Behind the Screens, Pt. 1--Creating a Site With the New Tizra Publisher Control Panel

Now that it's public, we're excited to show the new Tizra Publisher web control panel in a bit more detail. To provide a real-world example, we'll show it in use building the guides site for Cabazon Books, which went live a few weeks ago. While in practice the process is quick—with initial online selling capability available in a matter of minutes—there's a lot to the software, so we'll break it up over a few posts.

1. Upload a Document When you open your Tizra Publisher account, you're presented with the control panel homepage in your web browser. The cog dropdown provides quick access to key tasks from anywhere in the system. Start by using it to upload a PDF. In this case, it's the full 132 illustrated spreads for nyc.

Note how the progress bar informs you as the system imports the file, extracts metadata, breaks the PDF into individual pages, and indexes it for full-text searchability. Apart from the upload, which of course is bandwidth dependent, it only takes a few seconds, but it's nice to know what's going on (beats the "click and pray" approach typical in web content management).

2. Verify metadata To minimize hand entry, metadata such as title, author and table of contents headings are extracted from documents that contain it. Any missing data can be entered through the control panel.

The second screen is a powerful outline editor used to manage table of contents entries extracted from the PDF bookmarks. The entries can be reordered indented, grouped, hidden from end users (but still saved for internal reference), and deleted.

3. Set sales terms Simply enter a price and promotional blurb, or if you want, test more sophisticated options like subscriptions based on variable duration or dates, pay-per-view, concurrencies (the number of users who can view your content at once) or multipacks (any X books from a given collection).

4. Stage and Publish Once the metadata's been reviewed, you can save it to the staging area, where the book can be checked in the context of the full web site exactly as it will appear to your users before being made public. Then click publish and your content is live!

5. Look what you've got! The book is online and part of the your own, customizable publishing web site, with a full complement of browse and search features, plus editable information pages that can be used to say more about the company and its products. Users can find their way to your content via Google and other search engines, see sales offers, buy content and use it over the web, including on handhelds like the iPhone.

Next up: Customizing design to match the branding. Then, creating new products by breaking books down into subsections and gathering them up into collections.

The Demo That Wasn't and The Conference That Was

You may have noticed we were pretty excited about O'Reilly's Tools of Change conference, which is still going on through the end of today in New York. This is really the place for people who love books, digital technology and the things they can do for each other. Apparently the ranks of people like this are growing. Eight hundred attended this year's conference, compared with 200 last year, when our CEO David Durand gave his Tutorial on Digitizing your Backlist.

Overall, the show was all we could have hoped for. Underlying the rapid attendance growth is a general feeling that 2008 is the breakout year…the year books start to move online in the way other media have over the past dozen years. David Rothman, an influential blogger at Publishers Weekly had just written us up, and interest in our proposition was high.

We were especially excited because this year we were on the program to give a Lightning Demo of Agile PDF, including the first showing of a new control panel that makes creating a digital bookselling site easy, like setting up a blog or a Flickr account is easy. We'll be posting more details over the next day or so.

Unfortunately, the live presentation didn't go the way we planned. The Lightning Demo format allows each presenter exactly five minutes, which under the best of circumstances would be enough to show a tiny fraction of what Agile PDF can do. As it worked out, however, David's login to the demo system timed out while he was waiting to get on stage, and he barely got out of the gate.

That's the breaks of the demo game, but we were disappointed. We were sure (and subsequent one-on-ones bore out) that we had an absolute killer piece of software to show, and we wanted it to get the widest exposure possible.

We'll make up for it by posting screens from the demo here over the next few days (much more detailed than would have fit in the five minutes), and offering web based demos to anyone who contacts us.

Aside from all the interest from publisher prospects, one of my favorite moments came in a panel discussion including Rothman and Tonya Engst of TidBITS Publishing, a true digital pioneer. In response to the longstanding debate over how much ebooks should cost, she said "exactly as much as it takes to maximize revenue." That brought a murmur of approval from the room...including us. Publishers need to find their own answers to these questions, and we designed Agile PDF from the outset to help with that.

I was also pleased when in the same session veteran consultant Mike Shatzkin noted that based on his legwork almost all ebooks being bought nowadays are actually read on computers, despite the buzz about dedicated handhelds like Kindle. Further, he said that PDF was by far the dominant content format, over reader-specific formats, and he professed to be baffled as to why publishers would not sell the PDFs they already have as digital products.

We're glad to be baffled in such good company!

FEB 11: Catch our Lightning Demo at Tools of Change

Tools of ChangeWhen the first Agile PDF sites launched recently, we promised we'd be saying more soon about how the sites were built. Well, the first public demo is coming up at the O'Reilly Tools of Change Conference in NYC:
The Five-minute Publication Site—Part of the TOC Lightning Demos Series, February 11, 7:30-8:30pm, Broadway Ballroom
As the name suggests, we'll be showing just how quickly a publisher can move from PDF files to a flexible, customizable website selling digital content. And of course, if you've got a bit more than five minutes, we'd be happy to answer any questions. We'll be exhibiting immediately after the demos at the TOC Faire, and happy to talk at any point during the rest of the conference. Drop us a note at