Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Books Open Source Software News Technology

Booktype: An Open Source, Cross-Platform Approach To E-Book Publishing 87

Posted by timothy
from the no-presses-to-stop dept.
Despite Apple's protestation that the iBooks Author EULA was misinterpreted, the idea of a book publishing system that could be used to grab copyright of the prepared text is annoying — like the sort of EULAs that seem to give photo-sharing sites unlimited re-use rights of hosted personal photos. New submitter rohangarg points out a publishing system which shouldn't have such problems, and is nicely cross-platform besides: "A new open-source digital writing and publishing platform has been launched by non-profit group Sourcefabric. Booktype allows for collaborative editing and writing of books that can be easily outputted to on-demand print services and eReaders such as the Amazon Kindle, Nook, iPad, and more with a few simple clicks. Booktype source can be found here." The online demo also leads to some downloadable examples (as PDFs).
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Booktype: An Open Source, Cross-Platform Approach To E-Book Publishing

Comments Filter:
  • Coming to a Kindle near you: Captain Kirk and his steamy affair with Oscar the Grouch and Edward Cullen
  • LaTeX? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The_Wilschon (782534) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:40PM (#39061663) Homepage
    What are the shortcomings of LaTeX that it is not in this converstation? Honest question, not snarking. What does book publishing require that LaTeX doesn't/can't do?
    • Re:LaTeX? (Score:5, Informative)

      by TheSunborn (68004) <tiller@daimi. a u . dk> on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:57PM (#39061933)

      The problem is that Latex is made/designed for creating fixed size paper output. It is really not good when you need to output content which can be reflowed depending on the size of the users output device.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        What are the short comings of HTML for this then?

        <p>Here's a paragraph, flow it how you want.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Thats what she said.

      • by LeDopore (898286)

        OK, but how about distributing the LaTeX *source*, and having each device compile it for the screen size? As a bonus, cross-referencing would would work: "see page 35" could become "see page 65" on small screens without further magic.

        Of course authors would have to agree on standard LaTeX libraries, otherwise you'd get errors about using your package incorrectly - could be embarrassing.

        • We published a book in paper and PDF formats last November. It took quite a bit of work to get there. We also wanted to make an MOBI/EPUB version available... But translating from a somewhat tweaked LaTeX source file to those formats... has not yet been successful :(

    • by Anonymous Coward

      What are the shortcomings of LaTeX that it is not in this converstation? Honest question, not snarking. What does book publishing require that LaTeX doesn't/can't do?

      E-Book publishing must deal with non-constant "page" sizes. Even on individual devices - when a tablet reader rotates 90 degrees, the book contents must reflow to deal with the new "page" width. Furthermore, users now expect to be able to change fonts and font sizes at will while reading. Rendering needs to be done in the reader software, not during file preparation.

      This doesn't exclude LaTeX, but it will be have to be embedded in the reader.

      • Re:LaTeX? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fyngyrz (762201) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @01:43PM (#39062539) Homepage Journal

        E-Book publishing must deal with non-constant "page" sizes. Even on individual devices - when a tablet reader rotates 90 degrees, the book contents must reflow to deal with the new "page" width. Furthermore, users now expect to be able to change fonts and font sizes at will while reading. Rendering needs to be done in the reader software, not during file preparation.

        Tailor-made for HTML. You can specify paragraphs, sections, underline, bold, italic, embed images, hyperlinks... all with reflow and user-specified fonts and sizes and colors.

        RANT: That was the original intent of HTML: That the user had control over the look and feel, and the author provided content. It's only been in the last few years that websites started screwing up the whole idea of content following browser resizing -- one of the worst design mistakes made, IMHO, because it wastes the user's expensive desktop space in favor of the designer's "idea." If you're any good, you'll design so you get "that look" at a particular size, then the user can find that and stay there if they want to, rather than being stuck with a hard-coded 1024x window or something like that. You can do some pretty clever things along this line with CSS, but hardly anyone does.

        It's gotten to the point where if your content reflows the way it should, a lot of people think you're doing it "wrong." Amazing, really. /RANT

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Amen! If you're publishing a dead tree book you control the "screen" size and fonts and everything, not so e-material. You don't know the display's size, aspect ratio, or orientation. It could be a tiny phone on a screen or a huge TV screen.

          Trying for control like that is retarded.

        • by lgw (121541)

          Strong user control of presentation is great for documents, bad for browser-based apps, and sends advertising people into absolute fits (so it's got that going for it). I agree with your rant as is applies to normal text, but HTML has grown well beyond its orginal intent, and is used for far more than just presenting a document these days.

        • The main problem for using HTML in publishing, as I understand it, is lack of kerning control. It probably doesn't matter with mass-market e-books, but I know a lot of print designers who cringe when they see HTML documents, as all they can see are the whitespace rivers. There's an obligatory xkcd for someone who wants to dig it up.

        • by hitmark (640295)

          The shift came with the change from talking about pages to talking about sites.

          With that came the shift to thinking about html in terms of user interfaces rather than documents.

    • Re:LaTeX? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Thursday February 16, 2012 @01:04PM (#39062019) Homepage Journal

      Very few people can actually use LaTeX. It's an exceptionally user-hostile approach to writing text. Yes, I know some people still use vi, but that doesn't make vi a good word processor. Similarly, LaTeX has exceptional strengths for creating particular sorts of highly technical documents, but for the sorts of documents most people write it is overcomplicated and just gets in the way.

      Most people don't want to learn a new language before they can write a simple document. Even if they do want to learn a new language, Markdown [wikipedia.org] is good enough for most people's uses - you can produce damn nice looking documents and, yes, books with it (my toolchain is text piped through a sed script which renders the markdown into rough HTML, through JTidy which cleans that up, through Prince [princexml.com] which translates the HTML into nicely rendered PDF, and thence to print. I could use LaTeX - I have used LaTeX - but except for very complicated technical documents it just isn't worth it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yes, I know some people still use vi, but that doesn't make vi a good word processor.

        Get. Out. NOW.

        • by meloneg (101248)

          He's right. Vi is a sucky word-processor. It's a phenomenal text editor and I fully expect it to last forever in that role.

          • by lgw (121541)

            The only possible redeeming use of VI as a text editor is to put it into EMACS-emulation mode.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Lyx makes LaTeX less hard, and you can do almost everything without actually coding LaTeX.

      • by dbc (135354)

        Totally agree with you about LaTeX. TeX (on which LaTeX is based) was done back in the days of punch cards -- it was the only game in town for typesetting mathematics papers on a computer. TeX is a really an amazing accomplishment, when you think about it. Score another one for Knuth. But.... it is about as far from WYSIWYG as can be imagined, with all the good and bad brought on by that circumstance.

        LaTeX can be learned with effort. The learning curve is nasty, but you get very nice math typesetting a

        • Totally agree with you about LaTeX. TeX (on which LaTeX is based) was done back in the days of punch cards -- it was the only game in town for typesetting mathematics papers on a computer.

          Point of fact. No, it wasn't. You should read Knuth's "Mathematical Typography [projecteuclid.org]" (I think you might enjoy it).

          As to your second point, LaTeX markup is a great way to communicate formulas in graphics poor enviroments (email, chat, etc), which is why it's lasted so long. That too was intentional, if you read Knuth's p

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Very few people can actually use LaTeX. It's an exceptionally user-hostile approach to writing text. Yes, I know some people still use vi, but that doesn't make vi a good word processor. Similarly, LaTeX has exceptional strengths for creating particular sorts of highly technical documents, but for the sorts of documents most people write it is overcomplicated and just gets in the way.

        It's not that hard. LaTeX compared to say, Word (which is what many authors use) is akin to comparing Vi with Notepad. You ca

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      ePub seems to work well enough for me. Supports reflowable text, images. Basically, it's just HTML with a couple extra tags added for metadata. We don't need anything more complicated than that. eBook readers work perfectly fine with it.
      • by JanneM (7445)

        Current versions of eBub doesn't do Japanese properly; you really want support for things like furigana for instance. The format really is not good enough as it is used today.

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Live collaboration.

      LaTeX is a formatting language not a Publishing application that manages changes, merges and wsywyg.

    • Re:LaTeX? (Score:5, Informative)

      by WillAdams (45638) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @01:42PM (#39062519) Homepage

      The biggest difficulties in using LaTeX in publishing:

        - not WYSIWYG (and TeXmacs never got any traction and unfortunately, LyX is different enough that it requires its own acronym --- WYSIWYM)
        - requires up-front investment in creating macros for styles &c., discipline to use them as opposed to the ad hoc finger-painting which all-too-many Word and InDesign documents devolve into
        - document classes must be programmed, not designed
        - not a normal part of the design curriculum, so hiring is hard (I was the only candidate at my first job out of college who had experience in TeX)
        - export to .html has a lot of options (hevea, tth, latex2html), none of which have achieved prevalence and all of which work differently

      If typography were easy, Microsoft Word wouldn't be the foetid mess it's evolved into.

      Someone needs to package up one of the latex html export options so as to work w/ Sigil or one of the other ePub editors / validators.

    • by leandrod (17766)

      Popularity. HTML is way more popular than LaTeX, even if LaTeX is superior in every way. Blame the heritage of IBM GML.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      What does book publishing require that LaTeX doesn't/can't do?

      Other way around. It's what LaTeX requires that book publishers can't realistically do.... Highly skilled programmers.

      To get a chapter head design that would have taken about ten minutes in a program like Indesign, it took me several days of serious macro programming in LaTeX, starting with building up basic primitives like the equivalent of CSS's min-width (25 lines of macro code by itself). This complexity is primarily caused by the fundamen

      • by lgw (121541)

        LaTeX is in the same place as a Linotype language - it's a typesetting tool. Publishers don't do typesetting or printing any more, they farm all that out to contractors (yes, you read that right), so it's not really on their radar.

    • LaTeX is excellent for journal and technical book publishing and some other applications, but it was not designed for collaboration over the Web, and for full multiformat output.

      BookType, and its predecessor Booki, are designed for collaborative authorship around the world and for multi-format output, including HTML, PDF, print-on-demand, and others. The original development was sponsored by FLOSS Manuals, http://www.flossmanuals.net/ [flossmanuals.net] which creates manuals for Free Software applications. I have worked on ma

  • All Apple had to do to quash their critics is have two licenses: free and premium. Free lets you do whatever you want, provided you only sell it through Apple's store. Premium, which happens to cost $500 or something, lets you take it wherever you want AND entitles you to some sort of limited publicity if you make it on the Apple store.

    • All Apple had to do to quash their critics is have two licenses: free and premium. Free lets you do whatever you want, provided you only sell it through Apple's store. Premium, which happens to cost $500 or something, lets you take it wherever you want AND entitles you to some sort of limited publicity if you make it on the Apple store.

      What Apple did instead was changing a license that was open to be deliberately misunderstood to one that is much harder to misunderstand.

      But tell me, if Apple creates an app specifically to get better quality ebooks than anyone else can make, why would Apple sell that app for _any_ amount of money?

  • P2P solution for money... not going very well as a Bitcoin exchange shuts down.
    Piracy of eBooks? Still out there but publishers keep shutting those sites down... no need for SOPA, DMCA is still working as intended.
    So, let's mix P2P with e-books... could you keep a NASA-like clock at headquarters so we can see your shutdown coming?

    • by pinfall (2430412)
      New opp for c# dev (no salary)
      Create book sharing softtware, leveraged over tor, with freenet anomonymity, via browser proxy mozilla plugin, and free for all users.
      Hurry, free internet at risk. Post to anonymous board. Please note upon your hiring you will be paid nothing but feds will be knocking on your door within a few hours. Good times/boat drinks/secret torture enabled.
  • by AtomicJake (795218) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @12:56PM (#39061919)

    While it is clearly interesting to have an open source format for editing (btw, there are already many), it is far more important to have a standardized and open reader format: The eBook that I buy should be readable on all readers and also convertible to new formats in the future (thus: open and without DRM). When we have this, the writer/editor will have his choice automatically as well.

    • by jank1887 (815982) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @01:13PM (#39062123)

      if only there was some kind of electronic publication standard format [wikipedia.org] that everyone could use. Or some kind of conversion software [wikipedia.org] to get books into this format.

      sure, some companies will try to fracture the market, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yup, epub and Calibre fit the bill perfectly. Almost all modern e-readers support epub format books, and it is a sane, well-designed, simple format. Calibre is a fantastic free and open-source book librarian that can convert almost anything to epub (and epub to other formats).

        Maybe someone can chime in with how well epub handles mathematical notation and other advanced typesetting problems. At worst, you can embed images.

        • At worst, you can embed images.

          Given that the user can change backdrop and/or font colors and intensities on any decent reader, I've been wondering: Does image embedding in the standard support alpha, such as PNG?

          Because if you make a formula, for instance, or a table, on a fixed white backdrop, there's only one setting where that'll look good: Where the user has the colors matching those used in the image. But if the formula/table is rendered in [color] over alpha, that will work for a lot of cases (altho

  • It's called ePub (Score:4, Informative)

    by Harshmage (1925730) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @01:15PM (#39062159)
    Open source formatting, readable by the major tablet/ebook devices, and has an astounding support for creating and publishing, plus has functions for DRM (though I don't like it, publishers do). See Sigil (http://code.google.com/p/sigil/) for one of the easier writing tools.
  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @01:47PM (#39062609)

    Despite Apple's protestation that the iBooks Author EULA was misinterpreted

    Apparently the summary's author hadn't heard that Apple responded to the complaints by changing the license [macrumors.com] so that it was clear they were not making the claims they had been accused of making. They didn't just "protest" and claim people misinterpreted the license. They corrected the problem. Clearly this was a case of Apple...

    CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE!
    1) If you think Apple is evil, skip to paragraph A
    2) If you think Apple is good, skip to paragraph B

    PARAGRAPH A
    Clearly this was a case of Apple engaging in some slick PR after getting caught red-handed. It's our job to stay vigilant, and open formats are the way to go since we can't trust Apple or their kind.

    PARAGRAPH B
    Clearly this was a case of Apple making an honest mistake or having an overzealous lawyer adding some boilerplate language that could be taken other than how it was intended. They've shown a willingness to correct these sorts of mistakes in the past, and we can trust them to do so again in the future.

  • The Github link (Score:3, Informative)

    by dougiegyro (87799) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @01:52PM (#39062683) Homepage

    for Booktype is here: https://github.com/sourcefabric/Booktype [github.com]

  • Of course this was not designed with any sort of usability in mind. The newsfeed, homepage, etc. includes dozens of useless entries for test and empty books etc. What were they thinking? It's just noise, and it's horrible.

    If you want such a service to be usable, you need to present what people want, not everything. A random joe user that will visit such a site is most likely looking for books to read, not placeholders, and probably not work-in-progress that's not even properly started yet. You need some fil

  • by nicestepauthor (307146) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @01:57PM (#39062761) Homepage

    Booki was what there was before Booktype, and FLOSS Manuals used other software before Booki which I also used. The great thing about all this software is that many people can collaborate on a book online, then distribute in in multiple formats:

    1). As a website
    2). As a PDF that can be published as a print-on-demand book by Lulu or Create Space.
    3). As an EPUB (which you can run Kindlegen on to create a MOBI for the Kindkle).
    4). As a "newspaper".

    Some examples of books I have created:

    websites

    http://en.flossmanuals.net/make-your-own-sugar-activities/ [flossmanuals.net]

    http://en.flossmanuals.net/como-hacer-una-actividad-sugar/ [flossmanuals.net]

    http://en.flossmanuals.net/e-book-enlightenment/ [flossmanuals.net]

    epub, mobi, and pdf

    http://www.archive.org/details/MakeYourOwnSugarActivities [archive.org]

    http://www.archive.org/details/ComoHacerUnaActividadSugar [archive.org]

    http://www.archive.org/details/EBookEnlightenment [archive.org]

    On the Kindle Store

    http://www.amazon.com/Make-Your-Sugar-Activities-ebook/dp/B0050VAHKW/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1329414720&sr=1-2 [amazon.com]

    http://www.amazon.com/Hacer-Actividad-Sugar-Spanish-ebook/dp/B0058DBRVA/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_3 [amazon.com]

    http://www.amazon.com/E-Book-Enlightenment-ebook/dp/B005BYST5I/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2 [amazon.com]

    http://www.amazon.com/Life-Times-Bhakta-Jim-ebook/dp/B00730HE54/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1329414780&sr=1-1 [amazon.com]

    On Lulu

    http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/make-your-own-sugar-activities/12995552?productTrackingContext=search_results/search_shelf/center/1 [lulu.com]

    And soon, The Life And Times Of Bhakta Jim on Create Space.

    The Spanish book was translated from "Make Your Own Sugar Activities!" by a team of volunteers, mostly in South America, who likely had never met in person.

    Don't underestimate what this software can do! It isn't perfect, but in time it will change how we author and publish books.

    • by MrManny (1026106)

      Hi there,

      sorry to bother you, but I've tried to find this Booki you mentioned. Either my google-fu has failed me, or my computer is playing Jedi mind tricks on me. :-( Can you point me at Booki's site please?

      Thanks in advance,
      M.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What are the master formats for e-books? IOW, a format suited for editing, version control and other activities related to creating an e-book? A format which can be later converted into MOBI/ePub/PDF/RTF/etc.

    DocBook Lite? FB2?

    Is the Booktype the thing? They talk about "platform" what is little bit confusing.

  • As they say in The Courts
    OBJECTION ASSUMES FACTS NOT IN EVIDENCE

    unless the installers are very hidden (which they may be) have they proven that this program?? runs on more than one platform??

    if they have hidden the installers links somewhere could somebody please post the links??

  • by fermion (181285) on Thursday February 16, 2012 @02:36PM (#39063397) Homepage Journal
    I recall when MacWrite, and later MS Office for Windows came out, and all writing seemed to stop. People were playing with fonts, colors, kerning. While they made pretty pages, there was often no intellegible language on the page. The redeeming factor was that the Mac allowed a person with a few thousand dollars to publish quite professional looking product, instead of the tens of thousands previously required.

    To write a book you need a text editor. To publish a book you need a page layout program like LaTex. It will print in PDF which most anyone can read or print. You can even sell them. if you want something more than a book, then something more than page layout program is required.

    What we are mostly talking about now is how to publish more than a book and how to distribute that more than a book. Amazon already has a method to publish and distribute a book. What Apple is providing is an eBook that, if done correctly, will not translate well to a simple printed book. If we are talking textbooks, for instance, the simple printed book is no longer good enough. We have textbooks, we even have very good free textbooks in many subjects. What we need are more than books so the students can get the words, lectures, and simulations outside of class, and use class time for the modeling of the social interactions that are necessary for learning. Successful students instinctively forms groups, not so successful students thinks that such groups are only for partying or sports.

    So I don't see how this is useful. LaTeX is open source and free and a very mature and reliable product. I do not see Booktype opening up any new distribution channels. I am only saying this because the summary started off by citing Apple. What Apple has done is provide a format that will let a writing create an e-book, not simply a book that read on a screen instead of paper, and a method of distribution. As I understand it, the EULA really is not going to effect a writer, since any real writer is going to lay down the text and generate the graphics outside of the publishing application. The EULA only says that the iBook is required to be distributed by Apple. This means that write can create a rich content e-book which must be distributed by Apple, but can also create a traditional book that can be distributed any way. This traditional book could be created by Booktype or Latex or anything else.

    Going beyond the book is something that very few seem to want to do. The publishers certainly don't want to make their printing presses and large salary redundant over night. One company that did try this, push pop press, is not part of facebook and is no longer really in the book biz. Apple, as it did with music, sees profit in the disruption of books, and has the funds to not be concerned with the people they are going to piss off.

  • I've seen a lot of good conversion software, but not a lot of really great methods for authors to do the actual selling on their own. Especially in regards to free or low-cost open-source methods. I'd love to see a complete solution that offers the chance to collaborate and construct an ebook over the web entirely from scratch, then approve and publish it to various formats on your own website, and offers many methods to tailor the method of sale -- specifically pay-what-you-want options and integration wit
  • I spent a weekend with Apple's iBooks Author making a book from a short story and my photography. The process was fairly straightforward, but the lack of documentation around the various widgets made the whole experience more trial and error than anything else. I also don't have an iPad so it was difficult to properly preview the book.

    What we - e.g., people who wish to create books and distribute far and wide to many devices - lack is a killer tool that both helps us along with amazing templates, but also a

  • Tried it out, and the only problem is that there are no serif fonts for the pdf versions. While I can understand sans-serif for screen use, paper really needs a serif font.

Neckties strangle clear thinking. -- Lin Yutang

Working...