One of my roles at Sydney University Press is editing books, and while I was at Touchpress I had an opportunity to learn more about editing apps. Many insights came from speaking with Fiona Barclay and Mari Volkosh, knowledgeable editors who have worked on apps across various subject areas from science to archaeology to literature. I even helped with copyediting the content for one of their upcoming apps, which showed me how working on apps differs from editing of books.

The most important thing, I have realised, is that an app design is driven by visual and interactive elements, rather than text. Basically, apps don’t aim to replicate books and instead they focus on interactivity and providing an experience that uses different modes of communication. Having said that, there is still a place for editorial control over the overall structure of the content, the style of writing and its suitability, but written content plays a secondary role in an app.

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The opportunity to spend two weeks with a company that is changing the face of app development has been an amazing experience. I couldn’t have picked a more creative, inspiring and enthusiastic group of people to learn from. Or more patient – I spent two weeks observing, gatecrashing meetings and asking endless questions. Since its inception, Touchpress has remained at the forefront of what’s possible in app design and trying to develop and nurture this new form of media. In a market flooded with low quality products, apps created by Touchpress stand out by a mile. They combine in-depth research with compelling stories, wonderful illustrations, videos, animations and games, all seamlessly integrated into beautiful and intuitive designs.

During my short stint in the app world, I have tried to get my head around the process of app development. I had hoped to be able to come up with a linear model, mirroring the traditional publishing workflow. Alas, app development has turned out to be a far more complex, nonlinear and iterative process that combines writing, movie making, music, photography and software development. So where do you start?

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Is there such a thing as a literary app? Is there a space for multimedia in works of literary quality? Writing about fiction, Richard Nash said that

The lack of video, the lack of audio, the lack of ways to change the forking outcomes of plot (what is rather crudely referred to as “interactivity”) is a feature of literature, not a bug. And, as it turns out, books are interactive. They’re recipes for the imagination. Conversely, video is restrictive—it tells you what things look like, what they sound like.

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The monograph remains the corner stone of scholarly publishing, especially in the humanities and social sciences, and it remains, despite the affordances associated with digital technologies, firmly wedged in the age of print. While the need to deliver content digitally and produce ebooks is generally accepted, we seem to be producing ebooks that are little more than digital copies of the printed codex. In many respects, they provide a less satisfactory experience for our readers: the ebooks are more difficult to read, annotate and quote from.

Complex academic writing lends itself to deep immersive reading which is problematic in an electronic format. Research shows that reading comprehension remains higher when books are read on paper rather than a computer screen or an ereader. While it is becoming increasingly easier to annotate ebooks, the lack of page numbers in ePub makes quoting difficult. Moreover, all too often books in the ePub format do not contain indexes and the reader, deprived of another important avenue of entry to the text, is expected to use the search function instead.

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Photo of Isaac Gilman=

By Isaac Gilman

Peter Givler observes in his history of university presses in the United States that “Universities have been publishers for at least as long as there has been moveable type.” For over 100 years in the United States – and for over 90 years in Australia – the most prominent expression of university publishing has been the university press. Over the past two decades, however, shifts in technology and the economics of publishing have created an opportunity for university libraries to take an active role in fulfilling “one of the noblest duties of a university”: the publication and dissemination of useful knowledge.

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In September 2012 a review of the Sydney University Press was undertaken to assess the value and viability of the press. As a result of the review, followed by discussions with senior academics at the University of Sydney, SUP has been undergoing an evolution in order to better support and facilitate the communication of the intellectual and research outputs of the University of Sydney and the Australian research community. The new vision for SUP is to become a leading scholarly publisher in Australia of books that advance knowledge and influence policy while supporting Sydney University’s brand as a research-intensive institution nationally and globally. At the same time, SUP aims to provide an avenue for Australian researchers to communicate their research to other scholars, policy-makers and the general public.

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For the Sake of a Song: Wangga Songmen and their Repertories=

By Katharine Leonarder

I should probably start this entry with a rather embarrassing admission, I know nothing about music. To me the sounds of Taylor Swift are on the same technical scale as those of the Basel Symphony Orchestra. So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to read For the sake of a song: wangga songmen and their repertories and write this blog. Surprisingly enough I found myself enjoying the detailed descriptions of wangga music, even down to the meticulously documented notations of tempo, rhythm and structure, which – I might add – were written in such I way that even I managed to understand them.

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