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   Re: eBook Publishing DTD -- Preconceptual musings

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  • From: Jon Noring <noring@netcom.com>
  • To: xml-dev@xml.org
  • Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2000 08:03:25 -0800 (PST)

Sebastian Rahtz <sebastian.rahtz@computing-services.oxford.ac.uk> wrote:
>Jon Noring writes:

>>I mention high-level structure since my perusal of TEI, DocBook and ISO
>>12083 shows they take quite different approaches to high level structure.
>>TEI actually uses a fairly simple one using generic "div" for the various
>>levels of the higher level structure. 

>perhaps you should give examples of what you are getting at
>here. while the TEI does indeed have a generic <div> element, it has a 
>lot else besides. And its extensibility features allow for creation of 
>(possibly syntactically sugaring) elements of the same class as
><div>. Discussion of the TEI cannot be divorced from its complex
>architecture of element and attribute classes.

Yes, the intent in my last post was NOT to discuss the fine intricacies of
TEI or DocBook or whatever, but to point out that philosophically they are
different in several basic ways.  I'm not sure if I needed to delve into
details to prove this since I thought it was obvious.  And because there are
proponents of each existing publishing DTD, the road to a "standard" e-book
publishing DTD is fraught with contention and strife which I hope to
minimize.  Thus my emphasis on putting together a list of goals and design
principles to help shed light on the best path to take.

Maybe it is a stupid quest as I mentioned before, but that's what you experts
are good at, to see if it is doable and, on the XML-side of the house, makes
any sense.

>> For e-book presentation, if one uses the TEI "div" approach in the e-book
>> publishing DTD, one will have to predefine a few allowable values of the
>> "type" attribute (for the front, body and back matter) so we can make it

>I am sorry, but I think you have not read far enough in the TEI
>Guidelines if you think front, body and backmatter material is
>distinguished by type attributes on <div>.

I apologize for not clearly writing the above.  I am familiar with the high
level structure of TEI, including the <front>, <body>/<group> and <back>
matters.  The <div> is a level below these primary levels.  Yes, I am
familiar with this, and yes, I was not clear in my writing.

What I intended to say is that the front, body and back matters usually each
have their own conventionally-used divisions.  In the front matter of most
books we may find the title page, table of contents, acknowledgements, etc.
In the body we may find chapters, sections, articles, etc.  In the back
matter we may find a glossary, index, colophon, etc.  There are a fairly
large number of oft-used "divisions" in book publishing practice.

There are at least two approaches to higher-level structuring, the logical
divisions as DocBook calls it.  One is the TEI approach, where <div> is used,
and a type attribute is used to state what the <div> is (a predefined list of
allowable attributes can be authorized).  The other is to define elements for
the oft-used divisions, so one would have elements such as <chap>, <section>,
<letter>, <ack>, <foreword>, <appendix>, etc.  DocBook and ISO 12083 take
variants on this latter approach.

To me, the higher-level structuring is important, and for an e-book
publishing DTD I'd certainly like to hear the advantages and disadvantages
of each general approach.

>I am all in favour of nice authoring/markup DTDs for
>gutenberg/ebook/whatever, which may look nothing like any existing DTD 
>in their element names. But I do think it is a good idea for anyone
>proposing a DTD which tags existing literary texts to demonstrate how
>their elements map to TEI ones.

Good point.

>Perhaps one should also suggest that DTDs are dying? in favour of some 
>brighter future of schema languages? Should you not be considering a
>system in which you propose a very high-level set of elements, inside
>which one can plunge into the TEI namespace _ad lib_?

Yes, we do need to look in the crystal ball and see where things are headed.
Whatever DTD/schema is finally settled upon, it needs to conform to the
specified vision statement and list of design principles/goals.  I was hoping
that my post will begin the process to talk about the vision/goals.  (In
retrospect, this mailing list is probably not the right place since the DTD
is to be specific to standardized e-book publishing, so we'd be delving into
e-book industry needs, off-topic to xml-dev).  Of course, I am hoping to find
like-minded individuals to begin the whole process.  It is something I cannot
and should not do alone.  I plan to start a private mailing-list for this
purpose if enough people come forward.  I have a couple people who worked
with the OEB Authoring group interested in this project, and a couple others.

Anyway, I'll put you down as saying that a subset of TEI should form the
start or the inspiration for the e-book publishing DTD.  And you give good
reasons.  I talked with a colleague who I greatly admire for his knowledge of
publishing DTDs, and he gave good reasons why a subset of DocBook would make
a good starting point.  It would not surprise me if I will get one or two who
will put in a mildly good word for ISO 12083.  What's a proponent to do?  :^)

Thanks for your valuable feedback.

Jon Noring

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