Creating digital books takes a fair amount of knowhow and patience: ebook developers have CSS and HTML skills, and they put in long hours designing, coding, testing, and running quality assurance checks on each title that they build.
It’s a specialized — and potentially lonely — niche in publishing, not unlike copyediting, in its level of nuance and behind-the-scenes mystique. Some publishers and content creation teams employ a number of developers in-house. But many industry professionals work on teams of experts in related fields or remotely as independent consultants and are, in essence, isolated from their eProduction peers.
Along with that comes the challenge of a swiftly evolving digital publishing world, where there are frequent software updates, numerous tweaks to vendor specifications, and each new device launch means new rules and new creative opportunities for developers.
Fortunately social media, and the #eprdctn hashtag, make it possible for eProduction pros to keep up with those changes, stay current, stay connected, and stay sane while working independently. “#eprdctn is a large community of ebook developers who discuss technical aspects of their day-to-day work. We share advice and resources as we find ways of improving workflows,” explains Iris Amelia Febres, an Ebook Developer at F+W Media who also teaches electronic publishing for Emerson College.
#eprdctn is a community that “is most often [engaged in] a loose conversation about current issues. Once in a while we…have a ‘dumb question amnesty,’ during which time anyone can post any question — no matter how simple — to #eprdctn and get an answer from an industry leader. These are always very popular,” notes Laura Brady, Ebook Developer and Principal at Brady Type and an occasional leader of the #eprdctn group.
Flocking To Twitter
In 2011, Lindsay Martin started the group by contacting professional in the field who already used Twitter to share insights and encouraging them to include the hashtag with their posts, explains Ebook Developer Colleen Cunningham (@BookDesignGirl).
A valuable group of established experts, regulars, lurkers and drop-ins, “the #eprdctn community on Twitter is far and away my favourite co-worker. These people lighten my load with humour, tech support, news and information, and collaboration,” says Brady. Beginners are always welcome, according to Febres, who describes the community as both “a job board and a Q&A session.
Twitter makes it all possible. Some people have tried extending the group “to other social media platforms but Twitter seems to work the best because, there, it’s truly organic and of-the-moment. No moderators are necessary,” notes Cunningham. #eprdctn hosts a nicely structured hour-long weekly chat too; a “roundtable discussion, where it’s a bit of a free-for-all in terms of what to talk about. Sometimes major events of the week will form the session [or] guests lead talks and people will ask them questions,” says Febres. You can join the conversation each Wednesday at 11:00 am EST.
In Real Life
#eprdctn comes together in person, too! Febres organizes a casual meet-up of developers as time allows and points out that the community also tries to “get together if we’re attending a conference, like Digital Book World. It’s great to have that face-to-face time to connect with colleagues on a personal level. We trade stories and tips, network, and just have a good time. It’s part networking, part therapy. Making ebooks can be tough!”
The group is doing work, beyond the day-to-day tasks at hand, by empowering women in tech to continue making great strides in the field of eProduction. “Ebook development seems to be a good gender mix, the leaders in the field are also a healthy mix. In fact, there are so many whip-smart women in this tech-focused space that it makes me a hopeful feminist ebook developer. The most outspoken members continue to be men but that is certainly shifting,” says Brady who strives “to mentor women trying to find work in ebooks.” And who, in planning the ebookcraft conference, “managed to get about 60% female speakers.”
Febres agrees that gender parity is important in the world of ebook production: “There’s a pocket of us female developers….we complain and challenge and wonder [and] we can be pretty vocal about it. I always try to share different ‘pro-women in tech’ networking events and resources, like the monthly Boston Girl Geek Dinner.”
You Can Too
As talented women-in-tech in their own right, Febres and Brady share a few suggestions about how you can launch your own social media lab-style community:
- Pick a day and time.
- Be consistent with your meetings.
- Posit questions to the group and share links.
- Invite others to participate.
- Have a hashtag!
Regularly scheduled chats can quickly turn into an anytime resource network. “Think of building a community as a collaborative tool, not a community with leaders and followers… #eprdctn is not a place to say and tell. It is where you go to figure out, to help, to ask for [help] and to find fellow travellers,” advises Brady.
Does your industry host useful social media conversations? Share your wisdom and community hashtags in the comments. Then, make sure you check out these related events this SMW14!
Deanna Utroske is the Social Media Brand Director for New York Women in Communications and writes on women’s career issues, lifestyle topics and more. Follow her on Twitter @DeannaUtroske.