This question may be a little general and is subjective, but I am asking because I am not sure where my (limited) time should be invested for the problem I have to solve (I'll detail that in a moment).

I'm the technical guy for my wife's books that we are publishing (the print version is through Lulu). For her first book that we published, I created the layout in Pages.app and used styles to format it exactly as I wanted it to look. I've got measurements for the size of the page we designed for, the size of the margins and the placements of the header and footer, and can calculate the text block size. I know how far down on the page I want text to start appearing for new chapters. These are all specified as styles in Pages.

I know that I want to have a more flexible publishing process, because when we found some typos during the ebook production phase, I had to edit three different texts (the Pages document, our original source, and the ebook HTML). I want to have a single publishing system—and I see something TeXish as an intermediate output format for the print version (just as the HTML is an intermediate output format for the ePub and Mobi ebook versions). I can write all of the software that I need to take my input format (which will probably be a variant of Markdown) and transform it into a input file to XeTeX or LuaTeX—but I need to have something to write it into (or at least know how to write all of the bits that I need for the parts that I've got).

So far, I've been trying to decide between learning LaTeX + memoir, ConTeXt, or KOMA-Script. I've spent a few hours each with memoir and ConTeXt and as of yet haven't spent any time with KOMA. I'm looking for something with high ROI that lets me work with Unicode and my system TrueType fonts (the book is set in Baskerville). My goal is to re-typeset the original book using TeX so that I understand the process involved before trying to typeset the second book using a 'fill' process.

I like what I've played with, but I can't get a sense of which of these packages is going to give me the best result for the limited time that I have (working on my wife's book is sort of a second job). Remember: I'm also looking to reproduce a layout that I'm very happy with.

Thanks (and this is probably a good "Community Wiki" question).

  • Sure. You can see the first part of it in the preview of lulu.com/shop/anne-marie-klein/… We don't make the PDF itself available for purchase. Apr 8, 2012 at 14:16
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    I've ended up choosing KOMA, but only after looking at book.cls as @YiannisLazarides suggested and looking over mforbes's thesis, as well. Doing this, I was able to find this answer: tex.stackexchange.com/questions/19497/… that helped immensely because that's the exact size I want. Apr 13, 2012 at 2:02

3 Answers 3


I will answer the question from he point of view of ROI. I believe that with limited time your best bet will be to start with XeLaTeX and the basic book.cls.

Since you are willing to invest time in your own scripts and software the book.cls, will be easier to understand and modify, whereas XeLaTeX will allow the use of system fonts.

Moving from book.cls to memoir or koma can be as simple as changing the class (since they are both compatible) with the book class.

  • I recently had to set up a book according to some exacting specifications for font and layout. I found I needed XeLaTeX with following packages: bookmark, booktabs, cals, enumitem, fontspec, fancyhdr, nowidow, setspace, tabularx, textpos, titlesec, titletoc, and xcolor. I also laid out the cover page using minipages in textblocks. There were a few other packages for needs very specific to the book, but I think I would need at least all the packages above for any book I might have to set up. Apr 12, 2014 at 12:58

My experience comes from developing a thesis class that I now use for all of my documentation. I started with a modified book class, but found that it was not particularly easy to customize exactly like I wanted to.

Inspired by classicthesis, I switched over to using the KOMA scrbook class as a base, and have been very happy. I use titletoc and titlesec for customizing the look of the ToC and chapters. These are a little difficult to understand at first, but the effort is rewarded by extremely flexible customization (more flexible than any of the other packages I tried). The price is that you really need to know exactly what you want and you need to define each level.

I agree with Yannis's suggestion of using XeLaTeX so you can easily use your fonts of choice. I also use the inputenc package to enter unicode directly (make sure to set your editor to encode the .tex files as proper unicode).

I have not delved deeply into memoir which in principle is also a nice coherent collection of packages – someone else will probably chime in about this. I probably stayed away at first because it seemed to have such a huge list of dependencies which I imagined could cause problems when trying to customize. The KOMA route with titletoc and titlesec seemed the simplest and I have been happy with this.

Feel free to browse my documentation: I have tried to keep detailed notes of design and implementation choices for my class, and have noted several gotchas that I stumbled across. This is still a work in progress, but hopefully will provide some insight if you decide to go the KOMA route.


I would choose ConTeXt in your situation. If you want to adapt the document layout dimensions it can be very easily done in ConTeXt (one caveat though, read very carefully \setuplayout documentation, it does not work as you would expect it to). If you are more ambitious there are available examples of real book styles, that you can tweak to your needs.

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