“It is now clear that things will never be the same again, and this could drive publishers to experiment more boldly with the possibilities of digital publishing.”

Francesco Franchi, Designing News, 2013

Though this chapter refers to ‘publishers’ as a whole, it is clear that each publisher is different. Different by size, by content, by work methods. The generalization of the group allows us to create a shared starting point for reviewing the publishing process.

The Digital Experience So Far.
The words “digital book” associate, at this point of time, mainly to e-pubs: digital outputs of an originally-intended print file. From our talks with both publishers and readers comes out a feeling of dissatisfaction from the existing solution.

Publishers do seek the potential of the digital market, but encounter challenges in the production and marketing phases. The print is still the first output when it comes to large-scale reading content. Creating the digital version as a second output translates to additional work, and therefore, additional costs.

Side-by-side, readers who did try the digital solutions were in generally finding it disappointing – on the one hand, there is no adequacy between their paper experience to the digital version; on the other hand, there’s no similarity to their accustomed digital experience with other digital reading content such as daily news, blogs and other content websites and apps.

In this chapter, we chose 3 points of the content-preparing process for further investigation.


One essential function of a publisher is the content’s editing. An experienced editor will be able to form an initial idea into a perfectly communicative story. Due to the content’s complexity and length, good editing is crucial to allow the reader a great reading experience.

The editing phase also contributes to the content’s ‘quality seal’ – as opposed to un-edited texts such as social networks – to keep the content as a source of reliable information.

For our research, we divided editing in two:

1.Copy editing, focusing on the text.
Involves constructing punctuation, grammar and spelling. Usually involving the writer and a skilled copy editor.

For the digitalisation process, we would like to examine the existing copy editing methods and technologies. A toolkit published by The Institute of Network Cultures (INC) lays out some technological options for using markup editors for creating e-pubs. The idea behind that work method is to have one document applied to all outputs of the content. Since that toolkit was published, technological solutions have been much improved and are now even easier to implement.

There are also companies developing a manuscript evaluation process using AI technologies to help authors, editors, reviewers, and publishers carry out manuscript submission and evaluation. Other programs suggest solutions for a complete editing-to-HTML process. We find these can offer a base for suggesting an entire digital editing process with digital files outcome.

An example of a complete writing-editing-producing process of digital text is the website Practical Typography by Matthew Butterick

2. Developmental editing, handling the story building. For the digital reading experience, the story building should deal with both the content and the ways to present and use it.


“Design is part of the content. It’s not an embellishment, it’s not an afterthought. It’s not something that you think of after you’ve made the content. It’s part of the content.

Eelco Van Welie, Director of Nai/010 Publishers. Interview, March 2019.

From our research, it appears that by many commercial and academic publishers, designers join the book production in the final stages. They receive the edited and reviewed content to plant in a pre-set layout.

Exceptionals to this are the ‘creative’ books. The main change in the workflow is the involvement of designers at the earliest phase, right after accepting the book’s idea. In those disciplines, the process of content production is not linear but horizontal, progressing in each step together, as a multi-functional team.

For me, being able to collaborate between disciplines is an essential design quality because, on the one hand, you join forces, but on the other, you learn new things. It goes both directions. And when it does, it allows you to solve problems that you haven’t solved before. Through these combinations of expertise, you can really tackle the bigger challenges.

Niels Schrader, Co-Head Graphic Design Department Royal Academy of Art Den Haag and founder of Studio Mind Design, Interview January 2019

In both the unique print books and the new digital reading experience, the process of the content’s presentation involves consideration of format, layout, imagery and function. These considerations are shared for multiple tasks in the content production’s process, and therefore, we believe they should work in collaboration.

In our next phase of the research, we would study more examples of existing combined teams. In collaboration with technological guidance, we would define guidelines for setting up co-editing teams.


“Online environments consist of networks of interacting authors and readers who stand in two-way communication directly and without intermediation. … This is in contrast to the message from author to reader in the domain of print, which is one-way and strictly controlled by the publisher. The traditional and formal quality control systems of editorial filtering and peer review, … are in the digital realm increasingly complemented by emphasis on collaborative pre-publication feedback by networked, usually disciplinary, communities.”

Fleur Praal and Adriaan van der Weel, “Taming the Digital Wilds”, 2016

In this research, we look at a book’s reviewing in two aspects: the content’s ‘quality-seal’ by matter experts, and as an involvement and recommendations tool for the marketing phase.

NY Times’ comments section creates an edited discussion on the content

One of the digital content’s qualities is the possibility to be in constant change. This allows reviewing to go further than an initial range of internal reviewers and public critics. The digital platforms can suggest a wide range of solutions to the reviewing process. Reviewing can vary from back-end communities to a flowing comments feed, using controlled manners or open discussions. The options will need to be considered when planning the platform’s behaviour.

Adjusting the Workflow.
In the next phase, we would test two of the three points mentioned in this chapter:
1. The editing process – optimized for digital files.
2. The design process – working in editorial teams.

We would like to test these methods with versatile publishing content so we would be able to suggest a recommended workflow suited for creating the content of the digital reading experience.

Reviewing should be discussed during the planning of the platform.

next article: The News Transformation