Proofing outputs

28 February 2010

As I explained the other day when describing typesetting outputs, the days when authors received their proofs on what looked like a giant toilet roll are long gone. Today, everything is output as PDF files, which then can be printed onto ordinary (A4 or US Letter) paper.

Some more traditionalist presses may still only deliver hard-copy proofs to their authors. Increasingly, however, the actual PDFs are being sent. For authors, it is with the latter that a big revolution has occurred in recent years – with the development of these ‘soft’ PDF proofs. These can be read by anyone, using any type of computer, with the free Adobe Reader program. Editing of a PDF file is another matter; this is also possible but only with the full (paid-for) Acrobat program.

Initially, the limitations of Adobe Reader meant that authors could only print off the proofs and mark up any changes on the hard copy. These would then be faxed or mailed back to the publisher. Nowadays, however, it is possible to annotate PDF files without having to own a copy of the full Acrobat program; even in Adobe Reader, one can now highlight text and add yellow ‘sticky’ notes, for instance. Such annotated PFDs can simply be emailed back to the press.

Some authors can get far more creative than this. For instance, the prototype of Robert Cribb’s Digital Atlas of Indonesian History (finally delivered to the printer last week, hence my long silence this past fortnight) was created in InDesign and output as PDFs for the author to respond to. This he did by bringing the PDFs into CorelDraw and annotating them there, returning his feedback as JPEG files.

Adobe now also allows publishers (and anyone else with the full Acrobat program) to create special PDF proofs. These can be edited by their recipients, even if all that they are using is Adobe Reader. At NIAS Press, however, we have not adopted this proofing feature. Personally, we don’t think that editing a PDF file gives good results or indeed is a good idea; better simply to annotate the PDF file, do the editing in the actual typesetting documents, and then output new, ‘clean’ PDFs.

As you can see, there are several ways to proof your book. I pick up on this later in the week with fuller details on making your proof corrections.

But whichever method you adopt – working with paper or PDF – it sure beats the hell out of using toilet paper!

(Post #4 of the Proofing section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here.)

Image problems

2 February 2010

Perhaps I embarrassed you in my earlier post about unhelpful formatting. Sorry, I was actually trying to be (er) helpful.

But it is not only your text that must be delivered in a suitable format; so, too, must any illustrations. I briefly touched on this issue earlier with the cover design but essentially your image files must be usable – both readable and, for bit-mapped (rasterized) images, of a sufficient resolution (at least 300 dpi in its final dimensions).

If you are delivering any vector-based images, these of course can be scaled without problem (resolution is not the issue here). However, to avoid any readability problems for the typesetter, make sure that these images are in EPS format rather than the proprietary format for the software you use (most likely Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw), especially since these programs can save files in EPS format.

Image readability/suitability is something that most likely your production editor will check as a matter of routine but you will not want to make a last-minute confession to her about the key illustration in your book being unusable (it is so grainy, it looks as if it were made with Lego blocks).

Such horror pictures cannot be fixed (well, not satisfactorily). Neither your editor nor the typesetter is a magician; they cannot fix everything. More to the point, they have better things to do with their time.

As such, if you have images in need of a bit of time, love and care (and you cannot provide this yourself), then I suggest you find yourself a technically savvy friend to optimize your images to the highest quality before you deliver them to your publisher.

(Post #14 of the Design & Typesetting section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here.)