Christina Vasilevski

Writer/Editor for Content Strategy and User Experience

A review of the Ryerson publishing program – Part 2

Last week, I wrote a post outlining my opinion of some of the Ryerson publishing courses I took. This week, I’m following up with a discussion of two other courses I took at Ryerson. I’ll round out the course summaries in a third post, and also talk about other facets of the Ryerson program.

(Update, August 7, 2011: Post #3 is here!)

Production for Books, Journals, and Reports

Perhaps the best thing about this course is the teacher I had – David S. Ward. He works for McLelland and Stewart. He’s got a major in Celtic Studies and listens to industrial  music. He’s charismatic as hell. And oh yes – this is the man who loves Caslon and hates Comic Sans with a fiery passion.

All joking aside, this was a very useful course because it talked about what happens to take a book from a (possibly messy) pile of pages to the fully-bound, typeset thing that we all know and love. In other words, it goes beyond the typical face of publishing (book launches! authors! schmoozing!) and goes right into the messy, ink-ridden bowels of it all: trim sizes, typefaces, scheduling, and shipping.

Even though I don’t plan to work in-house in a production department, I consider this course to be one of the most satisfying, because it allowed me to look at books in a new way: not just as collections of words, but as physical objects. After learning how paper is pulped, how a printing schedule is determined, and what an actual printing manufacturer looks like, it’s hard not to savour the texture of paper or the crispness of a book’s trim.

(Note: I took this course on campus during the winter of 2010.)

Publishing in the Electronic Age

Do you want to learn about eBooks and how they’re changing the publishing industry?

Do you want to learn about digital rights management?

Do you want to learn about the format war between .epub and .mobi?

If so, then you’ll need to look elsewhere. Because honestly, this course either doesn’t discuss, or barely scratches the surface of, these topics. Instead, it talks about how digital data is created, stored, and managed. Except that there are major holes in this education too. For example…

  • You’ll learn what XML is, but not how to write code in it.
  • You will learn about programs like Flash, Shockwave, and Director, but you won’t be told that the developer of those programs, Macromedia, was bought out by Adobe over 5 years ago.
  • You’ll learn about how Netscape Navigator stores cookies (seriously!), but not that Netscape’s current browser market share is around 1% and that Firefox’s current share is around 30%.
    • Actually, scratch that – you won’t hear a peep about open-source software at all.

However, I must admit that I took the online version of this course – it’s possible that the on-campus version is quite different.

In short, while this course does teach useful things, it doesn’t live up to its name. “Publishing in the Electronic Age” implies learning about how the publishing industry is reacting to things like the self-publishing movement, print on demand, and eBook piracy. Instead, what you’ll get is a discourse on content management, file types, and metadata. These things are good to know, but I think a far more accurate name for this course would be “Content Management in the Electronic Age” – however, I doubt that would get as many bums in seats.

(Note: I took this course online during the summer of 2010. However, I have been informed that this course was discontinued in 2011. It has been superseded by a course called “Digital Publishing and Production”, which I haven’t had the chance to take.)

 

Feeling Professional and Learning About XML

The past week has seen a flurry of really positive activity:

  • A web design company I’m helping sent me a payment
  • I sent out two contracts to new clients
  • I attended another Board meeting for the Writer’s Circle of Durham Region
  • I finally gave in and joined Twitter (look for @cvasilevski)
  • I reconnected with a former non-profit employer of mine and am in talks with them to do some volunteer work on their newsletter

After deciding to freelance about four months ago, I’ve realized that being successful requires baby steps. When I first purchased things I considered necessary, like an external hard drive or some software, I quailed inside about the money I was spending; now that there’s some money coming in (though I’d like a lot more!), I feel a little bit better about my choices. It’s funny, but ever since I decided to start doing this, I’ve found satisfaction in the most unlikely tasks: entering in transactions to a general ledger? Yes! Keeping a copy of my receipts? Yes! Tinkering with WordPress behind the scenes? Yes and yes!

I enjoy doing the busy work, and that’s tremendously encouraging. Networking is a more pressing concern, but I’m doing what I can, what with Sprouter and Twitter and attending events. Cold-calling is something I need to do more of, but again, baby steps.

In other news, my Production class at Ryerson is drawing to a close, and my final assignment involves working with XML. I’ve never done so directly, but the tutorial from class wasn’t too difficult. Luckily, I used to do a lot of work with HTML in high school, designing my own website, and the basic mechanics (open tags, insert information, close tags, keep it symmetrical) are the same. My last assignment garnered a seven out of ten – less than I was hoping for, but that just means I have to learn more about working with InDesign and Photoshop to really get what I want.

So, today will involve a lot of writing, and thinking, and errands. It’s a lovely list of things to do on a Saturday.