At the time we started ShortCourses.com we had no plans to publish printed books. We'd gone down that road with our previous photographic publishing company, Curtin & London. It was expensive and time consuming to print, warehouse, ship and bill for large quantities of books. We started the ShortCourses.com to freely share what I knew about photography and was learning from others. Almost immediately I started receiving hundreds of e-mail messages from people thanking me for sharing this information with them. A surprising number also asked if the information was available in printed form so they could read it anywhere they wanted, or pass it on to friends. Having
spent my career in the publishing field, I knew there are problems with printing books in this area. Not only is the market relatively small, but it is changing so fast publishers would have trouble keeping their books up-to-date. These problems make the field unattractive to traditional publishers. Yet, while developing the site, I learned new ways of doing things. By combining printing-on-demand technology and Internet distribution, books could be both kept up-to-date and widely distributed. The result was our ShortCourses bookstore inspired by this new way of doing things. We now publish Short Courses books on almost every leading digital SLR camera along with books on editing, displaying, and sharing your images. There is also a very low cost series of digital photography textbooks for high schools, colleges, universities, and businesses.
How ShortCourse Books are Printed
Publishing technology has changed so much it is now possible to print books in small quantities. The Xerox DocuTech machine used to print this book prints up to 135 pages per minute at a sharp 600 dots per inch. The ShortCourse books are laid out as they are written using inDesign, and the files from that program are used to generate PDF files that drive the printer without any intervening steps. The quality is much higher than you get from a desktop laser printer and as good as many black & white printed books. The books are then bound with a high-quality spiral binding that lets them lie flat, or be folded in half.
Because the books are written in inDesign and published on a fully digital system, printed copies are available for sale a day or two after completion abd download editions within hours. A traditional publisher might take up to six months for this process. In fact, traditional publishers can't do what we're doing. They have two seasons and two catalogs a year. Each of these is called a "list" as in "the fall list" or "the spring list." Six months is spent planning and marketing each of these lists. In the digital camera market, new versions of cameras are introduced every six months or so. By the time a traditional publisher gets a book into a bookstore, it is covering the previous camera.
Black & White Printed Editions
ShortCourses books are not printed in color (although some have color sections). Why is this? It's because it would require a dramatic increase in the selling price of the books. Printing technology has made some tremendous strides, but color is still prohibitively expensive unless 10,000 or more copies are printed at a time. This large-scale publishing is best left to the large international publishing houses. The role of ShortCourses.com is to bring you books these large firms can't afford to do either because the market is too small for them, or because the field is moving so fast they can't respond in a timely manner. For the foreseeable future, all of our books will be in black & white because we feel the information they contain is valuable without the higher costs and higher prices that adding color would cause.
ShortCourse books use a very popular and more expensive spiral binding for easy reading. If you have ever tried to follow the instructions in a book with a traditional binding you know how maddening it can be to keep it open and not loose your place all the time. Our books lie absolutely flat, and because they fold over, they occupy half as much desktop space and are easier to hold when reading.
Our spiral bindings make it easy to fold the book over so it takes up only half the space or less expensively bound large-format books.
Full-color eBook Editions and Animations
Full color versions of all of our books are available as PDF eBooks on CDs and as instant downloads. These eBooks can be read on your computer using your Web browser or Adobe's free Acrobat Reader. Not only are they in full color, you can also search for words or phrases and see instantly where they are discussed in the book. Acrobat Reader will also do a fair job of reading the book to you out loud. eBooks and PDF files are slowly but surely revolutionizing the publishing and printing businesses in many ways including the following:
- Timeliness. Since large quantities of inventory aren't required, materials can be revised and updated as needed instead of on a fixed schedule every 2 or 3 years. In a rapidly evolving field such as digital photography these frequent revisions are often required to keep materials up to date.
- Distribute and print. Big publishers work on a print and distribute basis. This means they take enormous risks, tie up millions of dollars of capital, and bear marketing, sales, warehouse, shipping, and billing costs. All of these costs are passed on to students or their parents. The emerging model, used by this eText, is called distribute and print. Using this model, materials are distributed around the world electronically and then printed where needed.
- Print on demand. Instead of printing large quantities, the print on demand model is to print materials only when needed-in this case you only print the pages or chapters you are interested in at the moment. If printed materials get lost or damaged, you just print another copy.
- Linked learning resources. Each eBook edition acts as a central hub connecting you to other learning resources on the Internet. Throughout the eTextT you can click buttons to access resources stored on the PhotoCourse. com Web site. To access these resources you need an up-to-date Flash player (free at Adobe.com) and an Internet connection.
- Animation buttons link to animations stored on our Web site.
- Extension buttons link you to PDF files or Excel spread sheets that expand on the topic in which you find them.
Ansel Adams, probably the most famous American Photographer ever, photographed almost exclusively in black and white. Like you and I, he probably preferred books printed in color, but very few were.