Highlights from Napier’s Publishing Trip to Germany

Last week I hopped on a plane to Mainz with a group of my fellow publishing postgrads. The trip was absolutely fantastic. We had the chance to meet interesting people, explore new places and learn about the publishing landscape in Germany.

We spent a day at the university in Mainz, listening to lectures and touring their publishing archive. We enjoyed a walking tour of the city, ate delicious local cuisine and even got to tour the archives of Schott Music, a leading publisher for classic and contemporary music. As a former band geek, I was ecstatic to learn a bit about the history of music book publishing and completely enthralled to be in the same room as original work by Mozart and Wagner.

My personal highlight of our visit was a day trip to Heidelberg (aka my new favorite city). We did some sightseeing (I convinced a few classmates to join me in climbing the 313 steps up to the top of the city’s castle) and then spent the afternoon listening to presentations at Springer Nature’s headquarters.

Springer Nature is the world’s largest academic publisher, renowned for research, educational and professional and publishing. The staff made us feel extremely welcome, providing coffee, snacks and some really interesting presentations from staff in their communications, strategy and production teams. It was fascinating to hear about the publisher’s history and brand. Springer Nature has a global reach, so it was very cool to be inside such an enormous office and learn about the publishing history and process for such a large-scale company. They publish 13,000 books per year. Our group sat in awe at the complex production workflow each book passes through before being published. Even with the PowerPoint slide zoomed in at about 300%, I was still squinting to try and see all the tasks listed along the production schedule.

My favorite presentation was given by Dr. Niels Peter Thomas, Springer Nature’s Chief Book Strategist. He shared about his vision for the future of books. He discussed innovative ideas for new book formats and business models. Springer Nature is at the forefront of research and academics, so it makes sense for them to push the boundaries of what a book really is. Thomas discussed the possible use of virtual reality to provide spatial representation that helps students retain information and customized content and formats to aid readers’ learning process. The presentations provided great insight into what goes on in a major academic publishing house. It was incredibly interesting and inspiring to think about how books will evolve and how publishers will adapt to technological advancements.

I’m really happy I went on the trip. I didn’t know about it when I first enrolled at Edinburgh Napier, so it was a great surprise when they invited students to sign up for a publishing themed tour of Germany. I learned a lot and got to see some incredibly beautiful new places in the world.

Shout-out to all the amazing postgrads and professors (from Mainz and Napier) who made the trip so unforgettable.

 

 

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Discovering Production

As a reader, I used to pick up a book and judge it by the cover and story. Now that I have been studying publishing for a few months, when I pick up a book, I think about the production choices. I think about what paper, typeface and other design decisions went into the book. Over the last few months, I learned that a lot more goes into the production of a book than the average reader would ever guess.

I chose to move to Edinburgh and attend Edinburgh Napier because of their emphasis on vocational training. (I also just really wanted the opportunity to live in Scotland.) I knew enthusiasm could only get me so far. I wanted to develop a practical skillset.

Napier’s MSc Publishing course gives you a year of dedicated learning in editorial, marketing, rights, production and everything in-between. It’s an in-depth overview of the entire publishing industry—books and magazines. I’ve always been interested in design but didn’t really know what it entailed. I didn’t even know what production was a few months ago. I knew someone had to design a book’s cover, but I never thought about the work required in typesetting and designing a book’s interior.

I’ve learned that it’s the production department creating the overall look and feel of the book, transforming a word document to a polished and professional product. Production meticulously goes through the text eliminating “widows” and “orphans.” They’re the ones ensuring the formatting is clear and readable, preparing the book for printing. Never had I considered how the choice of typeface changes someone’s perception of a book. For example, a production designer wouldn’t use Helvetica for a Sherlock Holmes novel. Baskerville, a typeface fitting to the story’s period and setting, would be a much  better choice.

Production choices define a reader’s experience with a book. A good example of this is the work of Scottish publisher Barrington Stoke. They use a specific type of paper and a specially designed typeface to create dyslexic-friendly books. Production choices like these can make a book more attractive and accessible to readers.

I enjoyed learning about editorial, rights, the fiction market, etc., but production has been my favorite topic this trimester. I learned how to navigate InDesign and put what I learned into practice by designing AI sheets and book templates. I’m happy to report that my prior dread of InDesign has morphed into (mostly) genuine enjoyment. Three months ago, I didn’t even know how to use a Mac computer. Now, I can typeset a book. Seeing myself and my fellow PC loyalists progress has been immensely satisfying.

I came to Napier thinking I wanted to pursue either editorial and marketing. While I’m still very interested in those areas, I’ve now added production to my list of ideal jobs. I’ve no doubt that as I continue through this course, I’ll discover new and exciting areas of the publishing industry to add to my list of dream careers. Hopefully, after completing Napier’s MSc Publishing course, I’ll find myself working in one of them.

Photo via gizmodo