Tag Archives: ebook

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



Filed under Publishing Industry

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


Filed under Organization and Data

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 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>

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Look and Feel, Testing and Uploading

Let’s Split Up but Stay Friends

Just as a book should (must?) have multiple pages, an E-book should have multiple .html files.

Having one big .html file for the interior of our E-book has its advantages. After all, what’s the expression we use when we talk about keeping a project organized? “Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.” But we’re (almost) done with the HTML and CSS portions of our book, and there are good reasons to split our .html file into smaller .html files:

splitting .html file into smaller files

  • Compatibility with older E-readers. Some of the early E-books couldn’t load a file larger than 128K or 256K. Splitting our book into segments helps us keep early-adopters in the game.
  • Easier navigation on some devices. Some devices, again, often older ones, allow the reader to “blip” ahead by section. If your anthology is all one big section, then the only “blips” allowed will be the very beginning and end of the book.
  • Guaranteed page breaks. Sometimes, you just need to be certain that a certain line will appear at the top of a new page. Start with a fresh .html file and know that it will have a fresh page all to itself.
  • Alternate cascading style sheets. YBR uses one CSS, but it might be that part of your book (a prose section, perhaps) will refer to a different .css file. Put that part on its own .html file and you’re good to go!
  • Reuse of “evergreen” sections. Okay, look, the back 10 pages of every Bicycle Comics poetry E-book thus far has been 8 pages of advertising for our other E-books. We don’t want to re-write or re-code that section; we just want to pop it in.

To be clear, we are making one E-book poetry anthology; an E-book can contain multiple .html and .css files. For the Tandem anthologies, we made each month its own chapter, so each month got its own .html file, as did the frontmatter and backmatter. But we combined those .html files into one EPUB file for each of our E-books. Here are the steps: Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Code Samples, Organization and Data

Available Now: The Yellow Buick Review Vol. I

Download your free copy of The Yellow Buick Review today.

yellow buick review cover

Ain’t she a beauty?

I’m still working on my backlog of tutorials, but since Yellow Buick Review is now accepting submissions, I figured I ought to make Volume I available. You can download it free from Bicycle Comics starting today. Once all the tutorials are up, I’ll also list it on the official stores for Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Kobo.

The Yellow Buick Review is the world’s least-prestigious, most-helpful literary magazine. The poems are total nonsense, the formatting is solid, and the code is open-source for all to see, critique, and adapt.

Download your free copy of The Yellow Buick Review, take it for a spin, and pop the hood to see how it all works. I’d love to know what you think.

Creative Commons License
Yellow Buick Review by yellowbuickreview.wordpress.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Filed under Testing and Uploading

Simplify, Simplify (CSS Portion)

Dump the needless CSS you’ve inherited from prose-oriented programs, and replace it with CSS that understands poetry’s unique needs.

illustration of HTML with internal CSS

Pardon the mess; MS Word was visiting.

Through this whole tutorial, we’ve been using cascading style sheet information that we inherited from the original MS Word save-to-HTML operation. Here’s where we set ourselves free. The CSS we have in our sample file is an inline cascading style sheet: it occupies the top third of our HTML. (Quick clarification: an .html file can hold all kinds of code—CSS, HTML, XML, javascript, php, and so forth. HTML is just one kind of information that can sit in an .html file.) There are two problems with this approach.

  • It’s inside our .html file, which is not as useful/easy as giving it its own document.
  • It’s terrible, terrible code anyway.

Just look at my highly technical illustration of the HTML file. See all the “junk” in there? That’s no good. Most poetry anthologies have enough junk as it is; let’s not put junk CSS in there, too. So, here’s what we’ll do about it:

Continue reading


Filed under Code Samples, Look and Feel