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eBook standards vs HTML

I would like to get feedback on any industry eBook standards vs using
plain HTML (along with some server-side scripting). I believe HTML is
suited to display books, but I might be missing something. As webmaster
of Authorama.com I'd also be interested in knowing if there's anything
that can be directly gained by converting to some eBook format (I'm not
selling anything, as the books are public domain -- I'm talking about
gaining additional readers, optimized reading experience, etc.).
Jul 20 '05 #1
12 2317
Philipp Lenssen wrote:
I would like to get feedback on any industry eBook standards vs using
plain HTML (along with some server-side scripting). I believe HTML is
suited to display books, but I might be missing something. As webmaster
of Authorama.com I'd also be interested in knowing if there's anything
that can be directly gained by converting to some eBook format (I'm not
selling anything, as the books are public domain -- I'm talking about
gaining additional readers, optimized reading experience, etc.).


I think that HTML is the best choice. There's normally too much
selfishness in this type of thing ("we'll distribute it in PDF, so it'll
look like we like it"), but my opinion is that there should be a
compromise. HTML may not have every needed feature, but browsers are
currently on virtually every PC and HTML file sizes are small, and it
has enough typographic features to be a payoff. As for obtaining the
most readers, there are few things more deterring than the requirement
of new software just to read something that could be represented in HTML
or plain text.

Jul 20 '05 #2
>Philipp Lenssen wrote:
I would like to get feedback on any industry eBook standards vs using
plain HTML (along with some server-side scripting). I believe HTML is
suited to display books, but I might be missing something. ...

On Tue, 13 Jan 2004 11:48:13 +0000, Keith Bowes replied:I think that HTML is the best choice. ...
I used to agree with you, until I actually tried to do it for a book
my wife has written. I would say it depends on the book.

Certainly, HTML is ideal for a "traditiona l" work of fiction, written
in one typeface with maybe some italics. Most textbooks also ought to
work well in HTML, because even if there are headings and blockquotes
and illustrations and sidebars, the author doesn't generally care
*exactly* how they appear to the reader, as long as they communicate
the content in an understandable manner.

It gets a lot more tricky when the author wants to use specific
typesetting tricks as part of, say, a novel. My wife wants to
distribute her novel online (shareware), and many things that were
easy for her to do in Microsoft Word are very difficult for me to
replicate for her in HTML/CSS. Example: three characters are writing
a to-do list in their three different handwritings. I can't expect
all her readers to download and install three handwriting fonts, so
the best I can do in HTML/CSS is the default cursive font,
cursive+italic, and cursive+bold (which looks crappy and leaves the
reader wondering which font goes with which person). Another example:
a character suffers a "memory storm" in which random memories appear
in overlapping boxes of text in various fonts. Getting the
positioning right in CSS is a nightmare, and of course it will fail
completely in some browsers.

For something like this, PDF is a much better solution.
... There's normally too much
selfishness in this type of thing ("we'll distribute it in PDF, so it'll
look like we like it"), but my opinion is that there should be a
compromise. ...
This gets back to the old, old "separating content from presentation"
argument. Sometimes the presentation *is* part of the content, in
which case it's not selfish to expect it to appear as the author
wants.
... HTML may not have every needed feature, but browsers are
currently on virtually every PC and HTML file sizes are small, and it
has enough typographic features to be a payoff. As for obtaining the
most readers, there are few things more deterring than the requirement
of new software just to read something that could be represented in HTML
or plain text.


It's a tradeoff. Requiring your customers to update their browsers to
the latest versions, just so that the CSS works properly, may be
causing them just as much trouble. PDF files are also small, and the
Adobe Acrobat Reader is available for lots of different platforms.

But I agree that using a proprietary e-book format (I mean, other than
PDF) is generally a bad idea.

=-=-= Bill Statler =-=-=
Jul 20 '05 #3
Bill Statler wrote:
Keith Bowes:
Philipp Lenssen wrote:
I would like to get feedback on any industry eBook standards vs using
plain HTML (along with some server-side scripting). I believe HTML is
suited to display books, but I might be missing something. ...

I think that HTML is the best choice. ...


I used to agree with you, until I actually tried to do it for a book
my wife has written. I would say it depends on the book.

Certainly, HTML is ideal for a "traditiona l" work of fiction, written
in one typeface with maybe some italics. Most textbooks also ought to
work well in HTML, because even if there are headings and blockquotes
and illustrations and sidebars, the author doesn't generally care
*exactly* how they appear to the reader, as long as they communicate
the content in an understandable manner.

It gets a lot more tricky when the author wants to use specific
typesetting tricks as part of, say, a novel.


There was a time that novellists were able to describe situations so
well to their public, that the specific typesetting tricks were not
necessary at all.

--

Barbara

http://home.wanadoo.nl/b.de.zoete/html/weblog.html
http://home.wanadoo.nl/b.de.zoete/html/webontwerp.html

Jul 20 '05 #4
On Fri, 16 Jan 2004 00:36:44 +0100, Barbara de Zoete
<b_********@hot mail.com> wrote:
There was a time that novellists were able to describe situations so
well to their public, that the specific typesetting tricks were not
necessary at all.


And there was a time that people rode horses so well there was no need for
cars.
Jul 20 '05 #5
Barbara de Zoete wrote:
There was a time that novellists were able to describe situations so
well to their public, that the specific typesetting tricks were not
necessary at all.


When?

Jul 20 '05 #6
On Thu, 15 Jan 2004 22:58:13 GMT, Bill Statler wrote:
This gets back to the old, old "separating content from presentation"
argument. Sometimes the presentation *is* part of the content, in
which case it's not selfish to expect it to appear as the author
wants.
Another consideration is readability. Some simple CSS can go a long
way to making a book attractive and relatively easy on the eyes.
It's actually harder to read a PDF in some instances, such as when
the author uses too small a font. AFAIK, you can't make the
font-size bigger when you read a PDF.
But I agree that using a proprietary e-book format (I mean, other than
PDF) is generally a bad idea.


Spending $150 for ReaderWorks Pro was a bit of a stretch, but once I
got it ... it's not really that hard to make eBooks in multiple
formats, provided you work from a clean HTML original. Consistency
is the key here ... it allows for all sorts of neat text editing.
HTML Tidy is very handy in this instance.

It's also a good idea to create PDFs from HTML, rather than from a
word processor document. A bit tricky, but the file size you end up
with is considerably smaller. Making a tagged PDF is also important,
for handhelds.

As far as I can figure, there are only two formats guaranteed to
work pretty much everywhere: TXT and HTML. The latter may not be
universal, but it would work where a PDF wouldn't, would reflow much
easier on a small screen, and would be small in size.

Ian
--
http://www.aspipes.org/
http://www.bookstacks.org/
http://www.learnsomethingnew.us/
Jul 20 '05 #7
Bill Statler wrote:

It gets a lot more tricky when the author wants to use specific
typesetting tricks as part of, say, a novel. [...] Example: three characters are writing a to-do list in their three
different handwritings.
I suppose the passages you describe are too large for images?
This gets back to the old, old "separating content from
presentation" argument. Sometimes the presentation *is* part of
the content, in which case it's not selfish to expect it to appear
as the author wants.
With HTML, that is not really possible. And on the www, as others have
pointed out, HTML is more widely available. I have Acrobat reader, but
I must say that I try my best to avoid pdf files whenever I can. It
just seems so slow and clunky compared to HTML.
Requiring your customers to update their browsers to the latest
versions, just so that the CSS works properly, may be causing them
just as much trouble.


And not guaranteed to do anything, since CSS is optional even
(especially?) in the latest version of browsers.

--
Brian
follow the directions in my address to email me

Jul 20 '05 #8
Bill Statler wrote:

Certainly, HTML is ideal for a "traditiona l" work of fiction, written
in one typeface with maybe some italics. Most textbooks also ought to
work well in HTML, because even if there are headings and blockquotes
and illustrations and sidebars, the author doesn't generally care
*exactly* how they appear to the reader, as long as they communicate
the content in an understandable manner.

It gets a lot more tricky when the author wants to use specific
typesetting tricks as part of, say, a novel.


What about just including images then, with an appropriate alt-text/
long-desc (if you want to go all the way)? Sounds reasonable. The thing
with anything "e" is that readers might specifically _want_ to alter
the appearance of e.g. fonts, or they might _want_ to highlight certain
words, search through the book, etc. There might be some trade-off
since you may not be able to force your font-decision.

--
Google Blogoscoped
http://blog.outer-court.com
Jul 20 '05 #9
On Thu, 15 Jan 2004, Ian Rastall wrote:
Another consideration is readability. Some simple CSS can go a long
way to making a book attractive and relatively easy on the eyes.
User stylesheets can be even better at that than author stylesheets
;-)
It's actually harder to read a PDF in some instances,
can be, yes...
such as when the author uses too small a font. AFAIK, you can't make
the font-size bigger when you read a PDF.


Not quite sure what you mean. Zoom always works for me, but it's
hardly a convenient way to read.
Jul 20 '05 #10

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