[FM Discuss] FM->print

adam hyde adam at flossmanuals.net
Sun Jul 13 08:52:37 PDT 2008


A heads up on our print-on-demand activities. 

Currently we at FM Labs are planning to set up a tool set so we can
publish books directly from FM. Until now we have been using a few books
as a test but the layout has been generated manually. 

We used Scribus for this, with a python import script to import the FM
source (html) and create PDF print-ready book source. This process was
slow and inaccurate. The worst issue was that any errors corrected in
the DTP process were of course not reflected in the FM sources and hence
there was a certain amount of 'double-handling' going on. Also it took
2-3 days to layout a book. 

We then manually uploaded the PDF to Lulu.com. Lulu.com is very useful
for this because it manages all transactions and delivery of books. ie.
you upload the PDF + PDF cover, set the price (determine the mark-up),
and lulu.com deals with the rest. Incidently - Lulu is founded by Bob
Young of Redhat fame.

The initial tests we did were successful but the process is just too
slow. When you are authoring quickly in FM it seems a bit insane to
spend 3 days laying out the results inorder to make a book.

So we want to automate this process and we are, believe it or, quite a
long way down that path. 

So...a little background on why books might be a good idea...There are
many scenarios where this might be interesting. One scenario we
discussed at the Inkscape Book Sprint revolved around the Inkscape team
creating a book from their manual, and offering it for sale at a mark-up
of one or two euro (the manual is always available for free online and
as PDF), then run a campaign promoting the book as a fund raiser for the
next Book Sprint. Hence the sales support the team to meet again and
write more. 

This is just one of many good reasons to be able to create printed

So...we have most of the tech in place for this, and I would like to
give you a preview of the new beta. The service is called 'OBJAVI' which
is Croatian for 'publish' (unless Aco is playing a cruel joke on me ;)

First a description of what it does:
* Objavi takes the source of the manual in its raw form and formats it
to make print ready PDF. We have formatted a template book layout and we
now generate this PDF based on the template on-the-fly. This means you
can edit away in FM and then press 'objavi' and you will get a new
version of the sources for print-on-demand with all the changes you have

* It cuts the print on demand preparation process down from 3 days to
about 3 minutes.

* Objavi uses CSS to determine the layout. This means that you can edit
the CSS3 to create your own book style. (this is currently working, feel
free to try it out by changing the css in the textarea provided)

* uses correct left/right inner margin spacing

* uses correct alternate left/right page number placement

* supports UTF-8 character sets

And a description of what it will do at a later date:
* upload to a print on demand service auto (we hope)
* have user-stored CSS templates
* a nice way to choose fonts
* render faster
* support more CSS options
* name chapter headers correctly
* nicer way to edit the CSS
* support right-to-left formatting

So, before you try the beta please note that not all of the manuals
render properly and I need to check why. For now please do not try
rendering OLPC_simple or Inkscape. I haven't tried all the others so
don't be surprised if some don't work (although wait 2-3 mins for them
to render before giving up). We will work these issues out...If you want
to know what does work try the Alchemy manual...seems to look nice...

Be a little gentle with it. It is beta. It is also not yet for public
consumption so be careful with showing anyone at present. I will give
the 'ok' at a later date when all is working and ready for the big

If anyone knows a suitable source of funds to help push this dev across
the finish line then please let me know.

You can see the BETA version here:

all feedback, suggestions etc welcomed


Adam Hyde
FLOSS Manuals

+ 31 6 2808 7108
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