Towards an Open Future for Automated Typsetting—Highlights from Paged Media Event, January 9th

On Tuesday, February 9th, a group of 30 or 40 folks from the world over convened at the MIT Press offices in Cambridge to put our collective heads together about building a new open source model for automated typesetting using CSS, HTML, and JavaScript.  Coko Foundation co-founder and Shuttleworth fellow, Adam Hyde, brought us together to discuss this Shuttleworth-funded initiative.

We started with several presentations that gave examples of how we currently do things including:

—Dave Cramer from Hachette where a team of six manages much of their division’s typsetting using an HTML-centric workflow;

—Arthur Atwell from Fire and Lion, who runs a small but very innovative book design and typsetting company in South Africa, and has developed the Electric Book workflow system;

—Nellie McKesson, who is working on Hederis, a new automated typesetting tool that she is building from scratch;

—Hugh McGuire gave a demo of PressBooks, which is in wide use for typesetting books;

—I also gave a quick demo of Editoria.

Arthur Atwell  from Fire & Lion

For the second half of the day, we spent some time talking about a concept that Coko is fleshing out.  Julie Blanc, an accomplished graphic designer, presented some of the challenges of print that HTML/CSS standards and most previously developed open source and proprietary tools still don’t address very well and some possible approaches to handling those.  Fred Chasen, who built the EPUB reader, EPUB.JS, then presented a couple of possible technical approaches to building the next generation of open source automated typsetting tools.  Fred and Julie have both been engaged to begin working on building this next-generation automated typsetting toolkit.

Fred Chasen discussing potential technical approaches

By the end of the meeting, there was strong collective interest in forging a new path forward, and the hope is that this community will get larger in the coming weeks and months.

Kathi Fletcher, from OpenStax, who presented on their approaches to typesetting using HTML and CSS, on Day 1, convened many in the group on the following day to discuss extensions to OReilly’s HTMLBook to support textbooks, as well as conversations about using css-like transforms to collate and number elements, as well as discussions about structured editing, and math editing.

We’ll have more on those conversations later.  But thanks to everyone who attended day 1!  We made a lot of progress and established a lot of great momentum to move this project forward.