Kick-off Digital Publishing Toolkit

Report: Kick-off Toolkit Digital Publishing 7th of March 2013

The kick-off meeting on the 7th of March was the official start of the “Toolkit Digital Publishing” research project. Margreet Riphagen, projectmanager of the Institute of Network Cultures, gave a short introduction of the research project and introduced the partners of the consortium that are involved in the research project. Geert Lovink (lector Instituut voor Netwerkcultuur) and Florian Cramer (lector creating010, lectoraat of the Willem de Kooning Academy) introduced several topics that are important to keep in mind in relation to digital publishing, and the partners gave short presentations about their know how and expectations of digital publishing. At the end of the morning we formed subgroups. Each subgroup, consisting of a publisher, designer and developer will each formulate their own research projects within the bigger framework of the Toolkit Digital Publishing research program and will be based on one or more publications of the publisher.

As Margreet explained the research project is funded by RAAK-MKB (Regionale Actie en Aandacht voor Kennisinnovatie), which is managed by

SIA (Stichting Innovatie Alliantie). Raak–MKB aims to improve knowledge exchange to strengthen the innovative ability of MKB’s and Universities of Applied sciences.

The overall goal of the project is: “To realise a platform with tools and methods that are based on open source- standards and tools, with which publishers in art- and the cultural sector can publish e-publications that are suitable for several (mobile) devices”

A consortium of partners will collaborate to reach this goal. It consists of a group of publishers – BISPublishers, nai010 publishers, FrameWeb, Institute of Network Cultures, and Valiz – a group of developers and programmers – Arjen de Jong (Essence), Medamo, Brinka, PUNTPIXEL, Restruct Web, and Silvio Lorusso – an expertise group that consists of Museum of the Image, and Constant – Open Source Publishers, and other partners involved are: Creating010 and Kircz Research Amsterdam.


Geert Lovink: about the proliferation and standards in the field of e-publishing

Geert emphasized that the project will be focused on experimenting, and exploring what the possibilities are for design and the distributing platforms. This particular research project thus doesn’t look into business models of these digital modes of publishing. As he explains there are other lectoraten that research this particular question. The Institute of Network Cultures also looked into these kind of questions in other projects such as: The New Media of Exchange: Dialogues on Internet, Monetization and Finance.

He elaborates on the experience INC had with publishing their own publications on digital platforms such as

Issuu and Scribd, which are free web readers, and LuLu, a paid Print on Demand service. As becomes clear these are just a small portion off the platforms for publishing online. Geert also refers to the ePub platform and the necessity to make all the INC publications available for this platform. Another important development will be the availability of in the Netherlands, that will be probably launched around the summer of 2013. Geert emphasizes that this development will be a ‘game changer’ for publishing in the Netherlands if we look at experiences in other countries. Another platform he refers to is the open source/ free software platform Ubuntu which is an important international player. The platform is developed for both Smartphones and Tablets. Another platform that we should keep an eye out for is the collaboration between Nokia and Windows. It is still unclear what will happen here, but this will probably become more clear at the end of the year.

Florian Cramer: about design and typography in the field of e-publishing

Florian starts his introduction with ‘expectation management’. He explains that the field of design and typography with regards to digital publishing is like the Internet was in the 1990s. The possibilities seem endless, but once confronted with the limitations of the platform(s) you end up with a very poor design. There are several aspects a designer should keep in mind when designing for e-publishing. For instance the multitude of devices that each have their own settings and requirements. In this sense you can see it as the revival of the browser wars of the 90s, where each browser needed its own design. A result of this splintering of devices is the necessity of reflowable content. The content needs to be readable on all the different devices, and thus has to change according to the proportions of the screen. The design is adjusted dynamically. As Florian explains the paradigm of the page is disappearing. Another aspect that makes it difficult for designers is that the reader software itself isn’t fully developed. Most of them for instance do not support non-European alphabets. Especially for the art- design publications this will lead to even more limitations.

Florian also discussed several examples of platforms for e-publishing that are already developed: The people’s E-book – a webapplication for designers and artists to experiment with creating their own publications. Kyur8 – this platform is developed by graphic designers in New York and it allows people to create their own photobooks on the basis off several templates. It is based on HTML5. You can see this as a platform for Zines.

According to Florian it is important to collect these best practices and see what is already done in the field of e-publishing and look for solutions for the problems we encounter. It is about empowering the publishers, designers and developers to ensure that they can find their way in the field of e-publishing on their own.

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Expectations and inventory of existing knowledge and best practices off the partners

The presentations off the publishers illustrated that there are a lot of ideas about e-publishing, but not enough know-how and as a result the steps, or successes, that are made in this direction are very small. As Rudolf explained “veel vallen en weinig opstaan”. There is a lot of uncertainty about how to approach e-publishing, and knowledge about the possibilities that are already out there is missing, especially in relation to distribution.

From the perspective of the developers and designers the remarks made by Florian are confirmed. Annemieke from Restruct Web explains how their first experience with e-publishing was very challenging as they had relatively high expectations of the possibilities. They developed an App for Cross-lab at the WdKA Rotterdam. They encountered problems with integrating video into the app. Since it had to be readable without an internet connection the video needed to be integrated in the file itself, and eventually they ended up with a large application file that only works on a Apple tablet version. As she emphasized with regard to e-publishing it is important to develop something that is sustainable: It needs to work on several platforms and endure the test of time and platform updates.

The designers also addressed the social and interactive possibilities of e-publishing – how is it possible to share reading experiences, notes etc. And to what extend is it possible to integrate video, images or even Google maps into the e-publication? These questions relate to what Florian called ‘the Expanded Book”. But, as Florian emphasizes it is more important to approach e-publshing as a whole new medium. We should not just try to think about how to translate a book to a digital medium, but think about the possibilities of publishing beyond adding video and other interactivity. What new modes of publishing does it ask for?

In response to the question, if it is possible to export e-Pub from inDesign, Florian refers to the Guru of e-Pub design, Elizabeth Castro, who wrote the book

e-Pub straight to the point. It explains how you can export a document from InDesign to e-Pub. However, she emphasizes that this process is not without difficulties and is not the best way to approach designing for e-Pub. **** ****


After discussing the experiences and expectation with regards to e-publishing different subgroups were formed. They each discussed their first ideas, possibilities and expectations for experimenting with e-publishing and their specific research project. An important starting point is to decide on what publication to work with and what platform(s) to use.


The groups formed are:

Group nai010 uitgevers – nai01 uitgevers, medamo, Restruct web and PUNTPIXEL.

Group Valiz – Valiz and PUNTPIXEL

Group BISPublishers & Frame – Essense and Saulie Warmenhoven

Group Institute of Networkculture – Institute of Network Cultures, Brinka and a developer still to be confirmed.

  In a following meeting the subgroups will finalize their research plans and will start experimenting with digital publishing. The eventual goal of these separate research projects is off course to gather the experiences and “To realise a platform with tools and methods that are based on open source- standards and tools, with which publishers in art- and the cultural sector can publish e-publications that are suitable for several (mobile) devices”