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Web standards and workflows for e-books

Joe Clark on web standards and workflows for e-books in the latest A List Apart:

The canonical format of a book should be HTML. Authors should write in HTML, making a manuscript immediately transformable to an E-book [sic]. A manuscript could then be imported into that fossil the publishing industry refuses to leave behind, Microsoft Word.

Yes yes yes, a thousand times yes. This should have started happening about five years ago. (The section from which this quote is taken is about halfway through the article.)

HTML is a pretty good language for describing the contents of a book (it would be even better if it had a decent way of captioning images) — and in my opinion it’s easy enough to learn that authors (or the editor, or production manager) could render the first draft as a machine-readable document at the beginning of the production process, rather than at the end.

I also learned something new reading this piece: namely, that Unicode has a specification for different width spaces. Colour me the colour of a person who has just found out something they didn’t previously know.