Monthly Archives: December 2011

techpubs tools work writing

From Cement to Spandex – Making PDF and ePub

Which statement is true:

“PDFs are like cement.”


“Gentlemen prefer PDF.”

Turns out both are true! See my recent OpenStack blog entry, Hacking on Ebooks, for more context and attributions for those statements.

We recently held a hackathon which I blogged about earlier to discuss the prep work for creating epub from DocBook XML source for the OpenStack and Rackspace manuals. We had a very successful day of hacking on 11/11/11. A team of about seven writers, testers, and developers worked all day to try to make epub files. And sure enough, we did it!

Our list of bugs matches up with what others have noted about difficulties making ebooks, such as sizing images properly and enabling tables that scale when zooming in or out or being displayed on a small smartphone or a larger tablet screen. Turns out, many “pro” epub creators turn all the tables into images to avoid the sizing problem. We also noticed the problem with mobi output putting a new line for each list item, and I haven’t gotten the fix working yet. We’re starting with the OpenStack Starter Guide available as an epub download and automated outputting epub for that book. We’re checking out the downloads to see whether there’s interest and we’ll go from there!