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Epub, like the Amazon Kindle .mobi format, is designed for reflowable text. So LaTeX seems to have made few inroads as the file format philosophies are so different. I came across an article about "fixed layout" epubs, and I wonder how this is any different from a pdf, which is the archetype of fixed format digital files. Of course, creating a pdf in LaTeX is what LaTeX does really, really well.

So while it is difficult to create a non-fixed layout epub, does anyone have enough information about this new (if it is) epub variant so as to make a class style for LaTeX?

Here's the article: Fixed Layout Epubs

@jon: Whether fixed layout epubs are a good idea or not, the fact is that they exist.

  • Why would EPUB bother with fixed layouts when we already have PDF..? But, more to the point, I don't think it's difficult to go .tex to .epub merely because EPUB is reflowable: it's because it's generically difficult to go from *TeX to (X)HTML... – jon May 5 '14 at 13:19
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As far as I know, fixed layout epub3 is being used mainly for children books, manga comics and educational textbooks with lots of pictures etc. For documents usually produced with LaTeX, ie. text based documents with floating tables, graphs and images, reflowable epub is better, as the reading device may decide itself where to break pages, depending on the size of the device. For some articles about issues with fixed layouts, see this and this articles.

For the question about ease of fixed layout epub3 creation from LaTeX, no it would be not easy. Lots of .tex to .html convertors exist, which can be used as base for epub conversion. In fact, there is tex4ebook, tool which use tex4ht convertor to translate LaTeX directly epub, epub3 and mobi formats (note: I am the author). for fixed layout, special configurations would have to be provided and some commands would need to be inserted in the LaTeX source.

In my opinion, reasons why not so many ebooks produced by LaTeX exist are that:

  • There is really bad support for math in ebook readers. epub3 readers should support mathml, but in reality, they don't. In the best case, they use mathjax internally for math rendering, but it was painfully slow when I tried one of such apps on my android phone. this may got better in the future, I hope. You may test some epubs from Frédéric Wang or Glenn Barnich to see how well your reader support epub3.

    in epub and mobi, math must be included as images, which looks really horrible especially for inline math - characters aren't on the baseline, a different font than in the document is used and if the images have a different resolution than the device, they may be too big or deformed (see this for some experimental solution).

  • ebooks look much worse than pdf. While they have some positive features over pdf, like the possibility to resize text or change the font, ebook readers use html viewers for rendering and the typography they produce really doesn't satisfy standards for someone who uses LaTeX to produce typographically perfect documents.

  • .tex to .html convertors are hard to use and they have sparse documentation, so many people stop trying when they encounter some problem (this is probably the main reason).

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