Degristling the sausage: BBEdit 11 Edition

Women in uniforms standing at long tables, handling sausages.

Almost two years ago, I wrote a post called “Degristling the sausage” to explain my method of using BBEdit to get a list of which CSS classes are actually applied in a given EPUB file, out of the sometimes hundreds that are included in the stylesheet. Apparently I’m not the only person who needs to do this sort of thing, because that post has stayed in the top four pages on this site ever since, and clever people keep linking to it.

Continue reading “Degristling the sausage: BBEdit 11 Edition”

PDFs in EPUBs: Test results

Trojan Horse

What a thing was this, too, which that mighty man wrought and endured in the carven horse, wherein all we chiefs of the Argives were sitting, bearing to the Trojans death and fate!

—Homer, Odyssey (translated by A.T. Murray, 1919)

A couple of weeks ago, Hugh McGuire tweeted this:

and then he blogged the replies he received at Including a PDF in an EPUB.

This is something I’d been wondering about for a while, too. I remembered Joshua Tallent of eBookArchitects mentioning at at least one workshop that it was possible to embed a PDF in an EPUB, but I’d never tried it. The company I work for publishes a lot of craft books whose print editions have patterns and templates in the back, and so far we’ve either had to suppress the e-book versions entirely or supply those patterns to our e-book readers through the Web. Hugh’s post reminded me that I’d been meaning to test Joshua’s tip to see if it would help solve our pattern problem, so I finally just did that.

TL;DR: Yes, you can embed a PDF in an EPUB so that all its pages are viewable in iBooks and Adobe RMSDK–based readers, but display is wonky and not necessarily readable, and you can’t print the PDF at full size, if at all, so it doesn’t solve my particular problem. It might solve your problems, though, so a more detailed breakdown of what I found follows. Continue reading “PDFs in EPUBs: Test results”

Degristling the sausage

One of the things I do at my job is clean up and beautify e-books that have been produced by a “meatgrinder”—the sort of automated conversion process that an outsourcer uses. My company has worked with a couple of conversion companies, and there are definite differences in the quality and markup philosophy of the files they produce, but one problem that appears to be chronic is that the EPUBs come back with CSS files containing tons of unused style declarations.

I’m talking thousands of lines, when two to three hundred will usually do.

This makes the files extremely tedious to troubleshoot and rework, so one of the first things I usually do if I know I’m going to be spending a considerable chunk of my day living in a particular EPUB is to cut down that stylesheet to what’s actually being used.

Continue reading “Degristling the sausage”

E-reading application showdown, part 2: Typography

Early-twentieth-century photo of two women boxing

Cross-posted at Digital Book World. Part 1 is also on both this site and DBW.

When I first decided to try reading an e-book on my iPod Touch, I assumed—since I’ve been designing and typesetting book interiors for more than a decade and have strong opinions about what makes text readable and appealing—that poor typography would be my biggest complaint about the e-reading applications I tried. In the event, it turns out that as with print books, I’m much more tolerant of ugly, poorly set text than I expected. Just as I’m capable of losing myself in the pages of a cramped, blurry mass-market paperback if the story is one I want to read, so, too, can I block out consciousness of the less-than-ideal typography of an e-book viewed on a small screen. In fact, though I haven’t tried to empirically test this theory, I believe I might read novels faster on my iPod than I used to do on paper. Or maybe I comprehend better, or remember more of what I read.

Still, I’d rather have the option of making the text look good, and if an e-book’s appearance seriously offends me, I’m batty enough to crack it open and change it. I now actually get paid to do this, which sometimes feels like I’ve hit upon the best scam ever. (Other times, not so much. See below under anchovies.)

Continue reading “E-reading application showdown, part 2: Typography”

E-reading application showdown, part 1: Annotations


About two weeks ago, in a fit of pique, I posted some gripes about my current e-reading application of choice, which is Kobo for the iPhone/iPod Touch. I was pressed for time, so I didn’t provide any context, such as why Kobo’s is my favorite e-reading app, which apps I’ve chosen it over, and whether the things I find awesome and annoying about it are unique to Kobo or are universal across the e-reading–on–iOS world right now.

Here, finally, is the first in a series of posts providing that context. Specifically, I’ll be walking through five of the e-reading applications I’ve used on the iPod Touch, explaining what I see as the pros, cons, and OMFG-what-were-they-thinkings of each.

Continue reading “E-reading application showdown, part 1: Annotations”

Because I am mean and like to rain on parades…

A parade in the rain

All day I’ve been seeing tweets from @kobo and friends about their having the No. 1 e-reading app in the iTunes store—e.g.,

Breaking News: Kobo #1 Rated eReading App on iTunes App Store
Jason Gamblen | Kobo

I’m so happy for them.

No, really.

For several months now, Kobo’s iOS app has been, mainly because of the stats and the activity tracker, my e-reading application of choice. That said, it’s my app of choice in spite of several intense annoyances, so I’d like to take this opportunity to point out a couple of things that drive me up the fucking wall about it. From the support ticket I just submitted:

Continue reading “Because I am mean and like to rain on parades…”

What happens when an e-book gets corrected?

"No Parking" sign with the "n" inserted belatedly

So, here’s the partial answer to a question I’ve been wondering about:

Subject: Kindle Title [title] (ASIN:[ASIN]) has an available update

Greetings from

We’re writing about your past Kindle purchase of [title] by [author]. The version you received contained some errors that have been corrected.

An updated version of [title] (ASIN:[ASIN]) is now available. It’s important to note that when we send you the updated version, you will no longer be able to view any highlights, bookmarks, and notes made in your current version and your furthest reading location will be lost.

If you wish to receive the updated version, please reply to this email with the word “Yes” in the first line of your response. Within 2 hours of receiving the e-mail any device that has the title currently downloaded will be updated automatically if the wireless is on.

You can find more information about Kindle related topics at our Kindle support site below.

We apologize for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your business with Amazon.

Customer Service Department

It’s a book I’ve already read, so I went to to see if I had made any annotations. Turns out it’s one I’ve got multiple copies of (it was a freebie in all the major e-book stores for a while), so my markup’s on some other version. (If I’ve actually read an e-book, there is always markup; this is one of the biggest changes e-books have made to my reading habits.) I wrote back and said, “Yes.”

Continue reading “What happens when an e-book gets corrected?”

The India, Ink. comedy show

I made myself watch the archived video of the thesis presentation I gave yesterday afternoon, and it’s not as embarrassing as I’d expected, so I’m posting it for your amusement. There’s a full transcript after the jump, including the slides, since you can’t read them in the video; a few citations; and one correction. I probably said some other things that are inaccurate—particularly, I’m thinking, in my answer to Nancy Hechinger’s question about combination audio- and e- books at the very end. All I know about Enhanced BooksEditions is what I heard in their TOC presentation, to which I arrived late. Smackdowns welcome.

In defense of the presentation’s being, um, a bit vague in parts—like, the last several minutes before the Q&A—I’d like to point out that (1) I was still editing my slides until one minute before I had to step up to get miked, and (2) InDesign decided to crash as I tried to print my talking points cheat-sheet, and I hadn’t been done writing them, anyway, so I didn’t have much to go on, especially toward the end. I wung it. It’s not the most unprepared I’ve ever been for a presentation, but it’s in the top three, I’m pretty sure. Also, (3) I’d had less than two hours of sleep.

You should watch some of my classmates’ presentations, too. I saw only a handful of them—not even all those that took place after mine was over—and I doubt the videos do them justice, but I can attest that in person, the following presenters slew mightily: Neo (Sangzoon) Barc, Sara Bremen, Marco Castro Cosio, Jayoung Chung, Ozge Kirimlioglu, Carolina Vallejo, and Filippo Vanucci.
Continue reading “The India, Ink. comedy show”

Three More Days

Thesis Book 2010

This Thursday at 12:40 p.m., I have to publicly present some sort of something about my vague and fugitive master’s thesis. The talk—about ten minutes’ worth—will be streamed online so you, my friends, can all point and laugh, and the video will be archived somewhere (hopefully somewhere dark and offline) after the event.

Oy vey.

In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out what the hell to say and show, and I’ve had to write a short description of my work for a (printed!!) book of my class’s thesis projects—a book that was, of course, laid out by me, who obviously had nothing better to do with my time. The following is the lofty prose I came up with, sometime between birds-tweeting-time and sunrise this morning:
Continue reading “Three More Days”