Thursday, October 29, 2009

On digital publications - an interview with Cindy Marks of Catstone Press

As part of our exploration of the printing market, trying to get learn more on sustainable practices in this field, we often hear about digital alternatives that become more popular.

Therefore, when I was contacted by Cindy Marks of
Catstone Press, which is creating digital publications, I was happy for the opportunity to learn more about this world, how it interacts with old-school printing and how important the "green" factor is here. Cindy was happy to answer our questions and here's the interview with her:

Hello Cindy. Can you tell us about Catstone Press? What is your area of expertise?
I started CatStone Press two years ago. I was poking around on the web for a client who wanted some Flash for his website and stumbled upon one of the companies creating the back end software for digital publication development. I was impressed and excited by the possibilities. I spent several days absorbed with the budding industry growing from this page flip concept and checking out how each company was moving forward.

I settled on working with Yudu and have been very happy with their product's capabilities. They provide a flexible structure that then allows me to create very high quality digital magazines, newsletters, books and brochures. My expertise is in knowing the ins and outs of how these products are constructed and optimizing the potential for the client. I also offer design skills honed in creating a publication with browser viewing and reader experience in mind.

Sadly, many of these digital publications are thrown up almost as an after thought and I think they don't do nearly as well as they could for their publishers and readers. As with anything, you need to understand the potential and limits of the product and really design with the results in mind. CatStone has also made a number of additions to what is normally offered with digital publications so we can give our clients little extras like interactive forms, animations, custom
pop-ups. We spend a lot of time brainstorming what will work best for a client and then doing the problem-solving and programming to make it happen.

What are the "green" characteristics of your operation?
Hopefully there are green characteristics to my business that I won't even think of because it's been second nature for a long time. Prior to magazine design, I was in the natural foods industry. Becoming more green was a big part of why I jumped at digital publishing.

I'd been trying to leave paper behind for years - as much of a paperless office as possible, subscribing to only the most necessary magazines and getting the rest of my fun and information online. I will admit that while it certainly seems very green to publish without the paper and
chemicals and gas used for distribution, I have also tried to delve into the footprint of doing things electronically. There are a lot of factors to consider, but I still believe that if nothing else, I'll hopefully save a lot of trees and contribute to cleaner water. Some of the rest depends on how people use their electronics and gadgets and I do my best to act responsibly with those as well.

What are most popular digital formats? What are the pros and cons of digital publications?

There are all sorts of digital formats whizzing around the web right now from websites that are called digital magazines to Kindle versions to these page flip options. Not to mention good old pdf documents. I've settled into Flash based publications for a few reasons, namely that the readers treat these more as they would a paper magazine - browsing more slowly, enjoying the view. I also like that the "view" can be as beautiful as some of our best printed pieces and remains a relatively easy translation from the pdfs we would normally use to print anyway.

I favor these over downloading a pdf document because I can save the space that a pdf would take up on my hard drive, not to mention the time it would take to download a large, image oriented pdf. Flash-based publications also seem slightly easier when adding rich media - putting
video and voice-overs within the pages. So far the Kindle-type versions don't have rich media and I'm not sure even with color that they will be as fun to read. If tablet size viewers make an appearance soon, with internet capability, my best guess is that these Flash publications will really fly. Getting mobile versions is one of the biggest hurdles right now, but it's coming along.

Is it important for your customers that no paper is used for their publications when they order? for how many of them this is the major reason to go digital?
With clients, I have a mix of those who continue producing a paper product and those who do not. Most of the clients who hire CatStone to design from the ground up, are doing so to go purely digital and they think in terms of using rich media content and let us refine the designs
to suit digital viewing. Some of those who still produce paper versions are using CatStone to make a transition away from using as much paper.

Very wisely, they are aware that in some situations and with some
audiences, you will still use traditional print. But they are taking their digital versions as far as we can push them, creating an enhanced experience with lots of interactivity. Those with a good web presence use their digital versions for more direct reader contact and have links that pull readers back and forth between a good site and several good digital publications.

In the long run, I guess you'd have to say using less paper would be the goal with all my clients, whether it's for an environmental reason or just to save on print and distribution costs. They can potentially reach a wider audience with less expense and offer an experience that also enhances their web presence. This is an easy way for them to flip their paper content assets into digital content assets, whatever their reason for doing so.

David Carr wrote in the New York Times earlier this month that we're facing " a paperless recovery"? do you agree with him?
I would have to agree with the article's quotes that many of the changes in the publishing industry, mostly involving advertising money, are likely not to be cyclical, but permanent. I can't say that I see advertisers rushing to embrace web advertising either.

They are being very cautious and asking more questions about what they will get for their dollars.
One good thing about the digital publication model is that for those advertisers supporting a publication that produces both a paper and good quality digital product, they are getting quite a bit more bang for their buck. Not only do they have a paper ad as usual, but they now gain a large (in comparison to banner ads) web ad with a live link to their own website and can potentially enhance that ad even further with video, animations or sound.

Other parts of the article address the need for monetary support of top notch journalism. I couldn't agree more. But allocating those funds is probably not directly influenced by whether publishing is done on paper or digitally. There's an opening for information, trivia or propaganda
on any platform. The issue is more likely that there is stress on the system right now due to all the changes that are occurring.

What do you say to a customer that still wants to print their publications? do you partner with green printers?
For the most part, with CatStone, I've not been directly involved in clients' paper publishing, though I would certainly make recommendations on environmental choices if given the opportunity. I do see more clients coming to me who are interested in both digital and print-on-demand self publishing and as a result, I'm currently exploring options for the print-on-demand clients. I would welcome any and all information on "green" options there.
Thankfully, I see most of my print design clients aware and leaning towards environmentally better print solutions.

What are the main concerns about the footprint of the digital processing and what are the best ways to deal with them?

The environmental footprint of the digital publication lies within the framework of electrical usage and the hardware behind the viewing. We've come a long way in realizing that there are environmental consequences to everything we do and thus, there are studies underway about internet usage and it's impact. Huge variation can come into play depending upon one's choice of computers or other hardware, the age of that hardware, the service provider.

The footprint created as CatStone creates a publication is one aspect and we do our best to remain energy conscious while meeting the deadlines and needs of our clients. The computers we use, as with everyone's, are finally becoming more recyclable and continue to improve on energy usage.

Overall, I believe footprints boil down to volume and I really hope that by reducing the need to physically reproduce information via traditional printing we will have reduced the usage of raw materials and allowed more people access to that same information using a new medium. I'm sure that like most human endeavors, that will remain to be seen. For now we should all
be savvy consumers of electronics and try to remain educated about recycling opportunities for each brand and learn ways to reduce our use of electricity.

Thanks, Cindy.

For more information on Castone Press please visit their website at


Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!

12 days left to our green books campaign - here's the second list of participating books!

12 days left to our green books campaign - It's Time for a Green Book: 1 Day, 100 bloggers, 100 green books, 100 reviews. As we mentioned earlier, we already have more than 110 blogs registered to the campaign!!

This campaign is part of our efforts to promote green books, i.e. books that are printed using recycled and FSC certified paper. Our idea was to have 100 bloggers, who review books on regular basis, simultaneously publish on Tuesday, November 10 2009, exactly at 1:00 PM EST, their book review of a "green book" of their choice.

Today we bring you the second list of books and blogs participating in the campaign.

Also, with every list of participating books we present here, we'll tell you a fun fact about the upcoming campaign: All the books participating in the campaign are written in English, except one. Any idea what book it is? Well, this is the Portuguese edition of "Sleeping Naked is Green" by Vanessa Farquharson! The book is originally written in English, but it will be reviewed by a Portuguese blogger reading the Portuguese version of the book.

And now to our list - part 2 (check out part 1 here):

11. The Horned Wiper

Author: Gill Harvey

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books

Will be reviewed at: Frenetic Reader

12. Stormy Weather

Author: Debi Gliori

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books

Will be reviewed at: Reading to Know

13. Nice to be Nice

Author: Bella Flowers Books

Publisher: Bella Flowers Books

Will be reviewed at: Tara's View on Books

14. Syren

Author: Angie Sage

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books

Will be reviewed at: Sparrow Review

15. The Trouble with Dragons

Author: Debi Gliori

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books

Will be reviewed at: Brimful Curiosities

16. An Environmental Guide From A to Z

Author: Tim Magner

Publisher: Green Sugar Press

Will be reviewed at:

17. Hope and the Super Green Highway

Authors: Helen Moore & Louise Rouse

Publisher: Lollypop Publishing

Will be reviewed at: Green Design & Other Ideas

18. Let Me Out: How to Enjoy the School Run

Author: Ann Kenrick

Publisher: Lollypop Publishing

Will be reviewed at: Eco Child's Play

19. Yucketypoo - The Monster That Grew and Grew

Author: Jilly Henderson-Long

Publisher: Lollypop Publishing

Will be reviewed at: Literacy Launchpad

20. The Adventures of an Aluminum Can

Author: Alison Inches

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Books

Will be reviewed at: SMS Book Reviews

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: promoting sustainable reading!