Digital and Ebook Publishing

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Digital and Ebook Publishing

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Syllabus Fall 2023


ENG 31131

City University of New York, City College

Publishing Certificate Program

Spring 2023

Faculty:            Philip Rappaport


Term:               Fall 2023, class meets August 30 to December 6

Class Time:      Wednesday 4:50pm – 7:20pm

Location:        Shepard S-378

Office Hours:    Wednesday 3:45-4:45pm in NAC 6/324 (drop by with or without appointment) or by phone appointment: 646-303-4821


This course uses Open Education Resources/Zero Textbook Cost course material. There are no required books to purchase for this course.

Course content consists of a combination of library eBooks, web materials, PDFs, handouts, videos, podcasts. Students will access class materials in the CUNY ACADEMIC COMMONS library section of the course, so make sure that 1) you have registered for the Commons and 2)  you have accepted my invitation to join the Digital and eBook Publishing Group.  


We will use one full-length book, Publishing for Profit, available for unlimited use to all students from the library at this link:

Required (free) subscriptions to sign up for:

  • PW Daily. PW Daily isa free enewsletter of the book publishing industry published every weekday. You can sign up for this yourself, plus other enewsletters from PW.
  • Bookselling This Week is a weekly electronic newsletter. (Register for the enewsletter. Make up a company for yourself.)
  • Free version of Publishers Lunch. This enewsletter focuses on book industry deals and developments, published every weekday.
  • Edelweiss Plus is a free website where you can browse publishers’ catalogs. A great resource for comp titles and title information sheets. We’ll take a look at the site and its resources in class.


This course delves into the transformative impact of the digital revolution on the publishing industry and reader behaviors over the past 30 years. Engage with industry experts through in-person talks, readings, videos, and podcasts. Topics include eBook production and design, SEO and metadata, audiobooks, digital marketing, and social media strategies, and generative AI like ChatGPT.

Coursework involves online and in-class discussions, written assignments exploring virtual and indie bookselling, backlist publishing, cover design, and a final group project to edit, design, and market an original eBook.

Course Learning Objectives

*To demonstrate knowledge of the significance of the eBook in its cultural and historical context.

*To be conversant in the publishing business generally such as job roles, types of publishing houses, wholesale and retail, etc.

*To demonstrate an understanding of and ability to execute digital marketing and discoverability of ebooks

Key Questions

*What makes a good eBook?
*What are the different selling and purchasing models for ebooks?
*How are ebooks marketed and discovered?

*How have digital technologies impacted publishing’s work environment?


 Coursework is graded on following instructions, completeness, research, creativity, and professionalism. Projects, tasks and discussion posts and responses should be free from spelling and grammar errors. The goal is to clearly articulate your ideas. 

 30%—Online Discussions: The FORUM is our home for the discussion group in CUNY Academic Commons. You should expect to respond to five discussion post prompts during the semester. These will require you to make one post of your own (125-250 words) and reply to two classmates’ posts (40 words minimum). Posts should make use of assigned content as well as your own personal experience. Discussions are opened on Wednesday and are closed the following Wednesday.

15%—Classroom Participation: Students should come to each class ready to discuss the week’s topic. In particular you’ll be graded on your participation in four in-class discussion topics. I’ve provided discussion prompts in the attached handout for this purpose.

35%—Assignments: Students will complete three written homework assignments. Instructions for each will be passed out in class and available in Commons’ Library. I’ll collect completed assignments in class. All work must be typed, double-spaced, 11-pt. Times New Roman or Palatino font.

20%—The Midterm exam will consist of four essay questions and cover key concepts, terms, and industry players discussed in the preceding weeks, to ensure students have a basic understanding of the course content.

PCP Students are required to maintain a grade average of “B” or better in order to complete the Certificate Program



Regular, prompt attendance is required. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to find out from a classmate what you’ve missed and be prepared for the next class.


PLEASE NOTE: This schedule may be subject to change at any time.

August 30:        Welcome to eBook publishing

Week 1 online discussion group: what does publishing mean to you?                    

September 6:      Indie publishing: A publisher Wears multiple hats—conversation with Charles Perry

 Week 2: “Reissue a Backlist Book” project will be explained during 2nd part of class.

September 13: Digital marketing with sr. marketing manager Annie Locke Lowell

 Week 3: in-class discussion group: Editorial Board

September 20:   Backlist publishing, the industry’s bedrock

 Week 4 online discussion group: Marketing

September 27:    Covers presentation with art director Mauricio Diaz

 Week 5 in-class discussion: Judging a book by its cover. Refer to the discussion prompts in the handout. 

October 4:        Agents and Acquisitions

 Week 6 online discussion group: Agenting

Assignment # 1: cover design memo is due

October 11:        Audiobooks: Still the industry’s fastest growing segment

 Week 7 in-class discussion: You’ll select and listen to an audiobook, and will come to class prepared to share your listening experience and opinions on the format. Refer to the discussion prompts in the handout.

October 18:       Artificial Intelligence

Week 8 online discussion group: AI      

October 25:       Midterm

 Week 9

 November 1:     Rights–conversation with literary scout Danny Yanez

Week 10

 November 8:     eBook sales and bookstores      

 Week 11

November 15:    Publishing financials and production for eBooks (and print)

Week 12 online discussion group: Production

Assignment #2 due, Being a Bookseller

November 22:   Thanksgiving Break   

 Week 13

November 29:    Self-publishing and Hybrid-publishing

 Week 14: in-class discussion: Self-publishing and hybrid publishing

Assignment #3 due, Reviving a Backlist Book

December 6:     Last class:  Backlist Book Presentations

 Week 15