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[school-discuss] e-book formatting (was Re: text reader)

On Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 2:15 PM, Paul McKimmy <paul.mckimmy@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Creation of eBooks with F/OSS and in open formats is a big issue. A summary
> and how-to's could be very useful for teachers.  Of peak interest is
> inclusion of media, without resorting to iBooks Author.

Would like to see more information on this as well and as mentioned
without having to deal with commercial sites to get information into
the appropriate formats.  Several authors I've talked to have
mentioned an interest in e-books and in adding multimedia to their
books to reach readers in new ways.

> For non media-embedded ebooks, I have been playing with this LibreOffice
> plugin that generates ePubs based on a documents header styles:

I have a friend who does her 'zines in lyx.  There are some useful
tools for translating Latex to other formats.  I ran across an article
on A List Apart ( http://alistapart.com/article/boom ) a while back
that described formatting a book using HTML and CSS.  Since I'm
already very familiar with writing in HTML and CSS formats, seemed
like a good route to go for book formatting.  For someone who's not so
familiar, there are HTML editors like Blue Griffon, Kompozer and
Amaya.  That started me on a search for programs that could transform
HTML into PDF format.  There don't seem to be as many conversion tools
as there are for Latex or other formats.  I wrote up my results here:
http://www.distasis.com/cpp/books.htm  Unfortunately, am not sure if
the tools are keeping up with the all the changes going on.  html2ps
doesn't handle CSS well.  wkhtmltopdf can handle anything webkit can.
However, with the switch from Qt4 to Qt5, the program hasn't been
updated to the latest version of webkit in a while.  PhantomJS is
another option similar to wkhtmltopdf.  Seems they're trying to deal
with the Qt4 to Qt5 transition as well.  (Anyone else finding it
annoying that both Qt and GTK are doing major upgrades and breaking
compatibility with a lot of good programs that have been around for a

I recently started looking into epub and from what I'm reading, it's
simply XHTML and CSS with other some specific files in a zip format.
Sounds easy to convert from HTML or XHTML to epub, but I've yet to see
some good Open Source tools or a decent tutorial.  There was also
mention that epub can use a subset of DTBOOK for multimedia.  However,
just ran across this (
).  The following link (
http://www.idpf.org/epub/30/spec/#sec-multimedia ) mentions use of
HTML 5 audio and video tags.  If anyone's curious, here's more
information on the video tag (
http://camendesign.com/code/video_for_everybody ) and the audio tag (
http://html5doctor.com/native-audio-in-the-browser/ ).  I'm not seeing
much useful information on how to sync words on the screen to words in
the audio.  There are pointers to CSS, SSML and speech.  However,
don't think that ties in with the audio tag.  Another interesting
mention is fonts.  This might be something we want to look into at
Schoolforge, which fonts are licensed for use with ebooks or on the
web?  Recently ran across the following font resource:
http://www.fontsquirrel.com/  They list fonts with all kinds of
licenses.  If you look under the font's license tab, you'll find the
details of the license.  If you look under the font's webfont kit tab,
you'll find information on whether it can be used as a web font or
whether the font format can be converted under the license.  Found it
interesting that the common Open Source SIL license wasn't friendly
for use as a web font.  Another list to give some ideas on what Open
Source fonts are available is at
http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Category:Packaged_fonts  I've also
recently been looking at Raphael.js and cufon.js.  They're not
specifically e-book related, but they do give a cross-browser way to
use the HTML canvas and SVG like commands and a way to display and
animate vector fonts on the web.  There are converters to change TTF
fonts to cufon format for use with cufon.js or raphael.js.

That's the extent of what I've dug up on the subject so far.  Would be
nice to find less technical specifications and more examples and
tutorials on how to write and convert to the various publishing
formats.  Some good tutorials on adding multimedia would be very
useful as well.  Doing some of this with HTML, CSS and JavaScript
should be fairly straightforward.  Trying to switch to more
proprietary (even though they're Open Standards) formats can be a
nuisance.  I'm also having trouble finding clear documentation on a
lot of it.  Guess it's good business for publishing companies charging
to convert your documents to various e-book formats.

If anyone runs across some other tips on e-book formating and
conversion, please share them.  Would any of the above information be
useful for addition to the Schoolforge wiki?  Do we want to add
information on JavaScript libraries like raphael.js and cufon.js to
our Software list or would the wiki be more appropriate?

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