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I want to publish multiple large text books, each one about 480 pages long, this is print on demand (POD) on IngramSpark. The content is basically text and a few black and white images. Another important aspect is that the text is already written (it is a compilation). Currently most of the work is distributed in Word documents, Google Docs and Pages. What is missing now is to layout the text, review it and correct any errors.

I am not an expert in book design or layout, I am a software programmer and I have extensive knowledge of HTML, XML, Markdown and some programming languages.

I've already published a first book (not on IngramSpark). I wrote that book using Adobe InDesign. But it is commercial software, not profitable in my case because I am not exclusively dedicated to book design. That is why I started looking for alternatives to InDesign. The experience with the POD company was not good either, so I am deciding to publish on IngramSpark.

Another important aspect is that I am currently migrating from Mac OSX to Linux, so I started to looke for open source alternatives to InDesign. The first one I came across in my search was Scribus. I must say that in everything I read Scribus is a highly praised program in the free software community. But, in my search I read on several sites complaints regarding long documents (eg slowness in the program). The suggested solutions were not to my liking: separating the book into several documents (per chapter), trying to make sure that each chapter does not have more than 30 pages, and others … Then resorting to complicated processes to reassemble them all in one PDF. Other than that, there remains the task of making that PDF meet IngramSpark's requirements.

Actually, the editing work that I intend to undertake is great, there are 15 books of 480 pages each, so to think about having to divide that into separate documents per chapter and then recompose it again in a PDF and then have to configure it for IngramSpark … it scares me.

Looking for alternatives to Scribus I have read about LaTeX. I have no knowledge about LaTeX. But what I've seen so far appeals to me:

  • has a certain resemblance to markdown, html, xml, things I know
  • it would seem more powerful than Scribus (since it works, so to speak, directly in the source code of the document). I like that too, because I'm a programmer. In addition, this would give me the advantage of reviewing parts of my document in free moments, away from home, from my mobile or tablet, without having to be glued to the design program on the computer (as was the case with InDesign and it would be the Scribus case)
  • it seems that it would be less complicated to work on large documents.
  • the quality of the text seems great to me.

My big question, given all the above, is if I can choose LaTeX to carry out this compilation or if it is crazy and should I choose another type of alternative.

Has anyone had experience posting documents written in LaTeX on IngramSpark? In my research I read for example that CreateSpace (or KDP, I don't remember which one) prohibited documents written in LaTeX.

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  • If you are publishing 15 books, would it be reasonable to pay for software like InDesign? I have used it and I have used alternatives that are cheaper (and arguably better) but if I was dealing with as much material as you are, I'd pay to do it as efficiently as possible. For example, if cutting it up into pieces takes me three hours, and I rate my time at ten pounds an hour, that is a substantial part of a subscription to a software title. – S. Mitchell Jan 14 at 22:40
  • @S.Mitchell The plan is to publish the books in a two-year period. One of my problems with InDesing is that my budget does not allow me to pay for software that I will not use as often, because my main activity is not editing books and there will be times when I can only dedicate a couple of hours a week. So I thought of another alternative. Also, I am migrating to Linux, and it seems to me that InDesing does not exist for Linux. – A. Cedano Jan 14 at 23:36
  • It is expensive. I see your point. – S. Mitchell Jan 15 at 18:04
  • @S.Mitchell It is expensive, for my case. I subscribed to InDesign in May and since then a few months I have only been able to work with it for a few hours. I have done some testing with LaTeX and as a programmer I am passionate about working directly on the book source code. Once the learning curve is over, I am sure that I will save a lot of time. (...) – A. Cedano Jan 16 at 11:36
  • (...) Another thing I like is that I can review any piece of text in a simple editor from my mobile or tablet and incorporate it into the final content without too much concern. With InDesign I could do it using Google Docs (it is only comfortable using a tablet, not a mobile phone) and always, when incorporating those fragments into the InDesign document, you had to worry about the format, check that strange characters did not escape, etc. – A. Cedano Jan 16 at 11:37
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Like you, I came to LaTeX from a background in HTML, web development, etc. I was able to learn it, but as with any markup language, there was a learning curve. LaTeX, being older, has developed many idiosyncrasies over time, but more importantly it has grown to become incredibly powerful. You'll have very granular control over typrography using LaTex. I have made books, by writing in markdown and using LaTex templates for layout. (A command-line application called Pandoc is a huge help here.) It was hard to set up, but very nice to have.

In short, I'd say go for it but only if you want to deal with the learning curve here. You might get your book made faster by any other means.

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Yes, with reservations.

LaTeX is designed for publishing professional, academic articles, particularly in mathematics, sciences, and related fields, but it is a general-purpose typesetting system with a broad degree of flexibility. It is certainly capable enough to handle a 480 page book.

But now the caveats:

  • The "original" LaTeX has poor Unicode support; use XeTeX or be prepared to spend a lot of time researching how to write exotic characters (see for example some of the non-accepted answers to this question).
  • You will need to determine whether your POD shop can accept "raw" LaTeX, and if not, whether you can get LaTeX to output in a format which they will accept. In practice, this is unlikely to be a problem unless they insist on a proprietary format like Microsoft Word. LaTeX can output to a wide variety of standard/open formats.
  • LaTeX's default margins etc. are (IMHO) poorly suited to creating manuscripts. You will need to adjust them or (preferably) use an appropriate document class.
  • You mention that you are a programmer. LaTeX is a programmable system. While LaTeX macros can save a lot of time, writing, testing, and debugging them can consume a lot of time as well. Take care that you do not get distracted from actually writing.
    • Personally, I find macro-based languages particularly hard to reason about, as compared to other programming paradigms, but that might just be a personal quirk.

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