ePublishing:  The State of the Industry and What it Means for Interpreter Education

by Doug Bowen-Bailey

ASL Summary

This video is not a direction translation of the following article, but provides an overview of what is contained in my exploration of the current state of ePublishing and the promise it holds for interpreter education.

An Exploration

In the past few months, I have been exploring the emerging field of digital publishing can benefit interpreter education.  I am providing a summary of my findings as a tool for others who are considering creating eBooks or other digital books.

The Importance of Being Thoughtful about your Path to Publishing: 

Most of the information out there focuses on being thoughtful as an individual author or a publishing company to figure out what will be best for distributing your work.  That is an important consideration.
I think we also need to have a discussion as a field – what formats serve our interest as interpreters and educators who work with spoken and visual languages (and their written and video forms.)


There are a variety of formats that eBooks come in.
PDF:  This is the most established standard of a way to share documents.  It allows the publisher to create a page that will maintain its appearance on a wide variety of platforms.  Additionally, PDFs can include the ability to search for text as well as some interactivity like inclusion of video.    These “extras,” however, are not universal across platforms.
ePub:  An open-standard for eBooks that allows for easy re-sizing and searching of text.  In this format, it is more difficult to control the look of a publication.  However, links, video and images can be included in this format.  It is possible to have an eReader on a computer, but this is more of a standard for mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.
iBook:  This is a format specifically created on a Mac computer using iBooks Author and only readable on an iPad.   Because of this it has a more targeted audience and it also allows for a much greater degree of interactivity within the book.
mobi:  This is one of the formats for Amazon’s Kindle.  From what I have read, Kindles are a particular challenge because there are a number of different Kindles on the market and each type requires a different format of book.

Choosing Your Target Audience:

In creating an eBook, it is important to determine a few points:

  1. How important is it to you to control the final appearance of your eBook?
  2. How important is it to include interactive features such as web links, video, and interactive forms?
  3. How important is it for you to have your eBook available on the widest number of devices?
  4. How important is it for you to be able to distribute your eBook in a variety of ways?

 eBook Creation:

There are a number of ways to create your eBook.  As a Mac user, I will focus more on options in the Mac universe because that is what I have experience with.
InDesign:  InDesign is a powerful desk-top publishing program that is available on both the Mac and Windows operating systems.  It allows for the creation of an ePub or with a plug-in, can create eBooks that are compatible with Amazon Kindle formats.
Here are two video tutorials (with captioning) on how to create an eBook using InDesign.

Pages:  This program is Apple’s word processing and desktop publishing program.  This allows you to create an ePub format quite easily.  You can include links, embed video, and images.  They simply have to be in line with the text, rather than floating objects.
Not all eReaders will be able to handle the video, but iPads can.  (And other tablets will be working to emulate iPad functionality.)  Currently, iPads are about 33% of the market and may well be more of that in the interpreter education market because of the capability of video.  (From a quick review of presentations at CIT, iPads seem to be the tablet that is at least being utilized by those people making presentations.)
In addition, Apple has frequently been the trend setter in technology and other companies figured out how to catch up to the functionality that Apple devices offer.  This has certainly been the case with the iPads, as iBooks has been the first to offer video capability within books.  Others may catch up.
However, some commentators on ePublishing have complaints about how restrictive Apple is in directing people using iBooks to only be able to distribute the eBooks through Apple’s iTunes store.  So, if you want to be able to have more control over how you distribute
iBooks Author: 
This is a free program for the Mac which allows you to create more interactive eBooks which are viewable on iPads.  Allows you to create widgets that can open other programs within the book.  (For example, you can have forms that people fill out like an interactive workbook, or can use a drawing app right within the book.)  Additionally, you can easily embed images and video within the book.
The drawbacks are that if you want to sell your book, it only allows you to do this through Apple’s iTunes store.  It also only allows you to create books that are viewable on iPads. (It does not work on other operating systems, nor does it work on the smaller screens of iPhones and iPod Touches.)  This can be viewed in different lights.
Using what Walter Isaacson, the biographer of Steve Jobs, termed a “reality-distortion field,” this can be viewed as Apple’s attempt to push the reality of technology to use the most effective technological options based on integration of hardware and software.  For people more critical of Apple’s motives, this may seem like an attempt to use software solutions to sell more iPads.


In my mind, there is no doubt that our field has much to be gained by exploring the possibilities of ePublishing.  I am currently working on a project with iBooks Author to try to see how digital publishing can enhance our field’s offering by more fully integrating English text with ASL video. Given Apple’s embrace of incorporating video the use of iPads in many Interpreter Education Programs and the current research in our field, I think this avenue is worth pursuing.
More than that, I think that interpreters have much to be gained by having resources in a digital format.  In another setting, I reviewed a book by Ineke Creze, “Introduction to Healthcare for Interpreters and Translators” that I think has great benefit as a resource for interpreters to bring to interpreting assignments in healthcare, and how much easier it is to have it in a digital format that adds no weight, and is searchable for specific information.
Overall, I believe, given the recency of this field and the new opportunities that these technologies offer, we need to look at many different options to see what best fits a certain project – or what will most effectively meet the needs of the field based on the technology that people are using.  Regardless, ePublishing is definitely worth exploring and one that promises many benefits for interpreter education.
Other Resources Related to ePublishing

Comments, Questions, Suggestions

I welcome your thoughts and questions.  If you have any that you would like to share, please feel free to post them below.

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