Exciting things are happening at the crossroads of self-publishing and libraries lately!  We’re fascinated with the ways that libraries are working to help their communities create content, not just consume it– and how they’re collecting that content, too!  This week, we chatted with Matt Clark, Director of Marketing and Program Development at Provincetown Public Library in Massachusetts about their groundbreaking new digital press.  Read on to learn more about this exciting initiative and the tech tools they use to make it happen.  Cheers! ~Erinn. 

Final Logo copyLibrary as Incubator Project (LAIP): A lot of libraries are interested in local content, and in creating a space within the community that not only supports creative endeavors, but shares them.  (Think IStreet PressIowa City Public Library’s local music collection, etc).  Provincetown’s model is a bit different, because it’s a digital publishing imprint.   How did the idea for a digital publishing imprint develop?

Matt Clark (MC): For a library project that [Library Director] Cheryl Napsha and I were working on, we decided to try to introduce some fresh new technology into our final presentation, and experimented with iBooks Author.  Both of us were impressed by the amount of dynamic content (scrolling text, embedded video, hyperlinks, interactive photos, etc.) that could be included in an iBook, and saw its potential to completely change and enhance the reader’s experience.  In addition to the quality design of iBooks, the ease of delivery to the internet really left an impression, and got us both thinking about producing original content.

The iBook/eBook format really empowers the author because it cuts out many of the traditional barriers to publishing.

Using the changes the internet brought to the music industry over the past decade as an example, we decided to start an imprint that focused on creating a reputation for publishing quality online content.  In our opinion, shopping books around to major publishers through an agent won’t be the way the industry works in the near future.  When free, user friendly programs allow anyone to publish online with just the click of a button, the only thing that is going to matter is the content, and how well it is delivered and marketed.  Our goal is to remain at the forefront of this movement, and become a respected resource as a publishing imprint by transferring this content into this new format, and making sure it looks and functions great.

A series of screenshots from the iBook that Matt created to showcase the Library, its programs, partnerships, and beautiful facility, showing embedded content.  Check out the Want More? section below for Matt’s directions on how to download this iBook to your iPad!:

LAIP: Will the library collect the books that are created through this program?

MC: The Library would like to collect the books, but will do so contingent on the author’s permission.

LAIP: How is digital publishing specifically supporting your (highly artistic) community in a way that something like I Street Press would not? 

MC: That’s a question of scale– the Sacramento Library (IStreet Press) is one of the major Libraries in the nation, with a massive budget and 28 branches.  The Provincetown Public Libraries serve a population of 3,000, with a $300,000 budget.  We have neither the budget nor the space for that type of equipment– but we do have the interest.

A digital press serves three purposes: it allows us to give voice to our artistic community, it reflects the future of the publishing industry, and allows for an infinite number of copies to be generated and sold.  Just by leveraging the proper technology, we can truly give authors and artist world-wide exposure, and to us that is a very exciting concept.  While other traditional print projects give access to creating a book, the Press is more focused on quality control in the content, and publishing works that the public in general be interested in reading, and will seek out.

LAIP: Who are your partners for this endeavor, and how did you get them on board?

MC: We have a juried selection process comprised of the Director of the Provincetown Art Association Museum, senior staff from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and local lay artists and authors.  The Library has spent years building relationships with these various organizations, so bringing them on board was relatively easy in that they were very excited to be invited to aid us in this new venture.

LAIP: How are you choosing the works/ artists that will participate in the first round of publishing through the Press?  How has the community responded to the Press?

MC: Especially because Provincetown is an arts colony, there has been an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from people hoping to have their works published.  The Press has garnered an unexpected amount of local news coverage already, and this has generated even more interest not just in Provincetown, but nationwide from prospective artists, authors, news outlets, and library professionals interested in how we developed the imprint.  We have a juried selection process comprised of the Director of the Provincetown Art Association Museum, senior staff from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and local artists and authors.

Confessions of an eBook Virgin CoverLAIP: So, you recently announced the first book that the Press will publish.  Can you tell us about it?

MC: Yes!  Our first title is called Confessions of an eBook Virgin: What Everyone Should Know Before They Publish on the Internet, by Laura Shabbot.  We just put out a press release with all the details.  Perhaps our director put it best when she said,

We felt strongly that Shabott’s submission was the perfect first project for the Provincetown Public Press.  What better way to start a digital publishing company that with a book of how to make an eBook? ~Cheryl Napsha

LAIP: What kind of tech are you using in order to produce functional e-books?  (We love a good tech story!)

MC: We use different tools for different parts of the design and production of our ebooks:

  • For designing works for the iBook store, the Press will use iBooks Author, a free program created by Apple.  The content is sent to the store by utilizing iTunes Producer.
  • I’m using Calibre to format ePubs, which will be sent to Amazon, Kindles, Mobi, and Barnes and Noble.  This is basically a text formatting program as these platforms haven’t yet achieved the amount of interactivity seen in an iBook.
  • For original themes and template designs I’ve really been into Adobe inDesign lately.  All of our iBooks/eBooks are created using an Apple MacBook Pro and iMac.

LAIP: How would you hope this program will expand if it’s successful?  Do you see the library as a potential publishing stakeholder?

MC: In terms of expansion in size, we currently see the goal for publishing works staying between 10 and 20 titles yearly, but we want our focus to remain on constantly improving the quality of the content and the overall design, aesthetic, and functionality of our digital books.  The Press would also like to begin to provide resources to help aspiring writers who are not ready for publication– workshops and programs that could help them fine tune their works for future endeavors.  It is our hope that by developing a reputation for excellence, the Press will be able to provide our authors with constantly improving amount of marketing and exposure.


Want More?

Matt also provided some great library-produced resources for learning more about the Press and the kinds of interactive books Provincetown plans to create:

  • Provincetown Library iBook via Dropbox.  Matt Says:  this link  leads to a Dropbox account with an example iBook I created about the Provincetown Library.  If you drag the iBook into your iTunes and then sync with an iPad (if you have one), you will be able to view the book.  You can also download directly onto your iPad.  The iBook is large, so depending on your internet speed it will take between 5 and 10 minutes to download.
  • There is also more information on our site at www.ProvincetownPublicPress.org.
  • Visit the Provincetown Public Library Website, Like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter (@ProvincetownLib).

And there are already a number of great news articles on the Press– here are two:

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