New iPad is a dream to use — in short, I made it

This seems fitting: I’m blogging this entry on my new, third-generation iPad.

I am a first-time buyer, and I have to say I’m really excited to have made the plunge. I have wanted an iPad since its second iteration; when the first iPad was released, I really had no need for it. I wasn’t an executive and couldn’t justify making such a profound purchase on a device that, compared to my MacBook, could do so little.

Now, as a student heavily involved with electronic publishing, I knew getting an iPad was essential to my work. I remember when I attended the eBook Architects’ workshop last September, about 90% of those who attended had iPads, regardless of whether they were personal devices or on loan from their jobs. I knew I had to get one soon. (And in jest, Matthew Diener started a hashtag: #buyirisanipad.)

I kept my eye on rumor announcements and decided to wait. I would have been happy with the iPad 2, but I knew I would have kicked myself for not waiting to to get the new iPad.

Using this thing is a joy. Typing is easier than I thought it would be. Dictation is pretty sweet; I’m very surprised at how intuitive the iPad is in recognizing my voice and freezing sentences. (I just dictated that previous sentence; I meant to say “phrasing,” not freezing. As you can see, there are hiccups, but I’m going to blame my congestion.)

Of course, the resolution is absolutely fantastic. After first turning it on, I couldn’t believe how smooth the default app icons looked. The colors are rich and beautiful. I’m so happy I waited.

The only downside for me is having to repurchase apps I own for the iPhone when they’re specifically designed for the iPad. I know I can do the zoom thing, but the Retina Display is so clear and crisp that the fuzziness from the compromising distracts me more than anything. Other than that, charging the iPad takes a while, so I think my regimen will involve overnight reboots.

I even got the 4G LTE capable iPad, so I’m testing how I like using AT&T’s network here. It’s so freaking fast, sometimes faster than my connection at home. I might just have to get used to shelling $30 every month, because it’s nice.

In short, I’m pretty content with the iPad and do not regret this purchase. I can’t wait to start tinkering with ebooks and explore fixed-width layout more, and even (finally) work with iBooks Author.

Did you get a new iPad? What are your thoughts on the device?

@epubpupil does TOC!

I will be taking the Amtrak up to NYC tomorrow morning! I’M SO EXCITED, GUYS, YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

For those of you not attending, I hope you’ll join me on Twitter with the hashtag #TOCCON — I will be livetweeting* the panels and workshops I’m attending. Just follow me at @epubpupil for the tweets!

Keynotes/Panels/Workshops to be covered:

Monday, February 13
Down and Dirty EPUB 3.0: Building an EPUB 3.0 From Start to Finish

Amanda Gomm & Tom McCluskey (Digital Bindery)
9 a.m. EST

HTML5 for Publishers
Sanders Kleinfeld (O’Reilly Media)
1:30 p.m. EST

Breaking the Page: Content Design For An Infinite Cancas
Peter Meyers (Author)
3:30 p.m. EST


Tuesday, February 14
Keynote by LeVar Burton
LeVar Burton (RRKidz, Reading Rainbow)
9:05 a.m. EST

Changing Times, Changing Readers: Let’s Start With Experience
Tim Cormody (Wired)
9:20 a.m. EST

The Death of the Page, the Dawn of Digital
Matt MacInnis (Inkling)
10 a.m. EST

Renovating Print Assets for Digital Publishing
Michael Rankin (InDesign Secrets)
11:35 a.m. EST

EPUB in the Wild
Elizabeth Castro (Pigs, Gourds, and Wikis)
1:40 p.m.

Metadata is Not a Thing
Laura Dawson (Firebrand Technologies)
2:30 p.m.

Keynote by Baratunde Thurston
Baratunde Thurston (The Onion)
4:45 p.m.


Wednesday, February 15
KF8 and iBooks Author: Up and Running
Sanders Kleinfeld & Adam Witwer (O’Reilly Media)
9:20 a.m.

How Consumers Discover Books Online
Otis Chandler (
10:35 a.m.

Additionally, I’ll be volunteering at the Digital Petting Zoo on Wednesday at around 12 p.m., so please stop by the Astor Ballroom Foyer to get close and personal with some cool devices and e-readers!

See you in NYC and at TOC!


*Livetweeting only guaranteed by a solid WiFi network. If the connection is too bombarded & slow, then I’ll tweet what I can through my iPhone (can’t type as fast as I would on a laptop, so let’s hope we have working internets!)

Tools of Change: There’s An App for That!

How crazy is it that Tools of Change is next week?! I can’t wait to hear the many amazing panelists at the conference, as well as get my hands on some awesome devices during the Digital Petting Zoo (which I’ll be volunteering at, hurray!). So imagine my surprise when Kat Meyer tweeted about a newly released app for conference goers, available on the iPhone, iPad and soon Android.

As soon as I opened it up, I knew I was in for a treat. The thought of an app escaped me when I began to think about my upcoming schedule at TOC; I’ve used an app for my trip to New York Comic Con last year, and I had some mixed experiences. Overall, the main reason I use apps like these is to have my personalized schedule close at hand so that I don’t need to fuddle through printed maps and handouts.

For TOC, I need not worry with this app. Everything – keynote location, times, and event descriptions – is located within one clean interface.

My personalized schedule, displayed on the TOC App.

For more screencaps, click the link below!

Read the rest of this entry

A Late-Night Post

Happy 2012! I know I’m late. Really late. But I had a hankering for writing a blog post, so here’s a quick one:

  • I recently wrote a blog post for Appazoogle, a really neat opinion site on digital publishing and current developments in the ePub world – it was started by a class at Emerson College, my soon-to-be alma mater. In the post, I talked about iBooks Author. I had fun with it.
  • My thesis is (essentially) finished. I will someday update the Master’s Project page with more details. My defense was successful; I’ll take a moment to say, again, many thank-yous to my reader Benjamin Florin and my adviser John Rodzvilla. All I have left to do is fix my Kindle file (curse you, Mobi!) and figure out what to charge for the e-book. I’m probably going to go with Smashwords for distribution.
  • I began my internship at O’Reilly Media(!!!) this semester, where I work with a bunch of amazing people in Cambridge. It’s really bizarre to go in and do what you love (i.e. QAing ebooks) for eight hours. Whenever I see it’s 5 p.m. (or in one particular case involving Subversion, 6:30) I ask myself, “Where did the time go?” I love the work I’m doing and having a blast.
  • And speaking of O’Reilly: Next month I’ll be attending Tools of Change in New York City. As you can imagine, I am ridiculously excited to go and learn about the latest trends and developments in digital publishing and beyond.
  • As you may know, along with Colleen Cunningham (@BookDesignGirl), I coordinated the first-ever #eprdctn meetup in Boston (#eprdctnBOS), where folks involved in ebook production got together and had a drink. We had a fabulous time, and I hope to do it again soon, so stay tuned for news on that!

That’s all I can think of right now, but as you can see, 2012 is set to be really exciting. Hopefully I can keep up!

Steve Jobs.

I think John Perry Barlow sums it up:

I’m still in shock, of course. And it’s a very strange feeling; I haven’t used Apple products for very long. I became an Apple user in June 2006. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked and never looked back.

I never knew Steve Jobs and yet I feel incredibly saddened by his death. And honestly, I find this perplexing.

This relationship I had (have?) with Steve is difficult to explain, and I’m sure other Mac users can share this sentiment; I feel so close to him, and yet he’s a stranger. At the end of the day, we will never meet – he will never know my name.

But this reminds me of what’s probably the closest connection I’ll have to Steve Jobs: in 2007, I my laptop died. It was a first generation Macbook I received as a graduation present. I used this laptop for everything – my classes, my illustrations – it was my life. The day my hard drive failed was also the same day the warranty expired. As a college student, I couldn’t afford the AppleCare renewal, so I thought all was for naught, and that I had lost all my work for good (I couldn’t afford an external hard drive then, so none of my work had been saved elsewhere).

So I wrote a desperate email to sjobs [at] apple [dot] com, a much-too-long letter explaining all the issues I had with my Macbook (affectionately named Sam – I don’t know, I was young?), detailing all the problems I had with it over the course of a year, including cracking palmrests, a faulty CD drive, battery failures, and frayed power adapter cords. I couldn’t imagine repurchasing a laptop after a mere year of using one. I wrote,

I know you probably have thousands of other emails to sift through and answer, but I sincerely hope you consider mine to be an honest message. I have nowhere else to turn to, and I believe that you can help me.

He somehow answered mine, indirectly. The next day I received an email from Nicholas Applewhite (not kidding about the name), a member of Apple’s Corporate Executive Relations, with the following message:

Dear Ms. Iris A. Febres,
Thank you for your email to the executive offices of Apple. Your correspondence concerns an issue that we believe would be better handled in a phone conversation.
Unfortunately, no telephone number was provided in your email below. I have summarized the contents of your letter in case number [XYZ]. If you have not yet resolved the issue, please contact me at [number] Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time, and reference the above case number.
You can also find service and support options to fit your individual needs at the AppleCare Support web site,
Thank you for taking the time to email us.

Long story short, this happened:

New laptop replacement, after this happened:

I think about that exchange now, and seeing “forwarded message” again after a good four years since opening that email that now sits in an ignored mailbox, and I’m left speechless. He obviously cared enough about my user experience – the one belonging to a college student without a dime – to forward the email to the right party, who in turn took care of my problem.

I still feel so perplexed. Using the products Steve Jobs created and spearheaded have been essentially second nature to me. I don’t think about my iPhone or my Macbook like I do my other devices; they’re just there. They are so integral to my day-to-day work, my interactions with my friends and family, my [future] career – essentially, and this may sound dramatic, the fibers of my being – that I can’t help but feel sad about Jobs’ passing.

He was the face of a technology that has helped me develop as an individual – academically, professionally, personally. I owe him a lot. And now he’s gone.

Thank you, Steve. Thank you for forwarding that email to Mr. Applewhite. Thank you for making my college experience richer. Thank you for helping me discover I want to make ebooks, as well as my love of tech. Thank you for changing the world.

Thank you, Steve.

Reflection & Reaction: The eBook Architects Workshop

My flight back to Boston isn’t until 6 p.m. tonight, so I’m writing this from the eBook Architects office – lovingly known as “where the magic happens.” The eBook production workshop has finally wrapped up, and the Ninjas are back to work. All I can hear is clicking, typing, and Toby going over a project with another Ninja, pointing at two different monitors. Across from my laptop are six different e-readers, including three Kindles. I know exactly where I am.

I didn’t really know what to expect as I prepared for this trip, as I sat on a plane to Austin, as I waited at the baggage claim for the Ninjas to appear from the darkness. I certainly did not expect the overwhelming warmth that came from the professionals I met at this workshop, including the original Ninjas themselves: Toby, Chris, and Joshua.

They picked me up and were all smiles; it was like returning to a group of friends. At the hotel, we all got together at a pre-planned mixer. I had dinner and met most of the attendees. Some came from publishers, others were freelancers, but all were eager to learn about successful eBook production.

The workshop was intense. I learned how to make a Kindle file (and the messiness that endeavor entails), how to create a book with fixed-width (iBooks), a whole mess of work in Regular Expressions and Perl, and what’s coming into play with EPUB 3. I learned about workflows and ways to make them more efficient, along with different tools that can guide ePub creators and help detect issues. I learned everyone has a lot to learn from creating ebooks, and that it’s a collaborative effort. And above all else, I learned that while I may still be a student, and not a professional in a technical sense, I’m not the only one curious, fascinated, and yes, overwhelmed with the affairs of electronic publishing. This is (a) serious business!

I think the best part of the workshop was this: it was amazing to talk to people who loved, lived, and breathed this stuff, this delightful chaos we’re trying to harness for readers all over the world. There is a community within electronic publishing that is growing, and it is full of people who are looking ahead to what can be discovered in this realm of digital content.

This workshop gave me a fantastic opportunity: I learned practical skills to utilize whenever I work within the ePUB format. I learned some good habits to practice during coding. I also networked with accomplished, driven professionals who have been involved with publishing for years, and all of them brought so many approaches to the table. After all, there is no one, perfect way of doing things.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a workshop of this kind, whether it’s hosted by eBook Architects or anyone else, do it. Please, please, please do it. You’ll gain an incredible understanding of not only what makes up the field of electronic publishing, but who. And if you’re anything like me, you’re not going to want to leave. It’s these kinds of opportunities that can give you a boost of confidence for your work – you won’t regret it.

Continuing Developments

And we’re back!

As you may have been able to tell from the lack of updating, I’ve started my penultimate semester at Emerson College as an epublishing student. I’m absolutely flabbergast at the fact that I’m almost there, ridiculously close to getting that shiny master’s degree.

However, I’m also a bit saddened by it, too.

Counting my time at undergrad, I don’t think anything can top the semester I’m currently having here. I’m at work on a thesis that feels challenging and rewarding, as well as in a great class covering the basics of electronic publishing; and all this under the guidance of the best adviser I could ever ask for. It amazes me how safe I feel here in this program; I am so comfortable, happy – and I don’t know how I’m going to deal with graduating in May just yet.

And I thought graduating from undergrad was a big deal. Emerson has crafted this kind of cocoon I really don’t want to leave. This scares me. Staying and teaching epublishing at Emerson has crossed my mind more than once, though I have no idea how that could ever be accomplished. This also scares me.

Anyway, fears and silliness aside – and speaking of leaving – it’s too good to be true: I’ll be attending the eBook Architects workshop next week! It’s NEXT WEEK. I don’t believe this.

Honestly, I’m very nervous. I’m afraid I’ll ask a stupid question and everyone will raise their eyebrows and wonder why I’m in the room. But I know these are unfounded, silly fears and that this community – including the one involved with #eprdctn (which has a wiki now!) – will be welcoming, friendly, and above all, patient.

At the end of the day, I can’t wait to learn from such talented professionals.

Lastly, the thesis is going fine, slow if anything. Instead of working on it like I’m supposed to, I’ve been reading The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia. It’s a great book, and I hope to finish it by the weekend. I also whipped up this poster in InDesign for it, instead of working on my thesis:

It’s all about priorities. And yes, I need to work on mine.

Clearing the dust

So it’s been exactly one month since I last posted – I apologize!  The last three weeks were filled with traveling (from coast to coast) and catching up with myself. Classes begin in less than two weeks, and while I’m excited, I’m incredibly nervous about all the work I need to do for my thesis.

It’s… getting there. No where near where I need it to be, of course, but I am confident it will get done by September 6. Because, you know, it will get done by September 6.

I don’t know why I’ve procrastinated so much with such an important project – one that determines whether I graduate next semester, no less – but I am strangely calm about it. Granted, I lost time when my last tablet, a Wacom Intuos3, died on me after a solid five years of work. Now I’m using a Bamboo Fun, and it’s great for what I’m doing.

Here’s the most recent pages I worked on:

Yeah, it’s getting there. I’m trying to figure out what exactly I’ll bring into the eBook Architects workshop next month, but I’m sure it’s going to have to do with this project. I’m sure problems will arise…

I know a lot of ebook news has been going on too. I’ll be blogging again soon! I missed writing here!

eBooks and Education

So I made a pseudo-cameo in Joshua Tallent and Co.’s eBook Ninjas podcast! I had asked a question about how to prepare to enter the field of ebook conversions – I pretty much inquired about what to read, what to practice, etc. Joshua, Tobias, and Chris were kind enough to share their thoughts and advice. (To hear it, listen to the most recent episode, episode 41, about 10 minutes in. Needless to say, I was pretty giddy when they mentioned me, this blog, and my Twitter account!)

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they mentioned two things:

A) The date for the eBook Production Workshop(!) – September 19-21! If you’re interested in learning about eBook conversion and the like, check out this workshop. When I first learned about it, I knew I had to go – despite the $600 price tag. I’ll be booking my flight and hotel stay once more details are announced. I think what’s even cooler about this workshop involves who’ll be attending. I can’t wait to meet these professionals and learn about their work.

B) Near the end of the podcast, Joshua mentioned an interesting topic he and the fellow ninjas wanted to discuss within the next few podcasts: ebooks and education. While I’m mildly interested in the realm of digital textbooks, I’m more concerned about how ebook creation is being taught in schools.

With the number of times I’m asked about my current academic program by strangers and family members alike, I’m starting to feel like a poster child for the electronic publishing track at Emerson. I’m immensely proud of the track and believe it’s a fantastic avenue for students to get into the nitty gritty of online publishing. Emerson has taken an initiative in addressing the shift to digital among publishers; after all, it’s now required for incoming graduate publishing students to take an overview course in electronic publishing in the fall.

I have one year left at Emerson, and so far I’m looking to have taken at least four electronic publishing courses. These include the aforementioned overview, my thesis project (a forthcoming illustrated graphic novel I wrote/drew that I’ll be digitizing for view on the NookColor), a focused course on creating content for the web and e-readers (essentially, basic HTML and EPUB work) and a possible web development course. As a result of the web/e-readers class I took this past spring, I not only know how to create an EPUB file, but I understand how it works and know the limitations it can bring to certain texts.

The New York Times ran a piece about the famed Columbia Publishing Course, an intense program for students to learn the ins and outs of publishing. Inaugurated in Cambridge, Mass. at Radcliffe College, the course allows students to network with editors and learn about the trade; aside from attending lectures, students complete complex projects and proposals and present them to real editors for review.

Now, as ebooks have gained footing, the course has had to address their presence, ensuring its students to have the edge in the shifting industry.

But is the Columbia Publishing course teaching anything about EPUB? As far as I can tell, not really*, according to the second segment of the course, which involves digital media:

During the magazine and digital media workshop, student groups develop proposals for new magazines or Web sites, researching possible audiences, establishing editorial mission statements, designing layouts and wireframes, assessing competitors, determining potential advertisers and developing a Web strategy. By the end of the six weeks, course graduates have a greater understanding of book, magazine and digital media publishing than many people now working in the field. – CPC Course Description

Of course, my view of this course is limited because, hey, I’m not attending it. For all I know, I’m sure the word “epub” has been uttered a few times during a lecture or three. But I’m sure they’re not going into the details Emerson has begun to dig into with its epublishing track. There’s a difference between learning about ebooks and making ebooks.

Now, I don’t want to knock Columbia’s course; after all, I’m sure it’s an amazing opportunity for future publishing professionals. And let’s face it, you can only do so much within a few weeks! But while it’s very nice to gain an understanding of what ebooks are doing in the greater scope of the industry, I don’t think a future editor can genuinely understand what an ebook is until they catch at least a glimpse of how one is produced. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t really work if you just read about it. There is a chemistry – a physiology, even – within an ebook, making it tricky to pin and analyze. Coupled with the nature of the ebook’s evolving culture and economy, many can find themselves at a loss to understand how it all fits together.

At Emerson, I’ve been able to learn about ebooks through three lenses: in one, I’m the programmer, dealing with cold code and troubleshooting the issues that plague text when read on a device. In another, I’m the editor examining ebooks as a platform for marketing a product; and thirdly, I’m the reader, trying to understand what I want from my own user experience as I consume books. I think future publishing professionals need to take to a three-pronged view in order fully comprehend what ebooks are doing. Print books aren’t going anywhere, but ebooks are indeed here to stay.

Aside from this, The New York Times article also bothered me because of the dismissive approach it took to Cambridge/Boston in general:

Since it moved to Manhattan, students have been able to plug directly into the industry and mingle with editors at book parties in the evening, a far cry from the cozy isolation of Cambridge.

“Cozy isolation”? Did The New York Times miss a memo about how many publishers are in Boston, including

  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Bedford/St. Martin’s
  • Beacon Press
  • Pearson Education (Custom Publishing)
  • MIT Press
  • Candlewick Press
  • Shambhala Publications
  • Cheng & Tsui

and many, many others. Yes, they’re not the Big Six, and they’re not in the middle of the busiest city in the world, but the publishers located in Boston and the greater Massachusetts area offer valid experience and opportunities for students to become involved in work they want to do by supplementing their learning experience with hands-on work. And certainly, when it comes to digital publishing, it  goes way beyond the Big Apple to, well, almost any place with an Internet connection.

I used to believe I had to force myself to live in NYC in order to “make it” in publishing. Based on my experience at Emerson so far, that is no longer the case.

* If any CPC students want to let me know what the program has covered in terms of ebook production, please feel free to comment.

Thesisness: Quick snapshot/progress

So I’ve been back at my thesis (since it’s pretty much do-or-die at this point) and figured out the following things:

  • How to take screencaps with the Nook Color (push the home/’n’ button and the minus (-) volume button at the same time; small walkthrough here)
  • The actual dimensions for the NookColor’s display, in order to use as much screen space as possible
  • Calibre‘s conversion tools allow me to play with the margins of the .epub file, so none of my images will be  truncated (…for now)
  • Sigil is still annoying, but I can’t live without WYSIWYG (… for now)

Once I have more substantial updates with the thesis, I’ll post more of my progress to the appropriate page here. Finally getting work done, jeez!