We’ve been working fairly feverishly at the office this past week converting back issue Quark files to an ePub document suitable for upload to Amazon’s Kindle platform. We uploaded back issue no. 120 a couple of days ago and have seven additional back issues done but in need of proofing, which will be done Tuesday by Rhoda and Al. Then they’ll be uploaded to Kindle.
We are in the early stages of doing this work so it is taking us several days to complete each issue, but I think we can get that time down to about two days per issue, maybe even less. The difficulty lies in the many opportunities there are to make mistakes because you are dealing with a lot of formatting and coding that must be changed.
I’m using the only people capable of doing such intense and challenging computer work: young high school and college kids I’ve known for years. They include my son Sam Duffy, 17, a senior at Gold Beach High School, my son Robby Duffy, 19, a sophomore at Oregon State University, BHM employee Toby Stanley, 21, a sophomore at Southwestern Oregon Community College, Jon Werder, 19, a freshman at Linn Benton Community College, Jessie Denning, 22, who just graduated magna cum laude from Oregon State University, and Julia Denning, 21, a senior at Bard College in New York.
I’ve essentially set them up as an old-fashioned word processing (typing) pool with Al Boulley, BHM’s computer guy, supervising it. It took Al several days to train them in what formatting and coding changes needed to be made to get a back issue ready for Kindle, and now they do the work while Al supervises from the background and is available to solve the many perplexing problems that come up.
The kids are using several programs simultaneously to do this work: Adobe InDesign, Calibre, Kindle Previewer, and SIGIL. They go through stages from converting InDesign files to an ePub, then a mobi file. The mobi file goes through several proofing stages, usually done by our regular magazine proofer, Rhoda Denning, using Kindle Previewer. Then Al Boulley does a final proofing using SIGIL, which reveals all the coding so he can convert certain parts of the issue that have resisted all other attempts to convert it. I’ve decided it’s best that Al does most of the work in SIGIL because the risk of making a critical error within the coding is simply too great. Al is the only person on staff who could reliably recover from a critical SIGIL error.
I’ve also inserted myself into this process, learning all the programs and steps needed to convert an issue. It’s the only way I could really get a handle on how to set up the machinery necessary to accomplish the enormous task of converting 136 back issues to 136 eBooks. It’s very intense mental work, the type that threatens to make your head explode.
This is only the beginning. Initially we’re converting all the BHM back issues created using Adobe InDesign and Photoshop. That will take us back only about three years, then we’ll get into issues created with Quark XPress, which means we’ll have to convert those issues to InDesign before starting the current conversion process. Quark XPress will take us back another 15 or so years, and then we’ll get into issues created with Ventura Publisher, the old desktop publisher I used to start the magazine. Al has already made a working copy of Ventura Publisher and will work out a methodology for converting those issues, which promises to be a formidable task.
It’s been a fascinating process so far. Al Boulley is the essential ingredient for accomplishing this. He figured out the process, identified the necessary programs needed to accomplish it, set up everyone’s computer, and taught the rest of us. He’s now the “go to” guy for solving intractable conversion problems.