of Firebrand Technologies, Monica Landers of Storyfit, and Jens Tröger from Bookalope.
The consensus on this panel discussion of experts in the AI field was that AI will never operate entirely without human intelligence. For example you can get an AI to do your ebook tagging to speed up the process, but a human should still review it. An example provided was the website this person does not exist which showcases faces created entirely by AI, but you can still tell that a robot made them (for the most part). It will of course continue to get better, but it was reassuring to hear a panel of experts strongly concur that robots are not taking over any time soon.
The benefit of AI, is that it can harness and review millions of pieces of data and spit out the results of that review very quickly, tasks that no human mind could ever complete.
The panel also discussed neural net, a type of AI where there are no inputs added by the developer so the machine is let loose on large amounts of data to learn patterns on its own. This sounds like it would be great because there would be no bias that would be added inherently by the developer but unforeseeable issues still arise based on the data that the machine picks up. This can be problematic if people purposefully abuse the technology so that it learns unsavoury traits. Another example of this is the recent Amazon hiring story where the AI didn’t pick any female candidates because there were no women in their data set. Based on some backfiring AI’s, it seems like developer inputs are necessary. Since this is the case, there is a lot riding on the clean input of data. One of the panelists stated that, “if you garbage in, you’ll get garbage out” because your AI will spit your bad data and biases right back at you if that’s what data it’s been trained on.
AI’s need to be trained properly. For example, Google’s capcha is one of the greatest examples of a global AI training. Everytime you choose what parts of an image have a car in them to prove that you aren’t a robot, you’re actually training a robot to pick out objects in an image. I’ve submitted countless Kapcha surveys and had never considered that I was helping out Google in the process!
The audience for this panel was not filled with AI developers, so a key message nearing the end of the panel was to encourage all of us to jump hurdles with new tech, because the pain of learning will only become harder and harder as new technologies emerge.
Dave Cramer started the day off with a discussion on the future of digital reading (full presentation here). After recapping the history of ereaders and various ebook formats, he turned to the opportunities that lie ahead. Cramer spoke candidly and did not hold back his disdain for the fixity of certain ebook formats (fixed layout ebooks primarily). He noted that even big publishers make bad ebooks and that even though ebook development has come a long way, it still has a long way to go. He argued for digital publications to move to the web and away from their EPUB containers. The future of digital reading is the removal of the reading systems all together. Web publications should be produced in a browser friendly format or BFF (how great is this term), so that it “plays nice” across all devices and platforms.
Cramer often acknowledges the developers in the room who are actively working to make more accessible publications. There was a stirring sense of collaboration throughout the day. When speakers mentioned various code initiatives they are working on, they all gave acknowledgement to those who have helped them with the project and stated that it’s open access for others to build upon and refine. One speaker also linked to their project on Github in an effort to have the community actively report bugs. With this strong sense of community already forming in the morning of day one, I knew I was in for a great conference!
Following Cramer’s inspiring talk, we then jumped into some specifics about ebooks (for the full powerpoint, click here). Shannon Culver from eBOUND Canada and Sabina Iseli-Otto from NNELS (National Network for Equitable Library Service) talked about what’s needed to really make eBooks right. This doesn’t mean how they look, but if ebook are made properly they should be as accessible as possible and they should be built to last. They started out by explaining exactly what it means for an ebook to be accessible, which they defined using the following elements:
The speakers then moved into a discussion on the state of current ebooks and the challenges we are still facing with the EPUB format. These include:
I was surprised to learn that in many cases, especially academic publishing, PDF’s are still a pervasive format for digital texts. Page numbers are very important in academic fields, which is very problematic when faced with the reflowability of EPUB’s. This is a hard issue to reconcile for a standardized format and this presentation opened my eyes to how difficult it is to create an ebook format that works for everyone.
I really liked the quote the speakers included by Marisa DeMeglio who stated, “accessibility should be accessible”. This seems obvious, but for those who are trying to create accessible publications, the guidelines should be widely accessible and easy to find and follow. They then cited many resources to use to help you build accessible EPUB’s such as Laura Brady’s video on Lynda.com. Another issue related to creating bulletproof ebooks is that ongoing training is required, but it’s an important investment for publishers to make.
In the end, they made a case for “born-accessible publishing” which is the creation of documents that start accessible rather than it being an afterthought. Accessibility for edge cases really ends up benefiting everyone, such as the ramps that are designed to allow wheelchairs easy access into buildings that also help out the larger user base of parents pushing strollers up the ramps. Accessible ebooks benefit those with perceptual disabilities but they also improve SEO and discoverability. It’s good for everyone!
The following presentation by Nellie McKesson of Hederis was incredibly exciting but also quite technical. She discussed how the platform Hederis allows publishers to create publications directly in the browser (based on paged.js). Starting with uploading your Microsoft file you can convert to EPUB and print PDF. Launching in the summer designers will also be able to go into the browser based publication and typeset the document. This was absolutely fascinating to see! I look forward to the launch of the design portion and I’m marking my calendar so that I can run one of my projects through the platform. This seems like an absolutely ground-breaking and revolutionary approach to publishing that will empower all publishers to create better works without needing a strong coding background. This was one of the best parts about the conference that I was a bit intimidated about at first: programming. Even though some presentations were technical, the speakers made them easy to follow and had valuable insights for people who know very little about the coding that goes on behind the scenes in ebook production like me!
One problem I hadn’t spent much time thinking about before this conference is the ebook backlist. Teresa Elsey’s presentation (found here) on the issue of old ebooks and best practices to ensure the longevity of ebooks was eye opening.
The purpose of Elsey’s presentation was to empower teams to have the knowledge to create publications that can be passed down and will last longer than the teams in publishing houses that have specific knowledge. Ebooks in essence must be built to last.
One really great insight I hadn’t considered is what a bad ebook can do to sales. Elsey was Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Senior Managing Editor (Digital) where she handled ebook issues that were reported back to the company where she and her team would work on resolving them. When an ebook and print book go live on Amazon for sale, an ebook user gets access to the publication right away, as soon as it’s purchased. If they see an issue with the file, such as no table of contents or some reading error with the text, it’s possible that they will immediately post a bad review about the books functionality. Meanwhile the print reader won’t have even received their book in the mail yet, and they would not likely post any kind of review about the content of the book until they are finished reading it however many weeks or months later. The ebook reviews come out immediately and a 1 star review on the day of the book’s launch can have an incredibly negative impact on online sales. The immediacy of the digital format makes it’s proper creation even more important.
Elsey went on to describe digital practices to ensure that ebooks can be effectively achieved without losing future functionality such as using Internet Archive to ensure that your ebooks don’t succumb to link rot (link rot of just 2 or more links in an ebook can lead to the whole book being rejected by a retailer).
Here are some specific tips that Elsey provided for ensuring the longevity of ebooks:
This presentation by Kai Li was incredibly important as he talked from his lived experience with a perceptual disability. This was a call to arms for publishers to hire people with disabilities for all stages of content creation, but not just as the companies spokesperson for people with disabilities. Just like the exhaustion that visible minorities feel to be the beacons of diversity, people with disabilities have more to offer than their insights on the issues with accessible publishing. Li notes that people with disabilities are incredibly innovative as they have had to become the ultimate problem solvers to navigate a world that is so often not accessible, they are also highly productive. Li also cited a report that found that companies who hired people with disabilities had a 28% higher revenue than those who did not.
If you’re interested in checking out more of the presentations, the live videos will be up soon, but the powerpoint presentations from each speaker are already live if you click on their corresponding event listing here.
One of my biggest takeaways from the conference… I need to get on Twitter so that I can interact more with the industry and speak to these amazing publishing professionals. It seems to be where the publishing conversations are taking place. In all seriousness though, I am honoured to be part of this incredible industry and I look forward to the future of publishing knowing that these incredible people are leading the charge. Now it’s time to put the learnings from this conference into practice!
The SFU Publishing Program requires Sessional Instructors for the Summer 2019 semester.
Application Deadline: Friday, March 8, 2019 (4:30pm)
“What might be possible for us if we were to retain the social commitment that motivates our critical work, while stepping off the field of competition?” Kathleen Fitzpatrick asked a rapt audience at SFU’s Harbour Centre last Wednesday, “We would have to open ourselves to the possibility that our ideas might be wrong.”
Fitzpatrick is Director of Digital Humanities at Michigan State University, the former Director of Scholarly Communication at the Modern Language Association, and—most recently—the invited speaker at this year’s Munro Lecture at SFU.
Named after Jock Munro—an economist and former SFU Vice-President, Academic—the lecture series has hosted a number of acclaimed scholars over the years, including Linda Tuhiwai Smith on decolonizing the research process and Arthur Hanson on China’s green economy. This year’s edition continued the conversation started during last fall’s President’s Dream Colloquium on Making Knowledge Public.
In her talk, Fitzpatrick discussed the individualistic nature of academic life and how it impedes the relationships that exist between universities and the communities that surround them. Drawing from her newly released book, Generous Thinking, she explored the many challenges that stand in the way of a more engaged academic system and offered a radical approach to how overcoming them—starting with a complete shift in how we think about public scholarship.
Her passionate appeal resonated with many in the audience, with nods, sighs, and the occasional “Yeah!” permeating the presentation. “Generous thinking,” it seems, had been on many listeners’ minds.
As John Maxwell, Director of SFU’s Publishing Department, aptly put it, “Kathleen Fitzpatrick has elegantly articulated what many academics have been thinking—that the black and white framing of university and society is not serving anyone well, and that our culture of internal competitiveness undermines any effort to be engaged and relevant.”
So what can today’s academics do to become more engaged, relevant, and connected?
“All… possibilities begin with cultivating the ability to think generously,” Fitzpatrick offered at the end of her lecture, “To listen to one another.”
Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Munro Lecture on Generous Thinking was presented in partnership with the SFU President’s Office, SFU Public Square, and SFU’s School of Publishing. For those who missed it, a video is available from the SFU Library.
This blog post was first published on the Scholarly Communications Lab Blog, and has been reposted here with permission.