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.
Two salient points I should have made in this post are covered in Kindling II, posted 27 August 2009.
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.
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.)
In writing four books and an unknown quantity of articles and blog posts, I’ve discovered the simple secret to maintaining quality. I share it with you here in mnemonic nursery rhyme fashion:
Write when inspired; rest when tired.
Whether the task is writing, design, or hanging a picture straight, it is obvious that we do our best work when healthy, rested, refreshed, alert, and eager to do the job for its own sake.
But anyone who has done professional work also knows that we must often work late into the night at the behest of deadlines. There are jobs that call for us to push ourselves, not merely creatively (which is exhilarating), but physically—even when our bodies need rest, our minds are dimmed, our concentration dented, and our inspiration nonexistent.
Therein lies our conflict, and one key to the difference between good and great.
Design is a hurting thing
Work is work, and we must do what we must do. But when quality matters most, the old saw about “good or fast—choose one,” holds true. Pushing through to the finish line when you have nothing left inside you is great for marathon runners, but not so hot for creative professionals. In particular, if you’re trying to write clearly and well, it’s better to let a deadline slide by a day than to “just finish up.”
I call out writing in particular because if you push out a design when you’re exhausted, the details and balance will suffer, and it won’t be as great as it can be—but the public has such a low expectation of aesthetics in web design that you might get away with it. Only you and a few of your designer friends will recognize the sloppy, ill-considered bits that make your work good when it could have been great. Of course, your designer friends will think less of you, and you’ll cringe every time you see the site, but if you don’t have a taste for masochism, you shouldn’t be in design, because the hurt will kill you.
Night of the living deadlines
There’s a reason they call them deadlines.
With design that could have been great but was ever so slightly bungled due to exhaustion in the face of ridiculous deadlines, it is only the designer and the rare armchair aesthetician who know.
But when writers push themselves to make a deadline, everyone knows, because the passages where they cheated are unclear, unpersuasive, ineffective. A reader needn’t follow the exact art and subtle science of kerning or vertical grid building to recognize when a sentence isn’t clear, or fails to make a convincing point, or doesn’t seem to entirely belong with its older and younger brother sentences.
When I let a publisher’s deadline push out a piece of writing before it is ready, it is like thrusting a helpless preemie into the cruel world. And it’s not just external deadlines that can wreck my work. Say I’m writing here, where there are no deadlines. I get nearly to the end of what I want to say, and then I’m called away by work or family. When I return to the blog post hours later to wrap things up and publish, I’m distracted, and the powerful emotion and single idea that initially led me me to write has flown over the garden wall. If I just bang out a finish, the whole piece will be weakened. I know because I’ve done it.
Will no one think of the readers?
Currently I’m working on the third edition of Designing With Web Standards, and in addition to mentally approaching it as a new book in order to truly rethink and reinvigorate it, I’m also sticking like epoxy to the discipline of holding back chapters until they are ready. This sounds like what a writer would always do, but trade publishing is like a slave galley in a Roman galleon—if the sufferer beside you collapses under the whip, you need to row harder. You won’t get that placement at Borders if you don’t finish on time. Amazon won’t give you that special promotional push if you don’t turn it in six weeks earlier than your contract says you must, &c.
Never mind the bollocks. You are not writing for Amazon, or to fit a staff proofreader’s vacation schedule, as important and real as those considerations may be. You are writing for readers, a duty as sacred, in its way, as parenting. If you don’t believe the previous sentence, if you think writing is mainly about getting paid, I’m sorry you wasted your time reading this page, and I hope you find another way to earn a living soon. The world is already choking on half-considered, squeezed-out shit. There’s no need to add to the pile.
If you want to be great, or at least to be better, start by breathing, taking breaks, and working intensely when the mood is on.
Editorial Intern Wanted
Update: The position is now closed. Thanks to all who applied.
NYC area location is ideal, but not required—what matters most is your commitment and professionalism. Must be willing to work with Microsoft Word, have access to one of the latest versions of it, and be a Word styles ninja. We’re looking for 6–8 hours per week through September or mid-October. The right person will see this as an opportunity to experience the publication process from first draft through galleys and launch, and to learn from industry and community leaders who are funny, smart, and nice.
Apply by e-mail to internquest at happycog dot com. Send a short note selling us on you. All queries will be handled with discretion.
I wrote this book in 2001 for print designers whose clients want websites, print art directors who’d like to move into full–time web and interaction design, homepage creators who are ready to turn pro, and professionals who seek to deepen their web skills and understanding.
Here we are in 2009, and print designers and art directors are scrambling to move into web and interaction design.
The dot-com crash killed this book. Now it lives again. While browser references and modem speeds may reek of 2001, much of the advice about transitioning to the web still holds true.
Jeffrey Zeldman rounds off our 2008 season with some hard-earned advice for web designers and developers to take into 2009. As the economic climate gets tougher and budgets get cut, our skills need to extend to staying in work, not just completing work won.
Every website faces two key questions: 1. What content do we have at hand? 2. What content should we produce? Answering those questions is the domain of the content strategist. Alas, real content strategy gets as little respect today as information architecture did in 1995. MacIntyre defines the roles, tools, and value of this emerging user experience specialist.
It’s time to stop pretending content is somebody else’s problem. If content strategy is all that stands between us and the next fix-it-later copy draft or beautifully polished but meaningless site launch, it’s time to take up the torch—time to make content matter. Halvorson tells how to understand, learn, practice, and plan for content strategy.
Almost everyone I know who is serious about the internet and has spent more than a few years working on web stuff has read John R. Sundman’s novel, Acts of the Apostles, your everyday story of bioengineering, Gulf War Syndrome, Trojan Horses, and millennium cultists. (If you haven’t yet read this classic underground thriller cum paranoid fantasy, do yourself a favor; it’s pretty great.)
Now Sundman has come out with a new book, The Pains, with illustrations by Cheeseburger Brown. Sundman’s third novel owes its genesis to a single sentence written in his online diary: “I woke up this morning with a pain in my body that felt like it might be a soul gone bad.” Through a process that makes sense to writers, that sentence turned into this book:
The Pains is a story of faith in a world that appears to be falling apart. It tells the story of Norman Lux, a 24-year-old novitiate in a religious order, who becomes afflicted with something akin to stigmata.