Five Simple Steps launches Pocket Guides for web pros

Independent publisher Five Simple Steps, known for Andy Clarke’s Hardboiled Web Design and Jon Hicks’s The Icon Handbook, among other things, has announced a new Pocket Guide series.

With the slogan ‘Learn a lot from a little book’, the series will be penned by industry experts and aims to provide focussed, concise guides to specific and timely aspects of web design and development. Director Emma Boulton spoke to .net about the series, and how the trend towards succinct volumes benefits writers, publishers and designers alike.

.net: What is it you want to achieve with this series?
Boulton: Our new Pocket Guides aim to be short, smart and quick to download. We'll be focussing on specific and relevant aspects of web design and development in an easy-to-digest-format. Our customers will be able to quickly and easily purchase and download a book, and take it with them to read on any device. With trusted and respected industry voices such as Tim Brown, Rachel Andrew and The Standardistas, we're confident our audience will find useful, practical advice that is applicable to web design right now.

.net: Are there any subjects in particular that you feel cover new ground not fulfilled by existing books?
Boulton: The first five titles will be among the first to be available, but we already have more in the pipeline. Some will be on classic topics that every designer should know about – for example, Combining Typefaces by Tim Brown, and The Craft of Words by the Standardistas. So it's not necessarily new ground that will just be covered, although that's important for some of them. Rachel Andrew's CSS3 Layout Modules, for example, will be covering brand new CSS3 layout techniques. We'll also be covering emerging topics that everyone is talking about, such as Joe Leech's Psychology for Designers.

The main idea behind Pocket Guides is for the topic to be well-focussed. Our existing books and other publishers' books tend to cover a lot of ground, and we're deliberately doing the opposite in these. As Brian Suda put it when we were discussing the imprint idea, "it's like a droplet of knowledge – small and focused". His new book, Creating Symbol Fonts, will provide all you need to make a bespoke symbol font for your web pages in under 5,000 words.

.net: The move towards focussed subject matter and succinct volumes appears to be a trend. Why do you think this is happening?
Boulton: From a publisher's point of view, it's difficult writing and producing a long book. Generally, the authors we work with have day jobs, families and often businesses to run. Writing, and often speaking, has to be squeezed in around other commitments. As a result, our books can take a long time to come to fruition. We'd like to think – and we are often told – that our books are worth the wait, and we'll still be producing those kinds of titles too.

From our audience's point of view, it can be difficult to find the time to read a lengthy volume on a particular topic. They may just want to know about that one thing that everyone is talking about right now. They need a quick overview of something so that they can get back to doing their jobs. They don't want to wait a few days for a paperback to be delivered. This is exactly the need our concise ebook guides will fulfil.

.net: So this is digital-only. Why did you make that decision?
Boulton: A few reasons. First, over 40 per cent of our sales are for digital editions, with a further third on bundles – digital and paperback together. Clearly, there is a big appetite for digital books!

Secondly, digital is the obvious format for delivery. A typical Pocket Guide will be less than a tenth of the size – in terms of word count – of a typical Practical Guide. We also plan to price them competitively for around the same cost as your morning latte or cup of English Breakfast tea.

Thirdly, we plan to take advantage of advancements in ePub technology and add interactive elements to our books.

We're not saying "never" for print, but a printed experience takes longer to design and produce. We have a few ideas about printing collections or limited editions in time but nothing we can tell you about now. You'll have to just wait and see what we come up with!

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