Adventures in producing an eBook: Dancing with dugongs eBook releasedBill Dennison ·
IAN Press has been producing richly illustrated, informative books, booklets, reports, newsletters and brochures for nearly a decade. With the emphasis on effective science communication, these printed materials produced by the talented Science Communicators and Science Integrators of the Integration and Application Network have been used by resource managers, policy makers and scientists to better understand and manage environmental resources. The typical print run for IAN Press is between 1,000-3,000 copies, but IAN Press products are always also available as full color PDF downloads. In these publications, Adobe In Design was used by IAN Science Communicators for layout.
The release of the IAN Press eBook 'Dancing with Dugongs: Having fun and developing a practical philosophy for environmental teaching and research' by Peter Oliver and William Dennison represents a break with the IAN Press tradition of using Adobe InDesign to create printed materials and associated PDF versions. Catherine Ward, IAN Science Communication Assistant, used Apple's iBook Author to design and layout 'Dancing with Dugongs'. This learning curve for developing an eBook involved several new ways of assembling book materials.
The typical way that IAN develops a printed product is to create a storyboard mock up of each page of the printed product. This storyboard organizes the various visual elements (photographs, maps, conceptual diagrams, figures and tables), interspersed with specific blocks of text in a specific layout. The production of an eBook does not permit a fixed layout, as the various visual elements 'float' and resize depending on the orientation (portrait vs. landscape) and screen size. Thus, a different layout process was necessary. With an eBook, there are multiple options for integrating visual elements, including embedding it within the text (no resizing) or having it 'float' such that it resizes depending on orientation.
There are several aspects of eBooks that suit the science communication style developed by IAN. One advantage of using IAN symbols is that they all use vector graphics which makes them easily resizable. Since photographs can be automatically resized in the eBook format, high resolution photographs are even more essential than a printed book that can fix lower resolution photographs to a smaller size. The crisp, full range of colors possible with eBooks suits the IAN style of using full color on virtually every page. In 'Dancing with Dugongs', we considered adding audio and video files, but found that they dramatically increase the file size of the eBook, beyond the recommended limits. The alternative will be to feature audio and video files using other electronic means, e.g., YouTube.
The ability to distribute IAN Press materials through means other than the IAN Press website is an advantage of producing an eBook that can be offered through the iBooks website. It will be interesting to assess whether this results in a broader readership. Like most IAN Press products, 'Dancing with Dugongs' is available for free download. This is in keeping with the philosophy that broad dissemination, especially to places in the world without monetary resources to purchase typically expensive scientific books, is more important than financial gain.
As we learn how to master the eBook format, we can continue to build new and better ways to communicate science. There will likely always be a place for printed products, but the eBook format provides a new vehicle for dissemination that deserves more attention.
About the author
Dr. Bill Dennison is a Professor of Marine Science and Vice President for Science Application at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). Dr. Dennison’s primary mission within UMCES is to coordinate the Integration and Application Network.