Swimming Against the Current

There are lots of different E-readers out there…just as there are lots of different rivers in Brazil.

So far, these tutorials have been using pretty nonpartisan, platform-independent technologies: HTML and CSS, EPUB and RTF, JPG and GIF. My most recent instructional blog post covered using open-source Sigil to get us to an EPUB, the standard E-book format recognized the world over as the dominant electronic book platform for people who have never heard of an Amazon Kindle.

kindle vending machine at MSP airport

I hate it when the Kindle tablet just kinda hangs there at the edge of the shelf until I jolt the vending machine.

Right. Sure. EPUB is recognized the world over as the dominant electronic book platform for people who have never heard of an Amazon Kindle. But a lot of people have heard of an Amazon Kindle. As I learned during Christmas travels, even the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport has heard of an Amazon Kindle.

Someday, we will all drive solar-powered cars, vacation in Castro-free Cuba, and read E-books that are not on Amazon-controlled Kindles. I look forward to those days, but I need to live in (and publish for) the real world of 2015. “Kindle” is synonymous with “E-reader” the way “Google” is synonymous with “search engine”: many people aren’t even aware that the alternatives exist. Even Apple’s iBooks platform, arguably the most sophisticated and certainly the most widespread implimentation of EPUB, has but a small fraction of the North American readership.

Few small presses can afford to ignore Kindle’s huge chunk of the market. (Even large presses struggle to do so.) If we want our poetry books to be bought, sold, and read electronically, we have to get them into a format that Amazon likes, and that means the proprietary formats of KF8 and/or mobi7. Continue reading

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Protected: The Problem with Prosaic Solutions

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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?


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.


Brilliance by Baruch Porras-Hernandez.

Originally posted on Baruch Porras-Hernandez:

chicken and wafffles please!!!

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