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Old 01-24-2009, 05:04 PM   #1
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Why the reluctance to release source?

I was curious why it is that most of the frequent contributors seem pretty reluctant to release the source files of the books they upload.

Personally, I really respect the amount of time and effort that the contributors are using to re-package books for use on different readers, but sometimes I would like to do things like fix typos or maybe adjust margins etc. and it would be very helpful to have the source files to do so instead of needing to "de-compile" the book.

Of course, I could go to an upstream source but then I would have to re-create the book myself instead of trying to improve on an existing one. I could also de-compile, but I mostly read LRFs and they don't map all that great back into HTML so round-tripping a file from LRF->HTML->LRF doesn't work spectacularly greatly.

To me it seems that allowing anyone to improve a book is desirable, but not everyone thinks that way and I don't really understand why...
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Old 01-24-2009, 05:29 PM   #2
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I'm happy to pass on the source of any of the books I've uploaded. Indeed, I think I uploaded the HTML of one of them to the 'other' category.

But if you spot a typo in a book on here, please do send a private message, or comment in the book's thread. It would be a shame for the typo to have been noticed but not fixed for everyone.

Quote:
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I was curious why it is that most of the frequent contributors seem pretty reluctant to release the source files of the books they upload.

Personally, I really respect the amount of time and effort that the contributors are using to re-package books for use on different readers, but sometimes I would like to do things like fix typos or maybe adjust margins etc. and it would be very helpful to have the source files to do so instead of needing to "de-compile" the book.

Of course, I could go to an upstream source but then I would have to re-create the book myself instead of trying to improve on an existing one. I could also de-compile, but I mostly read LRFs and they don't map all that great back into HTML so round-tripping a file from LRF->HTML->LRF doesn't work spectacularly greatly.

To me it seems that allowing anyone to improve a book is desirable, but not everyone thinks that way and I don't really understand why...
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Old 01-24-2009, 05:39 PM   #3
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But if you spot a typo in a book on here, please do send a private message, or comment in the book's thread. It would be a shame for the typo to have been noticed but not fixed for everyone.
Well, that's kind of the point. How can I fix the typo and send an updated copy back to you for approval if I didn't have the source?
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Old 01-24-2009, 06:37 PM   #4
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Uploading the source with images also have the advantage that you get a backup for it. There are source files of books here that have been lost in disk crashes.
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Old 01-25-2009, 03:23 AM   #5
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I do not have any "reluctance" to share my source file, none at all.

But that would have quite chaotic results imho.

First, you can't just correct a typo because some of them are in the original and it is therefore highly dubious if it should be "corrected" at all.

Second: What happens when there is more than one mistake in an ebook: Who does the corrections? Everybody that sees it? Then we will have different versions, all in a different grade of perfection? How does the reader find out which is which and why?

Third: I already upload 4 formats of an ebook. If I uploaded the source, too, I would have 5 posts for one book. That is a bit much, really.

I have only been asked for the source of a book once, btw. And I didn't hesitate to send it to that person right away. So if someone asks me privately for the source of a book, I will give it if it is for a good reason, like for example if that person wants to create yet another format or wants to see how I handle things.

A little credit would be all I ask in such a case if the book is uploaded somewhere (for MR and me). I have uploaded some books to Feedbooks and some epubs I made are available on a german ebook forum.

So no reluctance whatsoever. If you're not asked, you can't know there is an interest. But not for corrections as those have to be made centrally, as I have explained.
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Old 01-25-2009, 05:05 AM   #6
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I'm with Mtravellerh. I don't have any reluctance to share the source code. I just don't upload it for my own convenience, but I'll be happy to send it to anyone interested (I've done that a couple of occasions).

About correcting typos, it's not so hard. If it's only a single instance, just say "in the second chapter, where it says X, it should be Y". And if the changes are more substantial, I guess you can extract the HTML from the compiled book and change it, I've done this a couple of times too.
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Old 01-25-2009, 05:32 AM   #7
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I'd suggest that in most cases it's best to inform the original poster, and rely on them to fix the typo and reissue the book. After all, they might welll receive messages from more than one person. If each fixed the typos they spotted in the source and sent that back to the orginal poster, the original poster would have to merge multiple versions - ugh.

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Well, that's kind of the point. How can I fix the typo and send an updated copy back to you for approval if I didn't have the source?
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Old 01-25-2009, 05:33 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdurrant View Post
I'd suggest that in most cases it's best to inform the original poster, and rely on them to fix the typo and reissue the book.
That is what I encourage people to do for my books. I choose not to release source.
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Old 01-25-2009, 07:21 AM   #9
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I'd suggest that in most cases it's best to inform the original poster, and rely on them to fix the typo and reissue the book.
That assumes that the original poster is still available and still have the sources.

I think that the sources should be posted but I also think that if the poster is active it is best to let them do the changes.
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Old 01-25-2009, 08:36 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by tompe View Post
That assumes that the original poster is still available and still have the sources.

I think that the sources should be posted but I also think that if the poster is active it is best to let them do the changes.
Problem is: As long as you are active, you will try to do those changes. If you're not active anymore, you will likely not notice when there is something to be changed.

I do not like the term "should", though. Do not forget that posting books is a free service. So everybody is free to handle this (the book uploading) the way he sees fit. If I was "forced" to upload my source, I would stop uploading books, simple as that.

I am pretty peculiar in being bossed around and some of the other book assemblers share that feeling.
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Old 01-25-2009, 09:01 AM   #11
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My mistake. I only meant that it is better if source is posted.

I like to look at making books available as I look at free software. The goal is to make a very good book available and make it possible to branch. For this you need the source. It is a community effort to produce the "perfect" book.

Only making the terminal format available is like distributing binary programs with the same problems associated with it.

So I am hopeful that ePub will give us a good source format.
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Old 01-26-2009, 03:08 PM   #12
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Thanks for the comments.

Maybe I shouldn't have used fixing typos as an example as that was only a specific use that I had in mind. But personally there are a few reasons I'd like a peek at the source:

- learning how people formatted their books so I can make better ones too (for example how do you get a header and footer into the LRF? or how does Feedbooks get those nifty chapter titles? How are HarryT's great cover/title pages laid out?)

- increasing readability on my personal copy of the book (eg I find that most people prefer a larger base font size than I do; I don't like the main text to be in bold; I prefer smaller margins than some people; adding in a real italic font for books with lots of italics etc)

- fixing misc things like typos or places where it shows an HTML entity instead of non-latin character etc. or doing character replacements like right/left curly quotes and em-dashes.

- break apart some omnibus editions (maybe to read out of order more easily, or so I can delete pieces from the reader as I finish them etc) but still maintain the formatting choices and fixes of the original.

I have no intention of "forcing" anyone to do another release or to contribute more than they already do. Its more that I thought the model would be like tompe describes where the contributor coordinates the release and merging of changes rather than a model (maybe like Hadrien's of Feedbook) where the contributor is like a publisher who fixes an exact version with an exact look and feel which must be maintained.

Last edited by radius; 01-26-2009 at 03:10 PM.
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Old 01-26-2009, 03:25 PM   #13
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- learning how people formatted their books so I can make better ones too (for example how do you get a header and footer into the LRF? or how does Feedbooks get those nifty chapter titles? How are HarryT's great cover/title pages laid out?)
This one's easy.

Ask.
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