absolute positioning: Asking Amazon to help the opposition, ie. the whole industry and poets too

It never hurts to ask nicely.

 

Dear Jeff Bezos,
As you are already aware of the ebook industry format EPUB supports absolute positioning only in a very limited fashion: By embedding SVG, an Adobe scalable vector graphics format from year 2000.

Unfortunately many ebook device manufacturers do not at all support SVG embedded EPUBs in their ebook reader devices. Amazon’s MobiPocket/Kindle has limited support for pdf, and without Adobe’s mobile pdf for reflowing text it could continue to support absolute positioning in a limited fashion. But no safe bet for certain authors:

Absolute positioning is of the utmost importance to poets, mathematicians and (some) programmers. These will be forced away from mainstream e-publishing and into publishing by images, eg. via Comic Book ”format”.

The number of authors affected worldwide is hard to estimate, but since three whole book genres are affected in all cultures and countries publishing ebooks (poets, mathematicians and programmers) the potential economical loss by ebook reader device manufacturers due to lack of support for scalable absolute positioning could be noticable:

Yet another format would have to come into existence, and ebook reader device manufacturers and ebook producers would be forced to invest in production and support of this new format. And, if not, could lose market shares to devices that do support such new format.

The EPUB commission will give its recommendations to the industry on May 1st 2011.

I have taken it upon myself to make this suggestion to you (even if it is counter intuitive to normal, sane, business practice): That you as manufacturer of an ebook reader device, even if it uses MobiPocket/Kindle and not EPUB, before May 1st. suggest to the EPUB commission that they advice the industry as a whole to support absolute positioning in some fashion, which will facilitate e-publishing of products of the mentioned three industries. If it comes from you, others may begin to listen, and maybe we will have ebooks one day that look good. Ebooks that respect book design. Ebooks that respect author’s intentions.

If none of the industry device makers act on this, it will be years before EPUB will come up for serious revision again, and therefore years before this seemingly stable industry ebook format will support all present publishing needs – and not just invent new ones to create a new market for e-producers to invest in. And it will be even longer, before we of absolute positioning needs will be able to make ourselves heard. And maybe the idea of book design in ebook formats will be lost all together.

Of course, if Amazon creates a format with scalable absolute positioning for the Kindle, a lot of people would know for certain where to sell their books!

Speaking as a poet, and as former director of the poets at the Danish Authors Union
and with all my heart,

yours sincerely,
Kenneth Krabat

Hvordan udgiver man edigtsamlinger?

December 2010: Der findes ikke et anerkendt format at udgive digte i, som sikrer digterens arbejde. September 2011: Layoutet er digterens eget ansvar.

 

Opdatering: Apple har offentliggjort en særlig version af XML, som gør det muligt at lave EPUBs (der endnu kun kan læses på iPads i iBooks) med “full-bleed”-sider – indhold, der fylder hele sidestørrelsen. Hér er så nogle begrænsninger, bl.a. kan skrifttypen ikke ikke forstørres, men denne begrænsning kommer digteren til gode:

Man kan teste sig frem til et sidelayout…! dvs. et udseende på sin tekst, som man kan acceptere – OG være sikker på, at teksten indtil videre… ikke vil linieombryde, fordi den netop ikke kan! Samtidig kan man så som edigter øve sig i at arbejde med fuldt sidelayout, fordi forlæggerne næpper vil gøre, før det (med CSS) i EPUB3.0 bliver muligt at forhindre liniebrydning eller lave full-bleed EPUBs, der kan vises af alle elæsere med EPUBs-kompatabilitet.

Hovedvejen gennem den globale ebogsopblomstring er et ebogsformat ved navn EPUB, med Adobes velkendte PDF-format som en mere begavet og langsommere storebror, der forsøger at følge trop. Indpakket i disse to formater præsenteres og sælges 80-90% af verdens ebøger.

Det handler om at konsolidere sig på ebogsmarkedet, blive størst og mest attraktiv. Verdens enorme internetboghandlere konkurrerer på antallet af tilgængelige ebogsromaner og udviser åbenlyst kun interesse i at få hældt så mange romaner som muligt ind i de to mainstream-formater.

I denne volumensyge har hverken ebogsproducenter, ebogslæserproducenter eller eboghandlere interesse i at tage hensyn til behovene i snævre genrer – digtning, matematik, programmeringskode o.lign., der behøver uombrydelig og/eller absolut placering af tekst.

Ingen digtere kan i dag udgive en digtsamling i et generelt understøttet eformat, som beskytter lange digtlinier mod at blive ombrudt af læserne ved skriftforandring eller -forstørrelse, eller mod automatisk at blive ombrudt af ebogslæser-maskiner, når en linie er for lang til at være inden for en skærms margener.

I dag findes 2 sikre digitale måder at fastholde digterens arbejde på, som begge indvolverer absolut placering af tekst (tekst, der forbliver statisk):

iPad app "ComicZeal4" m. CBZ

SOM BILLEDE
1. Udgivelse som billeder og pakket i Comic Book-”formatet”, CBZ eller CBR. (Okay, det ér ikke et egentligt format, men en række jpg-filer, der er pakket som .ZIP eller .RAR og har fået suffix ændret til hhv .CBZ eller .CBR.)

Fremvisning af sådanne billedsider er veletableret praksis med mange tilgængelige programmer og apps, men udgivelse af digtning som billedfiler til ComicBooks-læser-programmer eller apps vil få den effekt, at digte forvises fra ebøgernes mainstream – EPUB og PDF.

Uden en dedikeret indsats for at placere moderne digtning midt i publiceringshysteriet, kan vi (alle) risikere, at digtningen bliver endnu mere marginaliseret, end den allerede er. I værste fald kan vi risikere, at moderne digtning enten vil skulle skrives og udgives på EPUBs eller PDFs præmisser, eller aldrig bliver tilgængelig for den brede offentlighed.

SOM VEKTORGRAFIK
2. Udgivelse som vektorgrafik, omsat til SVG, Adobes opfindelse fra år 2000, der er beregnet til at skalere billeder, animation, og tekst. Tekst, der er omsat til SVG, kan indlejres i EPUB og dermed blive en del af mainstream-elitteratur. Og linier ødelægges ikke ved forstørrelse – man vil blot ikke kunne se hele digtet på samme tid, men må zoome rundt i billedet, på samme måde som hvis man havde forstørret et indscannet billede for at se alle detaljerne. En anden fordel, der gør SVG langt mere ideel end et billedformat er, at teksten er fuldt søgbar og dermed tilgængelig for søgemaskiner på og uden for ebogslæsemaskiner.

Der er blot den hage ved dette meget fleksible format, at eboglæserproducenterne ikke i nogen nævneværdig grad understøtter SVG i EPUB. Og at EPUB-kommissionen, der har til formål at fremlægge anbefalinger om den kommende EPUB v3.0 til ebogsindustrien, ikke har nogen synderlig forståelse for digteres behov.

VINTERENS PROJEKT
Skriv til alle væsentlige ebogsproducenter og forklar problematikken, INDEN 1.5.2010, hvor EPUB3.0-kommissionen afleverer deres anbefalinger til ebogsindustrien. Måske findes der læsere af moderne lyrik blandt disse hardwareproducenter, som vil kunne beslutte at muliggøre læsning af indlejrede SVG-filer i EPUB-læsersoftwaren på deres ebogslæsermaskiner.

STÅENDE KOMMUNIKATION
Har skrevet til Adobe og gjort dem opmærksom på, hvilke konsekvenser, deres mobile, auto-linieombrydende pdf-format vil have for edigtningen. Nej, jeg venter ikke at høre fra dem.

AFSLUTTET KOMMUNIKATION:
EPUB-3.0-kommissionen – deres folk er af dén opfattelse, at linieombrydning er et programmeringsmæssigt problem, der ikke behøver nogen særlig opmærksomhed. Deres fremmeste løsning på problematikken er (med kodning) at knække digtlinier, der ikke finder plads mellem en skærms magener, og indrykke dem ved venstremargen. For den uindviede betyder det, at teksten bliver gjort til prosa!


Kenneth Krabat, 18.12. 2010

test din ebogslæser

teksten som .EPUB med forside

teksten som .EPUB uden forside

teksten som .pdf

teksten som .CBZ

iPad, ebogslæser… hvilken skærmstørrelse behøver digteren?

NU kommer iPad 10-tommer. Snart kommer iPad2 – måske med 7-tommer skærm. Så får digterne endnu mindre plads.

 

I morgen går det løs!… Og nu, hvor danskerne har ventet 7 måneder på officielt at kunne købe Apples iPad i Danmark, er rygterne om næste model blevet vedvarende insisterende:

en iPad2…

– i begyndelsen af 2011! (3 måneder efter lanceringen af iPad1 i DK!?) med
– 7-tommer skærm (mod den nuværende 10-tommer!?)
– 128GB lager!
– TO kameraer! (mod nuværende ingen)
– sådan cirka retina skærm
– højere skærmopløsning
– større processorkraft?
– USB-stik (mod særligt stik til iTunes upload og til digitalkamera-tilslutning)!

Mon ikke en del kan vente tre måneder med at købe? Og hvad får de så, hvis det bliver en 7-tommer og dén alene?

Skærmen vil blive mindre end en paperback. Hvis den sorte kant rundt om fjernes, så skærmen stort set går til kant, kan den siges at kunne konkurrere med dedikerede ebogslæsere verden over. Og mon ikke dét i så fald ville være en del af formålet: Ren konkurrence med farvelæserne – Sonys eReader, Amazons Kindler, Barnes&Nobles NOOK, COOLreader – en ebogslæser MED MEGET MERE, der passer i lommen!

Men det er ikke godt for digtningen! Endnu ringere, faktisk.

Digtningen, med sine brudte linier, kan ikke bare skovles ind i en EPUB som enhver roman stort set kan. Digtningen skal produceres i et digitalt format, der ikke ombryder teksten, uanset skærmens størrelse. Dette ville kunne lade sig gøre, hvis man fikserede teksten i SVG-filer, som blev pakket ind i en EPUB.

Hvis man på en relativt lille skærm gerne vil forstørre teksten, muliggør EPUB forstørrelse af skriften. Men en SVG-fil fungerer en smule som postscript – der zoomes ikke regulært – skriften forstørres i stedet ved hjælp af processorkraft. På en iPad-10-tommer kan man bruge tricket med at lade to fingre køre fra hinanden på skærmen – normalt ville man så zoome ind. Og SVG-digtet ombrydes ikke! Det svarer til at man zoomer ind på billededetaljer i et foto, men processen er altså anderledes*. Med en finger på skærmen kan man derpå køre løst rundt i zoomen, og zoome ud igen med to fingre der møder hinanden hen over skærmen.

Bliver skærmen en 7-tommer, vil en roman bare ombryde til størrelsen og læseren kan efter behov forstørre skrifttypen eller vælge en anden. Men selvom en EPUB med SVG-formatterede digte måske vil kunne afvikles på mange ebogslæsere med tilstrækkelig processerkraft, er der en grænse for hvor lille en skærm kan være, når man ikke må ombryde tekstbilledet. Og endnu værre er det, hvis ebogslæseren er uden berøringsfølsom skærm; her vil man formodentlig ikke kunne zoome.

Undskyld mig, mens jeg fniser lidt: Det er så langt ud, at digtningen skal være oppe imod massekulturens forbrug ad litteratur i et digitalt læsemedie. Her gik man lige rundt og regnede med, at man som digter kunne blive selvudgivende på 15 sekunder, og så holder det op med at regne! Altså!

(* Det er ikke sikkert, at det vil blive muligt at læse SVG-indlejrede EPUBS på dedikerede ebogslæser-dimser uden en vis processorkraft. Som det altså er op til industrien at afgøre, om den vil levere.)


Kenneth Krabat 29.12. 2010

Dansk site har forberedt sig godt! (nu)

Taiwan-fabrik taler over sig: Sådan bliver iPad 2 | Version2. (29.11.2010)

Buy the iPad now or wait for iPad2? (11.4.2010)


App for the poet, please!

I want an app for poets. Developers regard this as too tiny an audience for all the hard work. I don’t care. Just do it.

 

The poet has no home on App Store, nor in any other software.

This is mostly because no-one knows the need of poets. Take any poetry app out there at present – they all reflect the (mis)conception that poetry is all about rhyming and finding synonyms to create better poetic images, presented in a christmas tree of lines, dead centered on the page.

That is not the case. A poet often “paints” with his broken lines, not  to achieve a visual effect (even if some do), but to indicate states of mind or a concept’s placement in a mental or emotional “space”. Thus, even if readers of novels and essays and journalism on e-reader devices cherish nicely re-flowing text, poets are at the mercy of the reader and format-designer if published in a re-flowing format: Once readers re-size their font, the visual image is distorted, the poet’s lines break and shift, and his or her breath and hard work at rhythm breaks with it!

Poetry is not broken prose – and should not be seen or presented as such.

Poetry is breath and beat and rhythm and pregnant pauses, poetry
is the hand on the roller of the typewriter
a well flowing pen
pencils B and H and HB too
coloured speed-markers permanent and degradeable, poetry

is text physical, resizable
round hard soft long short like the body
length of lines and typography to suit the shifting moods, and
precision
hard precision
for the mind to excert.

A poet’s typing app should be like an instrument

easy to play, easy to tune, easy to modify.

I want an app for a poet.

Funky, easy, and build to work with typography as both fluid matter and stringent with meaning. Having been published for 25 years and working with Macs for 18, I want it yesterday.

Specifications, a beginning – and we are talking specific, extendable and expandable functionality here:

tabulation. Tabulation is not just empty space; it’s indicative of fixed pause and distance from the line break above – how long to hold the breath/tension. Spacebar tapping can do, but if you work fast, you want to be precise and not have to count 15 spacebar taps rather than pressing tabulation 3 times.

easy access to punctuation. Punctuation is the breath of the poem. All characters in punctuation are pauses of various length, pauses roughly in this order: charactersintoone, space between words, , – tab ( ) ; ” ” : . ! ? line shift  – with a variety of other pauses thrown in, like tab on new line after another character, Capital letter on new line after tab without full stop or other character etc.: Pauses are important. Teaching this, the Music of Pauses, makes some poets suddenly see their poems as scores. While others become aware of their visual leanings. Plus they never again need to remind themselves of the importance of breath.

Hard line breaks definition of what to do in a text with long lines. This could be achieved by interspacing a series of optional line-breaks, created by test-setting of larger fonts. Eg. desired result could be to place broken text at right margin at AUTHOR’s own line breaks, or at a certain distance from right margin, OR as re-flowing text, perhaps indicated by insertion of tripple space, when the line breaks, or by fixed number of tabs. And it need to be exported as code or image of the desired size and dpi.

– some poets need fixed placing of words for their poetry. Thus a monospaced font could be desired as option. Even if most poets are aware of the visual representation of their poem, you could say some poets are more visually demanding in their approach to writing than most writers. The shape of the text becomes important, thus line-spacing is important. Preferably in points with decimals or what is possible in (easy) code. Kerning would probably be asking for too much, but still.

– re-sizing individual characters. For those visually inclined. And here an approximation to fluid  line-spacing makes sence

typewriter. if you could ROLL the page up and down and sideways, while tapping the keyboard (eg. looking through a magnifying glass in the middle of the screen or though a cross hair’s), you would make concrete poets very happy: They would then be able to draw with the keys, and produce visual poetry. This would probably need to be converted to image upon export, but that’s better than nothing. In fact it’s wonderful!

Process documentation. Save the production of the poem as an animation or movie, and you would make other poets insanely satisfied.

Recording. Many poets work a lot with the sound of their text. Recording option should have live spectrogram and a simple editor, fade-in and fade-out, maybe an ambience effect and recording to aiff for best result.

Write on an image. Import an image, and write on it. Choose tool, font, size and colour, as well as placement and fluid line-spacing. Save with image, or save as alpha channel.

Snippets holder. Working with poetry one sometimes kills everything off, but has a nice two lines that could well form the basis of a future poem, or be incorporated somewhere. Give it a time-stamp and/or an visual expiry date, and the poet will be happy not to have too much clutter in his workspace, but still able to find it upon inspection of snippets.

Undo/redo. undo back to the beginning, and redo back to the end. Observing the chain of thought can get a poet back on track, if he lost his way.

Alignment. Some poets like the christmas tree model, centering, and should have that option, plus line spacing, fluid or fixed by desire. Right margin is used by some. A mixture of all is also employed by some.

Clean table. No menus visible. Eg. corner points for calling menus out.

Music control. Many poets like to listen to music while writing. Turning off, changing song, turning volume up and down fast is an advantage to focus and flow. Maybe a one touch interaction with the mp3 app?

– Fixed size paper. Many poets work with limitations in paper size. Could just be a dotted barrier on the page to indicate the selected size. When it comes to publishing, the most normal format presently is 3:4 (1:35), but why would a poet want to limit him or herself to the size of e-reader screens AS THEY ARE NOW?! An ebook is for ever, meaning it also exists in the future, of which we know nothing…

Endless roll / page breaks. For ease of writing the endless roll of paper is a gooood thing. To indicate the page breaks means also to indicate quantity of production. Can be satisfactory to know how far one has gotten. Ease of shifting bewteen the two

– Think well of those poets writing in different directions – left to right, top to bottom! And prepare for people working in other languages. You would want this to be the only Poet’s App a poet would ever need. Subtle, yet amazingly powerful.

– And remember that it could be used as a proofing tool as well! So, plenty of annotation possibilities.

Interlinking. As we go digital, we want Anchors! TOCs! Outside linking as part of writing! Possibly linking to specific page in another book @ as yet unfound on the net!

Illustrations, yes we want pictures too, fluid placement, anchored to text, under over inside the text. Please.

–oo0oo–

In November I will join a discussion at the Book Fair in copenhagen on the topic of “publishing of digital poetry and the possibility of abuse of poetry made available on the net” (sigh). Here, among other things, I intend to mention the lack of modern Danish or contemporary English epoetry in the Danish iTunes Store (or any other language for that matter), as well as the lack of Danish epoetry in Amazon, Sony or Barnes and Noble…

Okay, alright… There aren’t any! ePoetry collections for sale. The very few “best of” of selected living and dead poets are mostly all there is. Free poems and collections of poetry are bountiful on the net. Most are self-published, and they are un-edited by professionals and it shows.

Today, large Danish publishers don’t believe in poetry as flagships of their business identity anymore. They might slowly be turning towards digital poetry, but it is ever so slowly, and waiting for everyone else. Gyldendal, the largest publisher in Denmark, has signed up with an ereader producer, but it’s all DRM and no Reader Experience. The largest Danish internet bookstore, Saxo, sells ebooks without DRM, if the publishers want it. At present, there is ONE non-anthologised (ie new’ish) collection of poetry for sale, over-priced and the publisher has forgotten to incorporate the author in its own searchable databank. And references to the digital version is nowhere to be found (a POD can be found and bought instead…)

Well, all aside:
I want the Danish poet, no, ANY poet, to have a tool, a digital tool that can grow over platforms. A way to think and interact with poetry. I want the poets themselves to show publishers and re-sellers that digital poetry is not rigid, nor (forever) bound to 6 or 9 or 10 inches or a computer screen, but that poetry in itself is a way of thinking, which transcends e-reader devices and document formats.

I want for poets to go slower, to get in closer touch which their audience. If necessessary for comfort and clarity more in the observer role than as present-participant, but closer. An app as the one described, or out of similar mind set in regards to the actualisation fase of writing poetry, gives the poet a beginner’s handle on WHAT to use digitality for and WHAT to demand of digitivity in terms of options. A real instrument.

kind regards,
kenneth krabat
poet

UPDATE Jan. 7th, 2011: The app should most likely produce/work in an SVG file, if not an image file with layers. SVG (vector graphics) is scalable in ereader devices – though device makers don’t yet care for SVG, even if EPUB supports embedding of SVG. (EPUB itsef is hopeless, when it comes to poetry – reflowing text kills poetry.) Working in image formats could be a solution – as presenting poetry in image formats could be a solution – but not a really good one. It takes poets and epoetry collections away from mainstream publications and into an area, where it can only be read via Comic Book (format) apps.

iPad off-line apps wishlist for writer/podcaster, Oct.2010

I am quite new to iPad/mobile devices, but not to Apple. I have toolbox dreams like this:

  1. I write prose, poetry and essays, maintain a WP blog, and record and edit podcast.
  2. I produce and edit in .doc, .docx, .rtf., pdf, EPUB, .txt, .html, mp3, .aiff and .jpg.
  3. I want to bring ALL of my working library with me (3.1 gigs) and work with all archive-types on the road, independant of wifi-connection.

Which apps for iPad?

  • doc/docx/rtf/txt: Apple Pages for iPad is getting really bad press. What else is there?
  • publish to EPUB: Is it even possible on iPad? Thinking of how difficult and imprecise it is on laptop/desktop!
  • pdf: Edit and/or production to set size, trim for web pulishing
  • html: something like BBEdit would be fine, with layout view in browser
  • mp3/aiff/wav: Simple cropping and save, if possible simple effects
  • jpg: cropping, resizing, shrinking

Wishful dreaming? I mean – how can I even get documents on to the iPad AND edit them?