Omfg books have tech stacks now: how I used web technologies to layout and print a book

Manuel Bieh on August 10, 2019

Sorry for the title, I just had to quote Kitze here: Kitze @thekitze ... [Read Full]
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The legacy gitbook actually did what the name meant, it gives an option to download the book in pdf/epub/mobi format (though imo only pdf is readable for technical books with figures and code snippets)

For my books, I use pandoc+xelatex to convert Github style markdown to pdf, I searched stackoverflow sites for tex settings and I've now settled into a flow that works for me. I wrote an article too, if you'd like to compare with your flow:

 

I was not happy with the layout/design of the generated PDF, that’s why I decided to build my own converter 😉

 

yeah agree, legacy gitbook still works, but isn't good enough for publishing

 

Yeah, CSS support for print media tends to get forgotten about by a lot of web developers. It's a whole lot easier to use than TeX (which was originally designed for this type of thing) though unless you need really complicated typesetting functionality.

 

True that TeX is designed specifically for typesetting printed media, but it's just too complex to use if you simply want to get things done and don't plan to invest time into learning it systematically. Debugging TeX is a nightmare thanks to its cryptic error messages.

 

LaTeX is not so complex and you should consider investing some time in it if you intend to keep writing books.

It may be harder to debug its output, but it all depends on numerous variables and sheer number of plugins being used. I am not an expert but have written technical documentation in LaTeX and used Tikz scripting language for drawing schematics.

It was a steep learning curve, but it really is the most powerful publishing tool you can find.

If you ever decide to write another book, give LaTeX a try.

Congratulations on Your book, it's an admirable achievement.

 

Have you seen How To Create A PDF From Your Web Application by Rachel Andrew? It's a good overview and an awesome additional reading for people interested in the topic.

Mostly Paged.js seems really interesting to me as a polyfill to give print CSS some well deserved love.

Also I'm mostly interested in ebook (pdf/epub) at the moment but still curious. Seems like you got the dead tree version made through leanpub? How was your experience using it? How were the formats (they seem to be using a custom markdown flavour?)? Was styling for the printed version hard/different compared to the pdf/epub version?

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