Defining editing and typesetting specifications
The easiest way for us to produce PDF, epub ebooks and web pages for clients is to work backwards from an end product. We ask clients what they want their documents to look like, and how the documents would be made available (e.g. downloadable from a website, press-ready print)—then we can develop both the XSLT design stylesheets and the level of XML markup that's required. We also ask the client what metadata they need in their ebooks.
XSLT document and page design
The customised DocBook 5 XSLT stylesheets we use for typesetting can be modified for many document, page, text and graphic styles. We currently can support reasonably complex and aesthetic layout for PDF documents, and also use CSS for styling epub and web pages—which, at this stage of development, is acceptable for reports and small books. Xmplar is progressively improving stylesheet design to accommodate more sophisticated layout for books.
It helps for the client to show us examples of how they want their ebooks to look, so we can advise what is achievable with our workflow. We liaise with the client in the initial job briefing to get an idea of the design, as well as follow their style guide for publications. During the briefing, we will obtain details about:
- preliminary matter (imprint page, title page, contents, lists of figures and tables, executive summary, acknowledgements, preface)
- end matter (glossary, acronyms, references with hyperlinks, appendices, index)
- chapter layout (contents list, references at end of chapter, single or two-column, font styles for body text and section headings, hyperlinks)
- figures, tables and boxes (sizes, image types, font styles, colours, shading, borders)
- headers and footers (titles and page numbering, fonts, colours, borders).
Depending on the complexity of text, graphics and tabular data, we can advise on different ebook formats for different types of content.
Once we know how the client's ebooks need to look and function, we can redesign our XSLT and CSS stylesheets. While we're doing that, we'll edit the XML markup—elements and attributes—so that the styles are applied when the documents are "transformed" to end products.
The main things that clients need to advise us about, which affect how we mark up documents, are:
- whether the content of their document will be used in a corporate content management system (and discuss any specific markup we need to incorporate)
- whether any content will be extracted to databases (which affects how we mark up references, for example)
- what metadata they need for publishing, marketing and cataloguing purposes.
This basic information about how document content would be used allows us to incorporate specific XML markup and get the greatest usability for print, ebook and web resources.