How do I prepare a book for print?
July 1, 2005 3:43 PM   Subscribe

I've been asked to lay out a book for a small publisher. Aesthetically, I have a good idea of where I need to go with this. But this is my first foray into book design. What sort of application should I be using? I'd like to learn a bit about LaTex (I'm on a Mac running 10.4.1), as this seems like the most cost effective and professional route. Ultimately, I need to deliver the document in PDF format. Any suggestions or help would be much appreciated!
posted by aladfar to Media & Arts (17 answers total)
If you can afford it, I'd use Adobe FrameMaker.
posted by grouse at 3:57 PM on July 1, 2005

I prefer Adobe's InDesign. Here's a comparison, and although it doesn't address the very latest (CS2) version it's generally on the mark.
posted by evariste at 4:21 PM on July 1, 2005

I love Quark, although it may be overkill. If the final format is PDF, might want to go with FrameMaker though.
posted by devilsbrigade at 4:22 PM on July 1, 2005

Indesign is wonderful if the book is small and or artistic, Framemaker if it is large and or academic.
posted by leafwoman at 4:23 PM on July 1, 2005

I've been typesetting academic books using Indesign since version 1 of that application. Previously I had used Quark XPress, primarily, and for a short period of time, FrameMaker. I prefer Indesign to all of these, and the PDFs that it creates are superior to those produced by very high-end imposition / prepress software and Distiller. If typographic control, consistency in style and ease of use are your penultimate concerns, I recommend it very highly.
posted by luriete at 4:25 PM on July 1, 2005

Response by poster: FrameMaker looks like the ideal. But here's the catch - I'm quite poor and will only be paid about $500 for this gig ($2.75/page). At $449, it's entirely too high end.

And I'd like to work with a text-editor and LaTex if possible. Something that is fast, quick and generates styled PDF docs on demand. Is there a plugin that I can use with BBEdit perhaps?
posted by aladfar at 4:27 PM on July 1, 2005

OSNews recently had a four-page "what's Latex and why do I care" article. It was written by an author of a series of books about Latex and it mentions some useful open source software to get you started.
posted by evariste at 4:34 PM on July 1, 2005

TeXshop for OSX comes highly recommended, but I haven't used it as I'm not in mac-land. It's free. emacs is highly integrated with LaTeX, just as it's highly integrated with everything else in the universe.

LaTeX itself isn't any worse than html, and will directly output to PDF with the pdflatex command. Alternatively, you can output to dvi (the standard LaTeX output format), turn your dvi into postscript, and then turn your postscript into PDF; this way has a bit more flexibility.

If you try LaTeX, I'd recommend breaking whatever source document you have into separate plaintext files for each chapter. Then I'd write a basic wrapper document that will just be a bunch of \include{} commands inside a \documentclass{book}.

This will produce a decently but not perfectly laid-out ``book' on letter paper, with no headers or footers, in a font that I think is kinda ugly.

From here it's just tweaking, learning the packages you need to do whatever tasks you want done. Changing the paper size, adding an inboard gutter, changing the font, adding headers, and the like are all easy enough, but will take twiddling. I've never had to add an auto-generated index but am told that it's not difficult. Dealing with floating tables and figures can be a pain. If it's an academic or other nonfiction work, LaTeX and bibTeX will automatically generate a correct references section for you from your internal \cite{} commands and a database you build.

You'd spend 90% of your time doing 10% of the work, as usual. The line-breaking (really paragraph-forming) algorithms in TeX are good but not perfect, and the page-breaking algorithms are distinctly subpar. So you'll have to spend a fair amount of time going through the PDF looking for lines that are too long, and for widows and orphans, with every change you make affecting the flow of pages down the line. Dealing with this *might* mean having to poke around in the LaTeX itself.

Good, helpful people hang out on comp.text.tex, and of course there's the google archive of the group. There are also good descriptions of what packages do what on CTAN.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:39 PM on July 1, 2005

Pages might be another option, if you ever want something a bit more intuitive than TeX. ;)
posted by trevyn at 4:44 PM on July 1, 2005

Corel Ventura. It's the functional equivalent of FrameMaker, but with some typographic support that gives it an edge, plus a much, much better UI.

If you're doing a long book or structured document, FrameMaker and Venture are the two best options, bar none.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:27 PM on July 1, 2005

Very few non-academic publishers (if any; I have the impression there are none) use latex to lay out books. So while it may be useful to you in general to know latex, I'm not sure if it's really as professional as you might want, unless you happen to be doing this for an academic press. Another problem with latex is that it is very easy to produce a basic document, but can be very hard to visually make that document look unlike others produced by every other beginning latex user. It is certainly possible (esp. if you use the memoir package, see below) but the learning curve may be steep.

That said, if you do go with latex, you may want to look at style files prepared by academic publishers such as springer-verlag/kluwer, AAAI, and probably many others which you can find. Obviously, it may be a very bad idea indeed to actually use these directly, but they may be helpful in seeing the kinds of tricks you would need to use.

I also recommend that you take a look at the manual (warning, PDF) for the memoir package, for two reasons. First, using memoir is vastly superior to the usual kludgish combination of geometry, fancyhdr, etc. that most people (possibly including the style files I linked to above) use to control document layouts, and it has a consistent interface for changing things like section heads, etc. Second, the first half of the manual has a wonderful introduction to typesetting/layout in general, oriented at but not specific to latex. There is quite a bit more going on in document layout than may be entirely apparent.
posted by advil at 5:40 PM on July 1, 2005 [2 favorites]

I do this using Quark, and print to PDF.
posted by youarejustalittleant at 5:54 PM on July 1, 2005

Not a terrifically helpful comment to you, but I do typesetting and book design for a small press, and I've found InDesign to be incredible. It gives terrific PDF export options, and its stylesheet options are outstanding.
posted by Alt F4 at 7:25 PM on July 1, 2005

advil, I love you and will eat you last.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:53 PM on July 1, 2005

I think you'll find a number of the academic presses, big name, do their publishing using Ventura.

Academia, bibles, and database-driven catalogs appear to have become its biggest markets. I find that a surprising combination of clients.

They're making a push into XSL flowing, too. It's a pretty nifty interface for transforming XML to XML:VP to professional visual typesetting. It makes it possible to flow any sort of source data into an automatically flowed, professionally typeset, custom-delivered PDF generation. That's an idea that should lead to a wealth of applications.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:54 PM on July 1, 2005

I'd echo the call for Quark, InDesign or Framemaker (though the Mac version, rumour has it, is being phased out). Ventura sounds like a decent choice as well, though I've never seen it in action. Remember that others may have to deal with your source files either now or sometime down the line for new editions, and the vast majority of the book publishing industry is familiar with Quark/InDesign (if they're largely trade publishers) or Framemaker/Ventura (if they're academic/corporate publishers or deal with long-form structured documents like manuals).

Until someone comes up with a decent GUI for LaTeX that is able to manage fonts seamlessly and hide most of the geek garbage LaTeX proponents seem to like, it's unlikely anyone in the industry will bother with it unless they need its particular features (such as the excellent equation typesetting). About cost: do you ever plan to do other freelance layout jobs? Because I daresay InDesign is worth the price tag, especially when you consider that Photoshop and Illustrator are "thrown in" as part of the Creative Suite.
posted by chrominance at 9:41 AM on July 4, 2005

InDesign CS, religiously.
posted by UnclePlayground at 9:05 AM on November 9, 2005

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