Books Not Dead

Headed to SXSW Interactive? Concerned about the future of books, magazines, and websites? Attend “New Publishing and Web Content,” a panel I’m hosting on the creative, strategic, and marketing challenges of traditional and new (internet hybrid) book publishing and online magazine publishing, and how these fields intersect with content strategy and client services.

Joining me in a thoughtful exploration of new and old business models and creative challenges will be people who’ve spent a decade or two butting up against and reinventing these boundaries:

As moderator, my job will be to let these geniuses speak, to occasionally lob the right question to the right genius, and to help field your questions from the audience.

If you work in web or print publishing, or just care about the written word, please join us at 5:00 PM Central Time in Ballroom A.

(What else am I doing at SXSW Interactive? Here’s my schedule so far. I also hope to see some of you at OK Cog’aoke II, SXSW Interactive’s premiere karaoke event and best party, hosted by your friends at Happy Cog.)

Posthumous Hosting and Digital Culture

THE DEATHS of Leslie Harpold and Brad Graham, in addition to being tragic and horrible and sad, have highlighted the questionable long-term viability of blogs, personal sites, and web magazines as legitimate artistic and literary expressions. (Read this, by Rogers Cadenhead.)

Cool URIs don’t change, they just fade away. When you die, nobody pays your hosting company, and your work disappears. Like that.

Now, not every blog post or “Top 10 Ways to Make Money on the Internet” piece deserves to live forever. But there’s gold among the dross, and there are web publications that we would do well to preserve for historical purposes. We are not clairvoyants, so we cannot say which fledgling, presently little-read web publications will matter to future historians. Thus logic and the cultural imperative urge us to preserve them all. But how?

The death of the good in the jaws of time is not limited to internet publications, of course. Film decays, books (even really good ones) constantly go out of print, digital formats perish. Recorded music that does not immediately find an audience disappears from the earth.

Digital subscriptions were supposed to replace microfilm, but American libraries, which knew we were racing toward recession years before the actual global crisis came, stopped being able to pay for digital newspaper and magazine descriptions nearly a decade ago. Many also (even fancy, famous ones) can no longer collect—or can only collect in a limited fashion. Historians and scholars have access to every issue of every newspaper and journal written during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, but can access only a comparative handful of papers covering the election of Barack Obama.

Thanks to budget shortfalls and format wars, our traditional media, literature, and arts are perishing faster than ever before. Nothing conceived by the human mind, except Heaven and nuclear winter, is eternal.

Still, when it comes to instant disposability, web stuff is in a category all its own.

Unlike with other digital expressions, format is not the problem: HTML, CSS, and backward-compatible web browsers will be with us forever. The problem is, authors pay for their own hosting.

(There are other problems: the total creative output of someone I follow is likely distributed across multiple social networks as well as a personal site and Twitter feed. How to connect those dots when the person has passed on? But let’s leave that to the side for the moment.)

A suggestion for a business. Sooner or later, some hosting company is going to figure out that it can provide a service and make a killing (as it were) by offering ten-, twenty-, and hundred-year packets of posthumous hosting.

A hundred years is not eternity, but you are not Shakespeare, and it’s a start.


A List Apart Arabic

A List Apart Arabic

Since 1998, A List Apart has sought to serve the international web design and development community with educational, insightful, and sometimes visionary articles on web standards, emerging ideas and technologies, and best practices in content, usability, and design.

One barrier has long prevented us from fulfilling our goal to the utmost. But today we transcend it. Introducing A List Apart Arabic—an authorized A List Apart publication. Thank you and congratulations to Mohammad Saleh Kayali and his partners.

Look for additional international A List Apart editions, coming soon.

Mission of Promo

Zeldman

The third edition of Designing With Web Standards has hit the shelves; excerpts and interviews are hitting digital airwaves everywhere. Among the latest:


  • Creative Expert interviews Zeldman and Marcotte about DWWS3e, live, with call-in questions. Very nice. Broadcast 30 October, 2009; podcast published 31 October 2009.
  • Author Talk: Jeffrey Zeldman Interview, an audio podcast at Peachpit. “Author and co-founder of The Web Standards Project Jeffrey Zeldman talks to publisher Nancy Aldrich-Ruenzel about the 3rd Edition of his book Designing with Web Standards. He also reveals why writers ‘can’t edit themselves.'” Published 11 November 2009.
  • The Future of Web Standards is a free sample chapter for your reading pleasure. Published 12 November 2009.
  • Jeffrey Zeldman On The Setup, a Waferbaby joint, takes a break from the DWWS3e fever to talk hardware and software. Published 13 November 2009.

Coming soon:

  • Video interview with Michael Nolan
  • Typography Q&A with Ellen Lupton in Print Magazine
  • And more!

Watch for major announcements Monday Tuesday.

Short URL: zeldman.com/?p=2902

Am I Blue

Zeldman

Our classic orange avatar has turned blue to celebrate the release of Designing With Web Standards 3rd Edition by Jeffrey Zeldman with Ethan Marcotte. This substantial revision to the foundational web standards text will be in bookstores across the U.S. on October 19, 2009, with international stores to follow. Save 37% off the list price when you buy it from Amazon.com.

Short URL: zeldman.com/?p=2730

Search Party

A List Apart No. 292

Triple Issue No. 292 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, is all about search.

Testing Search for Relevancy and Precision

by JOHN FERRARA

Despite the fact that site search often receives the most traffic, it’s also the place where the user experience designer bears the least influence. Few tools exist to appraise the quality of the search experience, much less strategize ways to improve it. But relevancy testing and precision testing offer hope. These are two tools you can use to analyze and improve the search user experience.

Internal Site Search Analysis: Simple, Effective, Life Altering!

by AVINASH KAUSHIK

Your search and clickstream data is missing a key ingredient: customer intent. You have all the clicks, the pages people viewed, and where they bailed, but not why they came to the site. Your internal site-search data contains that missing ingredient: intent. Learn five ways to analyze your internal site-search data—data that’s easy to get, to understand, and to act on.

Beyond Goals: Site Search Analytics from the Bottom Up

by LOU ROSENFELD

Top-down analytics are great for creating measurable goals you can use to benchmark and evaluate the performance of your content and designs. But bottom-up analysis teaches you something new and unexpected about your customers—something goal-driven analysis can’t show you. Discover the kinds of information users want, and identify your site’s most urgent mistakes.

Illustration by Kevin Cornell.

Kindling II

Refer to the previous post on Kindle. Two salient points, omitted from the previous discussion and verified this morning, are worth mentioning:


  • The Kindle edition of Designing With Web Standards, 2nd Edition, is free of conversion errors, to the best of our knowledge. As an author who hopes to sell copies of his work, I should have pointed that out in my initial post.
  • Kindle for iPhone can sometimes create the appearance that a Kindle edition is missing content. Before contacting the publisher to report an error, try switching to the smallest available font size and then re-viewing the page that appeared to be missing some content. Asides, in particular, suffer from this problem, in which text is present but exceeds the viewport, and there is no scrolling mechanism or indication that additional content exists.

ShortURL: zeldman.com/x/59

Kindling

The process by which books are converted to Kindle format introduces errors which do not get corrected. Every publisher knows this, though none will say so on record.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with Kindle or its format. The problem is one of economics. The cost of a printed book covers some degree of proofing and checking—not enough, but some. The cost of a Kindle book does not support editorial quality control, and the multi-step conversion process, handled in bulk by third parties, chops out content and creates other errors that no one fixes because no one is there to do QA.

I love the idea of Kindle. I love Kindle on my iPhone. As the economics of publishing continues to change, perhaps one day soon, a Kindle edition will contain the same text as the printed book. Until it does, Kindle is great for light reading. But if it’s critical that every word, comma, and code sample come through intact, for now, you’re better off with print.

Update

Two salient points I should have made in this post are covered in Kindling II, posted 27 August 2009.

ShortURL: zeldman.com/x/58

What’s new in DWWS 3e

Designing With Web Standards, 3rd Edition

The 3rd Edition of Designing With Web Standards is coming soon to a bookstore near you. Abetted mightily by our secret cabal of interns, co-author Ethan Marcotte, technical editor Aaron Gustafson, copyeditor Rose Weisburd, editor Erin Kissane and I have worked hard to create what we hope is not merely an update, but a significant revision to the foundational web standards text.

Packed with new ideas

After years of stasis, the world of standards-based design is exploding with new ideas and possibilities. Designing With Web Standards 3rd Edition captures this moment, makes sense of it, and keeps you smartly ahead of the pack.

From HTML 5 to web fonts, CSS3 to WCAG2, the latest technologies, claims and counter-claims get broken down in classic DWWS style into their easy-to-understand component ideas, helping you pick the course of action that works best for your projects. As always, the core ideas of standards-based design (which never change) get presented with clear insights and up-to-date examples. You’ll find strategies for persuading even the most stubborn boss or client to support accessibility or reconsider what “IE6 support” means—and for handling the other problems we face when trying to bring rational design and development to the unruly web.

Now with more “how”

While this 3rd Edition, like its predecessors, spends a great deal of time on “why,” it also features a lot more “how” than past editions. If you loved the ideas in DWWS, but wished the book was a bit more hands-on, this is the edition you’ve waited for.

Oh, and the color this time? It’s blue, like l’amour.

Pre-order and save

A few chapters remain to be written, but the goal is in sight, and the book will be out this Fall. To celebrate, you can now save 37% when you pre-order Designing With Web Standards 3rd Edition from Amazon.com.

There’s a new book mini-site as well, with more content and features to come. The sharp-eyed will notice that the mini-site is set in Franklin Gothic. A web-licensed version of ITC Franklin Pro Medium from Font Bureau has been embedded via standard CSS. It works everywhere, even in IE. (View Source if curious.)

ShortURL: zeldman.com/x/57

ALA 290: Motown & JavaScript

In Issue No. 290 of A List Apart, for people who make websites…

The Case for Content Strategy—Motown Style

by MARGOT BLOOMSTEIN

Over the past year, the content strategy chatter has been building. Jeffrey MacIntyre gave us its raison d’être. Kristina Halvorson wrote the call to arms. Panels at SXSW, presentations at An Event Apart, and regional meetups continue to build the drum roll. But how do you start humming the content strategy tune to your own team and to your prospective clients? Listen up and heed Aretha Franklin. No, really.

JavaScript MVC

by JONATHAN SNOOK

As JavaScript takes center stage in our web applications, we need to produce ever more modular code. MVC (Model-View-Controller) may hold the key. MVC is a design pattern that breaks an application into three parts: the data (Model), the presentation of that data to the user (View), and the actions taken on any user interaction (Controller). Discover how MVC can make the JavaScript that powers your web applications more reusable and easier to maintain.