Tag Archives: e-books

The changing face of book design

Publishing in the UK is developing rapidly and so it is vital that our workforce develops too. As digital innovation continues to drive growth and as publishers gain access to increasing amounts of data, the skills required are changing and new job functions and departments are springing up across all forms of publishing.

(snippet from The London Book Fair website)



Modern book design dates back to the early 1890s and William Morris’s Kelmscott Press. The books were expensive but beautiful. Morris designed his own typefaces, made his own paper and printed the books by hand. They were designed to be read slowly, to be appreciated and treasured, making an implicit statement about the ideal relationships between reader, text and author.

A century later and the next invention to change the design world so dramatically was the Macintosh computer. Introduced in 1983 it was the first mass market computer specifically made with the creative person in mind. With its graphical user interface, integrated graphics software (MacWrite & MacPaint) and postscript fonts they allowed a designer to not only typeset copy but to lay out pages ready for print, marking the end of Exacto knives, hot wax and galley type. HL Studios was there from these early beginnings and is proud to be amongst the first UK studios to use them as standard.

As the internet evolved from the early 1990’s increased speed and bandwidth has given designers a whole new media platform to create for. The bulk of a professional designer’s work is now either for the web or application UI elements, all of which will be viewed and experienced through a variety of media devices giving designers ever more creative opportunities.

For the millions of people browsing bookshops and websites today in search of the perfect read and the years of research into design and emotional response, the age old adage ‘never judge a book by its cover’ has never been so irrelevant!


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Posted by on May 15, 2014 in design news


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e-book piracy grows


According to NetNames, an online data monitoring company,  students are the biggest culprits when it comes to e-book piracy. Investigators looked at the availability of 50 popular textbooks across five different disciplines in the UK. In total 76% of the titles were available to download free in pirated form on one e-book sharing site. Science and engineering were the most pirated academic textbooks.

NetNames’ director of piracy analysis, David Price, thinks the expense of educational books could be the problem.

“We talk to all content owners about this sort of thing. The best way to beat piracy is to get your content out there, to give it to people in some way or make them buy it in some simple, cheap, easy way.”

Two textbooks for pharmacology and physiology cost in excess of £180, about a fifth of a student finance loan.

The research has been released as the Publishers Association admitted that e-book piracy was a growing problem. The organisation’s chief executive, Robert Mollet, says it’s not all the students’ fault.

“We’re seeing more infringement of e-books as the digital market grows,”

“About a quarter of all novels bought in the UK are bought as e-books, so as that digital market grows, we’re bound to see a little bit of piracy alongside it.”

“But I have to say, it’s a very small issue compared with the sort of levels we see in film and music. E-books are nowhere near that.”

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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in design news


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What happens after you click BUY! ?

I am partly responsible for the decline of the high street.

A huge proportion of my shopping is done from the comfort of my desk and another huge proportion of that is bought via Amazon. Its the equivalent of supermarket shopping. Easy. All in one place. One delivery charge.
I have even made the switch from books to Kindle (see previous blogs) and – I am sad to admit – I haven’t read a printed book since.

None of this has been an enjoyable, satisfactory experience, I reckon 90% of my orders online go wrong. Delivered late, to incorrect addresses or not delivered at all. Shockingly poor quality items with lengthy returns processes, some which never make it back to their originators; and do not get me started on the appalling state of grammar in Kindle e-books… but does this stop me? No way! In the same way death adverts on cigarette packets wont stop smokers and hikes in drink prices will not deter alcoholics, this article from the Daily Mail today wont stop me from cosy-in-my-nice-warm-house click-buying all this years presents (and unnecessary tat) from the big smily faced online retailer. Infact, now that I can imagine what happens when I click BUY! I think the whole process is pretty awesome!

I wonder if any of these were mine…


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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in duck tales


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Posted by on February 7, 2013 in design news, illustration news


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Page composition goes digital

In the old days of hot metal printing, the compositor was one of the team that physically assembled the printing plates, gathering the individual type blocks of single letters that made up the words, sentences and ultimately full pages of type for production.

Today, we live in a computerised world and so the concept of page composition is somewhat different. Gone are the physical needs to assemble printing plates, as page composition is done on computer screens, printing machinery is increasingly able to work effectively from a virtual plate and photo setting is commonplace.

For those old enough to have trained in the days when changes to layout were an expensive, time consuming addition to the page composition process, there was a discipline taught, of the value of getting it right first time. In contrast, today’s computerised systems, with page layout being carried out on screen using software such as Indesign, offer almost too much flexibility for anyone planning layout or page composition. The skill today is in having the discipline, of using the many opportunities with care and ensuring that a page composition is still effective at communicating what it needs to do.

Here at HL Studios, we provide a comprehensive range of support services for educational publishers. Including the provision of page composition and graphic design services, which take account of the need to design layouts to suit the new formats on screen, as well as more traditional on paper design. In addition, the company offers project management, and can execute other vital elements such as animation and illustration in order to deliver a complete package to create educational materials. The company has its own interactive software, to create a whiteboard including video, images and activities on the page of an e-book.

Among the issues faced by those involved with page composition are how to present material clearly and logically. For online material, there is the need to consider how to link different pages and illustrations, perhaps arranging for them to open in new windows or on new pages. In this respect, a page composition specialist may need to work with website designers or programmers, to ensure that links work correctly, and ensuring that the consumer can find a route back to previous points of interest. In a virtual world, a reader will lose the facility of thumbing back to previous pages, which will always be a virtue of printed material.

Links between pages will depend today on how material is being viewed. A website format is familiar to most people, and those viewing it via a computer terminal will normally expect to interact using a computer mouse, clicking to move down a web page, to move onto a new page and so on. However, formats are changing all the time. Only during the last couple of years have people started to become familiar with the touch screen, as employed on an increasing number of smartphones, led by Apple’s innovative iPhone, and by the company’s equally ground breaking iPad. For those involved with page composition, such as the team at HL Studios, the challenge is in staying ahead of developments, and of the way users interact with new technology as it emerges.

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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in design news


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How to save money by templating your interactive books

Template your interactive e-books to make them cost-effective

We have recently just finished a series of interactive e-books for Richmond Publishing. These books contain a reward game, colouring in activity, pelmanism activity and pages of the book with highlighted text narrated.

We templated the whole product and coded it in such a way so that graphics and content could be replaced for the other titles in the series.

By doing this future e-books reusing the same template could come out as cost-effective as $500 per title.

To see examples of this in action please visit

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Posted by on July 5, 2012 in design news


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Out of print and backlist titles – How to make revenue

HL Studios book layout team are helping a major UK publisher create revenue from old titles with a smart bit of hardware that we happen to have in our oxfordshire studio.

We are currently taking around 100 books and converting them into e-books with searchable text. 

The smart thing is that the vast majority of these books are printed copies with no digital files available. In some cases the publisher found that they only had one remaining copy in their archives!

By doing a ‘google’ (see google books project) we have helped a publisher gain revenue and also reinforce the copyright for the 2012 launched e-book.

If you have an archive of dusty old books with no electronic files, and feel this is something you think would be of benefit to you, please dont hesitate to contact us.

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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in design news


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