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Old 12-26-2006, 09:09 AM   #1
Hadrien
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Feedbooks.com: Beta released

URL: http://beta.feedbooks.com

What is Feedbooks.com ?

Feedbooks is a new website made from the ground up with e-ink devices in mind. The goal of this website is to provide a whole new experience, delivering books in the public domain, user submitted content and news. It is divided in 3 main sections:
- Discover: download books from the public domain and submit additional books
- Share: using a simple dynamic (Ajax) interface, any member can create a book easily. This way you can upload and tag your works, making them available for everyone
- News: generate customized newspapers using RSS feed or create your own newspaper with friends using a simple Ajax interface
Any content on the website is stored in a database, from which we generate PDF for books and newspapers. All of our books have table of contents and can be completely customized.

What's the difference between the beta and the final release ?


Because we generate books instead of storing them, we need to test a lot more how we could handle thousands of requests at the same time. The beta is a nice way for us to tweak everything.
The news section is not available yet for the beta, but the first members of the website will get a special beta status, giving them access to the beta for the news too.
The beta will also be a nice way for us to get a lot of feedback from everyone. We'd like for example to poll the users in order to tweak our PDF templates for the Sony Reader and the iLiad iRex, giving them the best font and font size.

Any screencast presentation of the website ?

Yes, we did 2 screencasts, showcasing book creation and the beta release.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=remG1b-QHnE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o-66_ZxTR4

How can I add a book ?

There's 2 different cases:
- adding a book from the public domain: http://beta.feedbooks.com/book/choose_author
- adding your own creation: http://beta.feedbooks.com/userbook/add_book
To add a book from the public domain, you need to select an author, edit the book properties and the book contents. If the author you're looking for is not in the list, then you can add him/her. We check each and every book submitted from the public domain before publishing them.

If it's your own book, you just have to be logged in. You can edit the book as long as you want, and once it's ready, just hit the publish button and the book will be available for everyone (check the first screencast for an example). Make sure that you tag your book the right way, that's the easiest way for other members to find your book, and this way, we can show similar books too.

Why PDF ?

In order to create good looking books with an auto table of contents, we use LaTeX. There's really powerfull tools available to generate PDF files with LaTeX, and using PDF + LaTeX, we can include characters in any language, add support for math formulas, show footnotes etc...
Since books are not stored as files, it doesn't mean that we won't support some other formats in the future, we're just making sure that every content that could be available on the website (a russian math book for example ?), would work on this format.

Which templates are available for direct download ?

A4: 210x297 mm, font is Times in 12px, margins of 25mm except for the bottom which is 30mm, headings are turned on
Sony Reader: 90x120 mm, font is Times in 12px, margins of 1mm, no headings
iRex iLiad: 122x150 mm, font is Times in 12px, margins of 2mm, no headings
For all of these 3 templates we generate files only once, to put them in cache. You won't have to wait a single second once they've been generated once.
We'll poll the users during the beta to make sure that these templates are the best suited for both readers.

What can I customize on the PDF ?

All of the above settings:
- PDF Size
- Font
- Font Size
- Linespacing
- Margins
It'll take just a few seconds when you generate your own customized PDF. You won't have to deal with the settings for each and every download, as long as you're logged in, we'll store these settings.

Last edited by Hadrien; 01-24-2007 at 07:24 PM.
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Old 12-26-2006, 01:20 PM   #2
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The files sure are purdy!
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Old 12-26-2006, 02:14 PM   #3
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Are you restricting yourself to books? It may be worthwhile making scientific papers from public repositories like arxiv.org available as well. The papers are mostly uploaded in LaTeX format, so it should be easy to generate PDFs.
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Old 12-26-2006, 02:23 PM   #4
Hadrien
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kovidgoyal
Are you restricting yourself to books? It may be worthwhile making scientific papers from public repositories like arxiv.org available as well. The papers are mostly uploaded in LaTeX format, so it should be easy to generate PDFs.
No we're not. Scientific papers can be added to the second part of the website easily and that's one of the reasons we're using LaTeX. We just need to add the right packages to make the website support math formulas and other things needed for scientific papers. We're just supporting the LaTeX command for footnotes right now but we'll keep on adding more.
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Old 12-26-2006, 02:31 PM   #5
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Do you mean you will not support direct generation of PDF from LaTeX sources already available for instance in arxiv.org? IOW, a user will have to manually submit a paper to get the PDF version for his reader?
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Old 12-26-2006, 02:43 PM   #6
Hadrien
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kovidgoyal
Do you mean you will not support direct generation of PDF from LaTeX sources already available for instance in arxiv.org? IOW, a user will have to manually submit a paper to get the PDF version for his reader?
Sending LaTeX sources would be like manually adding a paper but with just a single text in it: the LaTeX source.
We just have to make sure that we have the right packages on our side, and also that all the functions used in the source are allowed on the server (I don't know any security flaws using LaTeX, but we need to make sure it wouldn't be possible).

There's also a formatting problem here: if you send an already formatted LaTeX file, we'll have to change the document class, font size etc...

While there's real advantages here, there's also a few drawbacks, so we'll have to study the whole problem to make it the more automatic possible, but in order to provide papers formatted for every mobile reader supporting PDF, I'm sure we'll still need some form of manual input somewhere.
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Old 12-26-2006, 03:50 PM   #7
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My first comment is that although you are creating TOC links in the file, the Table of Contents page is *not* hyperlinked. What are you using to create the hyperlinks? I've been using the "hyperref" package (included with tetex) and it generates the same links you generate as well as making the entries on the the Table of Contents *page* live.

I've also had better luck with Helvetica than any of the serif fonts on the Sony Reader. I see that you are using Bookman -- once I copy that over to my Reader I'll see how that looks. I'd *like* to use a serif font, but the Sony does such a poor job with TR in PDF files that I haven't been able to. Maybe Bookman is the answer.
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Old 12-26-2006, 04:03 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by unkilbeeg
My first comment is that although you are creating TOC links in the file, the Table of Contents page is *not* hyperlinked. What are you using to create the hyperlinks? I've been using the "hyperref" package (included with tetex) and it generates the same links you generate as well as making the entries on the the Table of Contents *page* live.

I've also had better luck with Helvetica than any of the serif fonts on the Sony Reader. I see that you are using Bookman -- once I copy that over to my Reader I'll see how that looks. I'd *like* to use a serif font, but the Sony does such a poor job with TR in PDF files that I haven't been able to. Maybe Bookman is the answer.
I've tried the books on the Sony Reader and they are hyperlinked. I've got the links in the reader menu and I can select the links with the joystick in the TOC.
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Old 12-26-2006, 04:25 PM   #9
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Cache

Hadrien,

You don't generate a new PDF every single time a download request is made, do you?

Is there some sort of caching mechanism?

The reason I ask is that your webserver seems pretty slow, although it might just be the connection

Sam Krupa
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Old 12-26-2006, 05:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hadrien
I've tried the books on the Sony Reader and they are hyperlinked. I've got the links in the reader menu and I can select the links with the joystick in the TOC.
OK, you're right. The links on the TOC page don't show up in Acrobat, but they do show up when transferred to the Reader.

Bookman's not doing it for me. It's as bad as Times Roman on the Reader. Spindly and sort of faded. Helvetica works a lot better.
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Old 12-26-2006, 10:33 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sammykrupa
Hadrien,

You don't generate a new PDF every single time a download request is made, do you?

Is there some sort of caching mechanism?

The reason I ask is that your webserver seems pretty slow, although it might just be the connection

Sam Krupa
We cash all the templates (A4, Sony Reader and iRex iLiad) but we can't cache the custom PDF (pretty obvious why). Since we've just released the beta and that we're deleting the cache quite often now, while we're still making changes as soon as we find a bug, you're highly likely to be the first one to download a book, which can take a dozen of seconds if the books pretty big. This won't happen much when we'll have more users on the server: most of the content for the templates will be in cache, it'll take a few secondes only if you generate custom PDFs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by unkilbeeg
OK, you're right. The links on the TOC page don't show up in Acrobat, but they do show up when transferred to the Reader.

Bookman's not doing it for me. It's as bad as Times Roman on the Reader. Spindly and sort of faded. Helvetica works a lot better.
They're also in Acrobat Reader for me (got the new one). As for the font, I've just found a bug for the Sony/iRex version. It's not the right font for the title and toc, making it looks faint on the reader but the text itself is much better.
I took bookman for the moment because I know that a few members who use LaTeX are using this one, but we'll make a poll to decide the right one for the template. Then there's always the custom PDF options too. You just have to set the right settings once, then it'll be saved and you just have to click on Custom PDF.
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Old 12-27-2006, 01:18 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hadrien
They're also in Acrobat Reader for me (got the new one). As for the font, I've just found a bug for the Sony/iRex version. It's not the right font for the title and toc, making it looks faint on the reader but the text itself is much better.
I took bookman for the moment because I know that a few members who use LaTeX are using this one, but we'll make a poll to decide the right one for the template. Then there's always the custom PDF options too. You just have to set the right settings once, then it'll be saved and you just have to click on Custom PDF.
I've got 7.0.8, which is the most current one available for Linux.

I'll have to look at the fonts again to see if Bookman is better than TR in the main body text, but my superficial impression was that it was still a bit uneven. The Helvetica seems more evenly weighted.

On the other hand, I'm jealous of your chapter heads -- they're gorgeous.
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Old 12-27-2006, 01:21 PM   #13
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You are right that its is a difficult problem converting an arbitrary LaTeX file into a PDF of a given size with the correct fonts. I've had some success with just inserting a \geometry command and changing font sizes in the preamble, which should be easy to script...though I suspect this approach wont scale well to all papers, especially older ones that dont use best practices.
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Old 12-27-2006, 01:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kovidgoyal
You are right that its is a difficult problem converting an arbitrary LaTeX file into a PDF of a given size with the correct fonts. I've had some success with just inserting a \geometry command and changing font sizes in the preamble, which should be easy to script...though I suspect this approach wont scale well to all papers, especially older ones that dont use best practices.
We do both in the preamble too but anyone could change the fontsize using the fontsize command for example.
Still, I do believe that it'll be much easier to convert a file for the reader using our interface than trying to change everything on your own, we just need a whole lot of thinking on what will be needer for scientific papers and the best way to get them on the website.
I might be working on this matter with people from INRIA, they seemed interested in using the reader instead of killing trees everyday for their daily reading sessions.
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Old 12-29-2006, 01:30 PM   #15
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Just updated the FAQ (first post).
Added:
- Templates description
- Customized PDF
- Adding a book
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