[OS X TeX] Re: LaTeX conversion to eBook?

Nicola nvitacolonna at gmail.com
Tue May 1 10:49:34 CEST 2012

In article <201204301634.q3UGYR4K010467 at net.indra.com>,
 Doug McKenna <doug at mathemaesthetics.com> wrote:

> William Adams answered -
> >> What sorts of capabilities are there in the ePub3 spec that are much 
> >> better than TeX/LaTeX?
> >
> >It's a flattened, simplified .html-like representation of a document w/ 
> >CSS intended to be displayed on a machine w/ a low-power processor, and at 
> >various font and screen sizes, so must reflow, so one can't readily do 
> >nice hyphenation (actually, it's turned off in all the viewing programs 
> >I've seen) or justification.
> Is that because nice hyphenation/justification is CPU-intensive?  Or some 
> other reason?  Seems like doing these things happens in TeX pretty fast 
> these days, so it's not a per se user-interface issue (assuming you could 
> use TeX inside an eBook).  Or is it just that the algorithms are gnarly?

Hyphenation and justification can be done in web pages, for example using 
JavaScript (http://code.google.com/p/hyphenator/)—and Epub3, as far as I know, 
supports JavaScript (readers may or may not). I do not think that it is too 
CPU-expensive, even for mobile devices, but I haven't experimented.

A general comment about this discussion: as someone has commented before, the 
fundamental problem of the typographic quality of ebooks (and, more generally, 
of web sites) is the rendering engine (e.g., WebKit), which, ideally, should act 
as a “real-time TeX” (with all the differences). Getting there does not seem so 
easy to me, and it requires two things: first, a systematic account on the 
unique characteristics (*) of “e-typography”, a task far from being accomplished 
yet (to my limited knowledge); second, the market (publishers?) putting pressure 
to set high standards for epubs, and/or investment in some research project 
resulting in some open source library that can be adopted by the aforementioned 


(*) For instance, hyphenation and justification may well play a less prominent 
role in epubs with respect to conventional typography, as well as things like 
list of figures/tables, glossaries, indexes (replaced by interactive features); 
the “holistic” approach used by TeX for typesetting may not be suitable for 
ebooks; the concepts of “page”, “table of contents”, “floating objects”, 
“layout”, etc… should be revised; interactive elements are common, what are the 
“golden rules” for not misusing them?; etc…

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