Wikisource books for binding

I have been experimenting with turning Wikisource works into LaTeX-formatted bindable PDFs. My initial idea was to produce quatro or octavo layout sheets (i.e. 8 or 16 book pages to a sheet of paper that’s printed on both sides and has the pages layed out in such a way as when the sheet is folded the pages are in the correct order) but now I’m thinking of just using a print-on-demand service (hopefully Pediapress, because they seem pretty brilliant).

Basically, my tool downloads all of a work’s pages and subpages (in the main namespace only; it doesn’t care about the method of construction of the work) and saves the HTML for these, in order, to a html/ directory. Then (here’s the crux of the thing) it uses Pandoc to create a set of matching TeX files in an adjacent latex/ directory.

So far, so obvious. But the trouble with this approach of wanting to create a separate source format for a work is that there are changes that one wants to make to the work (either formatting or structural) that can’t be made upstream on Wikisource — but we also want to be able to bring down updates at any time from Wikisource. That is to say, this is creating a fork of the work in a different format, but it’s a fork that needs to be able to be kept up to date.

My current solution to this is to save the HTML and LaTeX files in a Git repository (one per work) and have two branches: one containing the raw un-edited HTML and LaTeX, on which the download operation can be re-run at any time; and the other being based off this, being a place to make any edits required, and which can have the first merged into it whenever that’s updated. This will sometimes result in merge conflicts, but for the most part (because the upstream changes are generally small typo fixes and the like) will happen without error.

Now I just want to automate all this a little bit more, so a new project can be created (with GitHub repo and all) with a single (albeit slow!) command.

The output ends up something like The Nether World by George Gissing.pdf.

Publisher-provided metadata

Reading on an ereader, I seem to lose all of the “publisher’s metadata”: there is no longer any hint of what type of book this is — no cover to judge, no binding, no typography to tell if it’s a serious literary thing or a pulpy time-passer or an old forgotten once-loved.

It’s probably good this way. Lets the text speak for itself. Mainly the loss harms my ability to recall a book, more than the way I receive its words. No more recollection of 20th century authors as dusty orange Penguins with failing glue. Now they sit alongside every other of any time whose surname begins as theirs does, or is (as arbitrarily) co-alphabetically titled.

Perhaps what I’m looking for is a chronology of literature? Victorians vs. post-war makes more sense than the alphabet as a reading criteria!

Bookpress, free to a good home

I built this press in 2003 out of pine salvaged from bed frames that were being thrown out by University House at the ANU. I’ve barely used it since, and the time has come to admit that I’m never going to be the small-time bookbinder fellow that I perhaps at some point thought I might be.

So, hopefully, this will end up being of some use to the WA Craft Bookbinders Guild.

Co-operation is better than Conflict

Working at the co-op set me thinking (and chatting with a few people) about how utterly enjoyable is work that we do from a sense of love. Fabulous! After a few hours at the co-op I went to the library to continue with Bachelard. I am finding him hard-going, but every so often bits emerge that somehow strike me, and enter my being as worthy of notice. Whilst sitting in the (annoyingly modern and noisy) library I enjoyed greatly the quiet and stillness that came with the simple act of reading. It is partly this experience that is prompting me to work further with bookbinding. (And oh how much nicer to read is a book that opens properly — i.e. sewn, not perfect bound?!)