Monday, March 04, 2013

My Book Out of Print

My book is currently 'out of print' because I'm simply trying to correct some typos, and my publisher does not allow printing while a text is being corrected. I currently have 3 simple syntax correction in the queue (eg, change a comma to a period).  I'll get back this change in 5 business days, and if all goes correctly I'll be up in three weeks. Otherwise, it will take another 3 weeks and we continue. 

If you want to self publish a book that has equations, expect the process to be very difficult. Equations, pictures, and Symbol fonts, are unconventional. For example, on several occasions I've tried to explain what a β is, and it's exasperating; think about getting an inline equation correctly formatted.

They take my changes and send them over to India, and as one can imagine it's a clusterpuck of miscommunication. First, they try to put all the request into a protocol that is completely documented, but alas none of my comments fit into their pre-fit categories, and they generates tons of automated respones that convey no information other than 'we received your comment.' I can't talk to those guys actually making the changes often (I did on my latest round, strangely), so no matter how much I talk to the American sending this off, it's all pretty much irrelevant because 12k miles away, that conversation doesn't count for anything. Most times I receive back my changes and they include changes to other parts of the book I didn't ask for. This is because when they transfer the book to other formats, the gifs or Symbol fonts don't carry over and so look like I want to change the formatting to some incomprehensible giberish known only to me, but also because they compare to a version I sent their prior to the latest one.


Carl Edman said...

That is why Donald Knuth invented LaTeX!

John said...

Carl got to my point first. Why not just use LaTeX?

Eric Falkenstein said...

LaTeX does not work on the mobile reading devices like Kindle or the Nook. That is, with the moveable fonts than adjust to the screen on different devices, one must translate equations to gifs, otherwise there's a low probability the equation (eg, mathml or latex) with work. In any case, CreateSpace does not accept LaTeX, and I wanted someone who could create print copies and ebooks.

cig said...

Do they manually layout on each platform? How quaint. It should certainly be possible to produce all the formats from a single source (not latex if course, wrong tool for the job), with dedicated markup for target specific quirks if need be.

Eric Falkenstein said...

cig: the movable font we see in Word or HTML causes problems (ie,wrapping text to it's window size). There's no standard equation language that is read across multiple platforms, which is why these companies require gifs.

cig said...

My comment was mainly on workflow: if I've understood correctly, you supply the raw material which someone far away processes further to turn into the full laid out form for each target. Either they produce a single source, or they manually produce multiple layouts for each target, but don't show you the intermediate form(s). Then the same far away people apply raw patches on the secret ready-for-layout forms.

I think keeping the intermediary form locked up and far away is broken: they should disclose the single (or multiple) sources, and if need be offer hand holding services for those writers who are not good at layout or reluctant to learn a new tool, but could easily be taught to apply simply patches directly in there. Writers should also be able to run themselves the round trip (in the cloud if need be) of applying patches and seeing the result directly.

If equation rasterisation is required (which is definitely not the case in modern HTML, at worst it should end up in vector form) it should be done down stream, not you doing it, but it's a distraction: the process as you describe it seems equally broken for non-equation works.