Thoughts on Books in Browsers V (pt 2)

More Poetic Musings on #BiB14

(continued from earlier post)

Here are my notes on the talks, more for my own future reference than for anything else. The two talks I’ll summarize today, unlike most others, are not available on YouTube. To skip straight to my interpretations, go to TL;DR .

Dave Cramer of Hachette and the CSS Working Group: “Books and the New CSS”

(read an abstract of his talk)

I’d be remiss not to mention the hero’s work showcased by Dave Cramer at #BiB14, even though his talk isn’t available on-line. I could hardly do better than Iris Amelia’s sketches of the event, anyhow:

Dave, a member of the CSS Working Group, gave attendees a showcase of things that are (or will be) possible when CSS support expands to more screens, platforms, and devices. As others have done, he used a public-domain work to keep the focus on the formatting. Check this out:

slide from Dave Cramer's presentation, showing two columns of text in a browser

Dave Cramer has some nice CSS pagination.

If memory serves, Dave made this pagination, complete with running recto/verso headers, using just HTML/CSS. He’s displaying it in a Web browser, true to the Books in Browsers theme of the conference.

How about reflowing text around objects while maintaining pagination and headers?

slide from Dave Cramer's presentation, showing text reflow around illustrations in a browser

Everything gets better with whales.

Implicit in Dave’s presentation and slides was a full-throated defense of the page as an organizing concept, even for reflowable text.

Two quotes stood out, for different reasons:

“I’m the only thing that stands between you and lunch.” It had little to do with Books in Browsers, but Dave’s opening statement was a nice touch of humility and humor. It also communicated clearly his alignment with the very streamlined format of the Books in Browsers talks: Stay focused, say a lot, get off stage on time.

“Art forms advance not by forgetting the past, but by reimagining and building on it.” Even at a conference about digitizing books, attendees will encounter moments where they feel discomfort about rapid change. It was nice to have a reminder that the new need not replace the old. That is, after all, a central issue I face when I think about how ancient poems and modern E-readers can coexist. Continue reading

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Thoughts on Books in Browsers V

What lessons can YBR take from the Books in Browsers talks?

Books in Browsers is a two-day, annual conference exploring trends in digital publishing, E-books, and the role of “books” in a world where content is increasingly digitized and re-mixed (1). I went to Books in Browsers 2014 with three questions:

  1. How are people formatting E-books these days?
  2. Do the formatting requirements of publishers and platforms affect the way writers write?
  3. Does innovation matter when Amazon controls 70% of the E-book market?

(TL;DR)

Everyone comes to conferences with his or her own agenda, and mine, of course, was poetry. Not everyone shared my central organizing thought:

(crickets chirping)

Oh, well.

Here are my notes on the talks, more for my own future reference than for anything else. Just about all of the lectures are available on YouTube, thanks to Publishing Perspectives, and those are presented, naturally, without the tint of my own personal curiosities and viewpoints. Continue reading

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Go Back to the EPUB and Check Who’s There

(Continued from earlier post)

4. Create a table of contents, again.

Wait, didn’t we already do that? Yes, but that was a HUMAN table of contents. We made it “by hand” and it both looks good and works well. However, most E-readers won’t specifically recognize that ToC as a ToC. So now, we need to make what’s called a “logical” ToC.

Aesthetic disclaimer: This technique kind of sucks. It comes into play because there are three (3!) different kinds of Tables of Contents for E-books.

  • Traditional Table of Contents: The thing you think we’re talking about? That’s what we’re talking about. This is a list of sections, or chapters, or poem titles, typed up by a human and positioned in the first few pages of a book (let’s not argue, now) so that people browsing the book can find out where to go.
  • A Logical or Metadata Table of Contents: This is a list in outline format that lists the contents of your book by header <hx> elements. It usually is not styled, typed, or formatted so much as it is generated by an E-book editor. This list is where people will go when they click on the “Table of Contents” button or menu option in their E-reader. It should go at the end of your E-book so it doesn’t clog up your frontmatter (which already has a ToC).
  • An NCX file. The NCX file is a series of bookmarks or milestones (EPUB 2.1 and Kindle .mobi) in an E-book that helps some readers on some devices jump around inside the book. For example, a proper NCX file will allow a reader to jump around in the E-book in exact, one-chapter increments. The NCX file is created automatically by an E-book editor.

Fortunately, our E-book editor Sigil will handle most of this for us. Continue reading

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Notes On The Writing Process, the Struggle, the Sacrifice, the Chilli Fries.

ybreview:

Brilliance by Baruch Porras-Hernandez.

Originally posted on Baruch Porras-Hernandez:

chicken and wafffles please!!!

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Let’s All Gather Together at the EPUB!

Use Sigil to assemble the files for the E-book anthology.

illustration of files into epub

Our files are back together like peas in a pod.

You can, if you wish, use a text editor and a compression utility to make the EPUB .zip file. You can, that is; I sure can’t. And I see no clear reason why anyone would want to, not when Sigil is back in active development.

As Sigil is (kind of) an HTML editor, I could have used it all along for making the HTML/CSS markup in Steps 3 and 4. That wouldn’t have been a particularly awesome idea, though. As of this writing, Sigil hasn’t fully transitioned to HTML5. I feel it’s better to code in an HTML5 setting such as Dreamweaver, then step backwards a little bit closer to the end, rather than to do a whole project soup-to-nuts in an older specification and have more to re-code if you ever update the book to modern standards.

The first move is to download and install Sigil. If you need an older/more compatible version, those are still available, too, although they have been deprecated. I’ll wait…got it up and running? Great! Here’s what we’ll do next:

  1. Dump our files into a new Sigil document.
  2. Put the files in the proper order.
  3. Input some metadata (I’ll explain).
  4. Create a table of contents, again.
  5. Validate the files with FlightCrew.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

This post will cover 1-3. It’ll be fun. Ready? Continue reading

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The Poem? How Many Divisions Does it Have?

As I put the finishing touches on Yellow Buick Review No. 2, I take a minute to reflect on what has changed, for good and ill.

This tutorial is based on the first generation of HTML/CSS techniques we figured out (with plenty of help) for our poetry E-books and E-book anthologies. The first issue of Yellow Buick Review used those techniques. The commercial offerings at Bicycle Comics all use the first generation markup/code. It works, it looks good, it’s even elegant in the right light.

We have a second-generation set of techniques, though. Those are what I’ve been using on Yellow Buick Review No. 2. The biggest difference? YBR 2 uses the div element to structure each stanza of a poem.

(Update: We now have a third-generation set of markup techniques that use media queries to serve cascading style sheets appropriate to the device in use. Most of this post is now outdated, but I’ll leave it here as a marker of our thinking in mid-September, 2014.)

Here are two stanzas of a poem formatted using 1st Gen YBR markup:


<p class="PoemStanza">Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit.</p>
<p class="PoemLine">Etiam id lacus ligula. Sed libero sem, ullamcorper</p>
<p class="PoemLine">Non pulvinar eget, ultricies eu felis.</p>
<p class="PoemStanzaIndent1">Etiam lacinia metus ligula, sed convallis turpis tristique eu.</p>
<p class="PoemLineIndent1">Nam in tortor dictum odio dapibus egestas.</p>
<p class="PoemLineIndent1">Nullam id odio ut ante lobortis sodales eget sed quam.</p>

Compare that with the same poem in 2nd Gen YBR markup:


<div class="PoemStanza">
<p class="PoemLine">Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. </p>
<p class="PoemLine">Etiam id lacus ligula. Sed libero sem, ullamcorper </p>
<p class="PoemLine">Non pulvinar eget, ultricies eu felis. </p>
</div>
<div class="PoemStanzaIndent1">
<p class="PoemLine">Etiam lacinia metus ligula, sed convallis turpis tristique eu.</p>
<p class="PoemLine">Nam in tortor dictum odio dapibus egestas. </p>
<p class="PoemLine">Nullam id odio ut ante lobortis sodales eget sed quam.</p>
</div>

The big difference? In 2nd Gen, each stanza gets wrapped in its own <div> tags. It is the <div>, not the <p>, that holds the margin-top attribute and value. 2nd Gen also uses percentages for most of its measurements, not em.

Continue reading

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