Designing the Ebook Edition

When we decided to expand The Manual beyond the printed book, we did so with one clear goal: to make it as easy as we could for anyone to read The Manual in whichever way they prefer.

More ways to read meant moving away from a print mentality and re-considering what reading should be in each medium, creating the best experience for all three editions — Web, Ebook, and Print. To do so, each should be individually designed around the intrinsic characteristics and constraints of their environments, instead of attempting a digital translation of the print edition.

Last week, we turned our attention to the Ebook edition, and rolled up our sleeves to reconsider what our ebooks should be. What makes sense to include? What should go? What should the reader see when they open the ebook? What should an ebook cover be? How do we organize front and back matter? How do we deal with ebook readers’ preferences? We had let go every preconceived notion of what a book is, and just consider what an ebook is. Whatever makes for the best reading experience, that’s what we’re going to make.

The process of producing an ebook when you’ve never produced an ebook before feels very much like making websites fifteen years ago. Days are spent perusing the source of other ebooks, reading old posts in obscure forums, scouting for help from experienced people, and feeling like a beginner at everything again. Fortunately the ebook community is warm and passionate, fighting the good fight against the chaotic and fragmented world of ebook readers, and they welcome everyone new as a friend and ally. We’re very grateful for their help in making our ebook edition.

It’s a week later, and we have a great new version of the ebook that we’re very happy with — it’s the ebook The Manual deserves. We’ve just shared this new version with our trusted team of beta testers, and we’re looking forward to fixing bugs, polishing everything up even more, and sharing this new edition with a whole new audience of readers.

Next week we will unveil the list of six remarkable contributors for Issue 4, and give you an update on its schedule. It’s been a long wait, but one we’re confident will be worth it.

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