alternatives to the concept of a page, Gutenberg press vs LCD screen

Doug McKenna doug at
Thu Aug 29 19:32:55 CEST 2019

Mike Marchywka asked:

>| Has anyone had a reason to typeset a scroll or
>| other unnatural page formats?

Two thoughts:

1. My recently released eBook/app, "Hilbert Curves" for iOS, which I demoed at the recent TUG conference a few weeks ago, self-typesets each time the app launches, using its own re-implementation of a TeX language interpreter.  The typsetting relies on plain.tex and opmac.tex, not LaTeX, for the markup on a TeX source file for the book's text and illustration placement.  Because I wanted most illustrations to be as large as possible on any page, I purposefully set the logical page size to a longer-than-usual amount compared to that of physical paper, so as to help prevent the otherwise somewhat chaotic placement of large illustration boxes (a well-known problem with TeX's float algorithms).  The user can scroll vertically because pages that fit horizontally don't fit vertically (and the app has to work on a variety of devices all with different screen sizes and orientations).  In some respects, I would have liked to get rid of pages altogether, in favor of one long scroll.  But this would have interfered with the need to keep the eBook/app's memory requirements under control, since nearly all scrollable views have a backing store to them these days (at least on Apple devices), especially views that require deeply zoomable, resolution-independent graphics.

2. In the legal profession, there is a constant annoyance of having to cite to a legal case using page numbers.  The problem is that legal cases get published in different volumes with different pagination.  Many forward thinking courts are doing away with page numbers in favor of numbered paragraphs.  Because paragraph numbers are embedded in the text, rather than imposed externally by a changing page or font size, numbered paragraphs are just a better and higher-resolution way of citing to somewhere in a published legal decision (or any other kind of writing, I suppose).  Eventually, pagination might become irrelevant in legal writing, which means using a single-scrolling interface for one super-long "page" would work well (assuming memory requirements can be handled).

Doug McKenna
Mathemaesthetics, Inc.

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