Monday, March 19, 2012


Because of ebook reading devices (ereaders) and epublishing technology, writers today are also their own publishers, a revolution like that created by Gutenberg's printing press. The intermediaries between author and reader are eliminated: editor, publisher, typesetter, printer, distributor, dealer. They have been replaced by software and the Internet.

But authors want to make their books look good on ereaders and have full control over how the customer interacts with them. This means that today's writers not only write — they code. And for ebooks, that means coding with a markup language (HTML), styles sheets (CSS), and programming scripts (JavaScript, Dart, ...).

To take one example, poets used to lament that long lines in their poems did not look right when they appeared on an ereader due to the size of the display screen or the resizing of the text. (The long line should reflow as a hanging or negative indent, as seen in print publications of the long-line poems of Whitman and Ginsberg.) Then they discovered all that had to be done is to code long lines with

<div style="padding-left: Xem; text-indent: -Xem;">a very long line</div>

with X = 1, 1.5, 2 or whatever amount they wanted.

Writers are now discovering other ebook coding features: CSS regions, fixed-layout EPUB, MathML (or better, TeX math mode to MathML via MathJax), and on to interactivity with JavaScript or Dart.

This may be more than most writers need — or want — but for for many just some basic HTML and CSS code is all that's needed.

Writers: Don't fear markup! It's one of your best friends.

Writers tomorrow are good coders.

This post is the first in a series of seven for the 7 Day Blogging Challenge for Bloggers from +Jenson Taylor.