This section focuses on the technologies used by the project teams.
About this guide
The institution as e-textbook publisher project partners were free to choose the technology most relevant to their needs. This resulted in a number of different technologies being used.
This section also looks at the reason certain technology choices were made and the implications on the production process of those choices.
This section would be useful for a range of e-book/e-textbook production team members or those in other stakeholder roles. This includes:
- Authors, so that they have an appreciation of what is technically possible and what constraints technology might place on the design of an e-textbook
- Learning technologists or others involved in the creation of e-textbooks, who would find information here to help understand how various technologies can be deployed in the creation, publication and dissemination of e-textbooks
- E-textbook publishers, who would find information about which platforms have been used by the projects to publish
- Marketing and communications professionals, who would find information on the merits of various approaches to disseminating the e-textbooks
- Project or programme leads, who would get a sense of the people resource and monetary investment required to make use of the various technologies employed by the project group
The section looks at how technologies played a part in four areas of the production cycle:
- Authoring – the process of the author creating the manuscript or content
- Developing – the process of turning the manuscript or authored content into an e-textbook format or formats
- Publishing – the process of making the e-textbooks available to the world
- Promoting – the process of disseminating the e-textbooks to a local, national, and international market.
This section would be useful at the outset of the production phase as it is useful to consider what technology choices are available when commissioning titles and briefing authors before they begin to write manuscripts or content.
Technology choices can influence other variables throughout the production cycle, such as pedagogy, publication and dissemination approaches, so it is very useful to define the technology approach at the outset of the project.
A variety of publication technologies were explored and used by the project teams. A summary of them is provided to help you think about which might be a good starting point.
The topics covered in this section are:
Specifically this section looks at the technologies that were used by the project teams to support authors through the production of manuscripts and content that formed the basis for the publications. This section also examines some of the choices that were made by the project teams during the authoring stage.
Common themes in the authoring stage included project teams confirming or re-evaluating technology choices that had been proposed as part of the pre-kick off phases of the project. Some projects stayed with their original technology choices, but some decided to change approaches in light of new information.
Another common factor for projects in this stage was that each was already thinking of the later publication phases. Choices of technology that would be used to publish the e-textbooks had an impact or relevance on the choices for the production software.
Some authors reported challenges in the use of technology or a learning curve that was required to become familiar with some authoring software that had not been used before. And many authors and projects suggested that spending time with authors looking at what was technically possible and defining the technology approach before the producing manuscripts would be an advisable approach to take.
This document on authoring looks chronologically at the authoring stage taking into account viewpoints from the four project teams across the life of the project.
This section looks at the technology used and the choices made to support the development of the e-textbooks. This phase was focused on turning the manuscripts and content produced by authors in the authoring stage into e-textbooks.
There were a wide range of technologies used in the ‘developing’ stage. Some projects used open source software where others used commercial software. Pedagogical considerations were debated by many, which presented both opportunities and challenges. There was often a balancing act to find between what authors and projects would like to achieve pedagogically and what the technology would allow.
There was a range of experience of e-textbook development within the project groups. Some were experienced and established presses, some had previously self-published a small range of e-textbooks and some were developing e-textbooks for the first time. This range of starting points allowed for a full exploration of the technology landscape.
Some projects made use of websites (an example is the web page for the how to write a research dissertation e-textbook published by UHI/Napier), applications and supporting content to provide additional materials or to accompany the books. So the technology choices made in the ‘developing’ section weren’t just focused on technology to produce the texts, they were also focused on technologies that could provide a richness of experience for the reader.
It was also in this section where considerations about design were most in play. Some projects made use of graphic designers and technical developers to craft bespoke content or design and extend websites. Others chose to use platforms where design was controlled and matched their design principles. All projects strived to ensure that design standards matched the professional expectations of the target groups. Accessibility issues were considered with projects working to implement accessibility standards. More information on accessibility, publishing and technologies is available in the e-book Accessibility & Publishing.
The projects completed benchmarking and evaluation exercises at the outset and throughout the project, giving the teams a chance to reflect on the technology choices and the impact of them. Our document on developing provides insight across the duration of the project.
In addition, the UHI/Napier project wrote a case study examining the Kindle Direct Publishing distribution route as the choice for publication of academic materials.
The publication phase of the project was focused on pushing the e-textbooks out into the world. This was achieved in a variety of ways with e-textbooks being made available in a variety of formats. This section of the toolkit provides a wide range of information about the publication platforms and approaches used.
Some of the key aspects considered by the projects in this area included whether e-textbooks were made available at a cost to the reader or offered for free. A number of commercial models were explored. Licensing was also a key consideration with some projects choosing to release content openly under Creative Commons licences.
Publication platforms also impacted on the design stage of the project, as when using third party publications platforms, they often require manuscripts to be formatted and presented in a specific way to ensure that they meet standards that will allow them to be shared with multiple distribution outlets.
A similarity between many of the project teams when looking to publish was the desire to ensure that content could be as visible in as many distribution sites as possible. Some projects published in digital formats only, with others choosing to provide print and print on demand options.
Our document on publishing examines the different technology approaches of the project teams in relation to publication. In addition, the UHI/Napier project wrote a case study examining the Kindle Direct Publishing distribution route as the choice for publication of academic materials.
This section looks at the ‘promoting’ stage of the project and the technology choices made by the projects in this area. By this stage e-textbooks had been produced and published and projects were looking to promote and disseminate them as widely as possible.
Some projects made use of in-built support from the publication platforms they used that had been chosen because they helped promote content to both their own students and to external audiences. Some used aggregator platforms that would push e-textbooks to other distribution sites and others used their existing channels.
Project teams all used their own university communication and dissemination channels, including social media and the Jisc institution as e-textbook publisher project website to ensure that e-textbooks were promoted as widely as possible.
The technology promoting document looks at the technology used to support promotion activity.
Please also see the toolkit section on marketing and distribution.
This part of the toolkit has shown that while each phases of the project had its distinct technology needs, each phase should be considered at the outset of the project to ensure that choices made around technology complement each other rather than contradict each other.
This section also showed that there is a vast amount of choice when it comes to approaches for self-publication and it is therefore important to have a technology strategy defined and embedded within any self-publication model that is adapted.