Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Corel Misreads the Tea Leaves and Abandons Ventura at the Wrong Time

Being able to see into the future is a good skill to have for a software company. If Corel had being able to do that, even into the near future, they would've kept updating Ventura instead of ignoring it these past several years.

Ventura is a desktop publishing program to produce printed products from books to newsletters to cards. When I first got into desktop publishing, I tried the main programs out there and liked Ventura the best for the control it gave me over the design process. Over the years, on and off, I've checked out its competitors, but hands down Ventura gives you the tools and fine control you need to get a printed product looking just so.

Then I bought a computer with Windows 7, 64 bit as its OS. To my relief, I found other Ventura aficianados who had figured out how to get it working with the newest OS and so was able to load it up. Since my injury over eleven years ago, I have used it primarily for a stubborn client, who woudn't give me up and insisted I continue to produce her newsletter. For years, it was extremely difficult to comply because of the injury, but because I had to, today (literally) I still have the program, am still familiar enough with it, and am now well enough to try producing the printed version of my book with it.

CreateSpace gives authors templates for Microsoft Word, but the program is flawed and like a cantankerous steer to ride. It is amazingly convoluted to do simple things like suppress the page number on the first page of each chapter. The CreateSpace full template does this for you -- for the first ten chapters. If you have more chapters, like me, you have to figure out how they did it. Unlike WordPerfect or Ventura in its Copy Editing mode, Word doesn't give you the option of revealing codes so you cannot see what they did, see if you're introducing formatting errors (which can become a problem in ebook production), and see if you're copying all, more, or less than what you think you are.

I tried LibreOffice to fix the page numbering SNAFU, but when I got the printed proof, I saw all sorts of spacing and fine formatting errors. Unlike a traditionally published book, each page of text ends on a different line, not at the bottom of the text frame except by happenstance. And the headers on the facing pages were not in line (printing error or software?). I noticed this happened with my Word-produced proof too.

That was it for me. I gave up yesterday on using a word processor for book design. A word processor really isn't meant to produce a sophisticated product like a book anyway, but since CreateSpace's clients are authors of all calibres, some of whom don't know the first thing about creating a book, and since Word is the most prevalent word processor (gag, don't know why), they obviously aim for that market.

But Ventura is the much more sensible program to use. Unfortunately, it's not a program you can learn by doing. You need skills. You need some idea of graphic design, some sense of how to read galley proofs, in addition to training on the program. It's the only program I ever received formal training on, but I learnt the updates on my own. If Corel had kept updating it, they could've produced an in-program tutorial or learning sidebar like with Corel Paint Shop Photo Pro X3. Even better, they could've repackaged it or created a version specifically for the self-publishing market, ensured it worked on all OSes, and created a larger market for themselves.

If Corel had simply looked up, they would've seen that self-publishing market growing. They would have also seen a burgeoning market for ePub production too, never mind mobi for the Kindle; they could've built that capability into Ventura. Publish as PDF, ePub, or mobi would've been an awesome option. It would've been a one-stop production shop for both versions of a book: printed and ebook. It would've made me a very satisfied author.

Self-publishers are going to want to use a proper desktop publishing program to design their interior text PDFs. Tis a lost opportunity for Corel, a Canadian company.



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