Writing Books using Open Source Software

wesley chun (Google)
Business, Emerging Topics
Location: Ballroom A8
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(2.67, 3 ratings)

All of us are familiar with using open source tools to develop software applications with, but instead of writing code, it is also possible to create the manuscript of a book in very much the same way. These days, authors have many choices in terms of the tools which are available to aid them in writing a book. Gone are the times when the only option is using a proprietary word processor, so why not try it using open source tools? It’s especially attractive to those who develop software using open source tools as well those who are writing books about open source tools. Both code and the written word are created in plain text files. These files are easily archived using some version control system. They can be shared easily via e-mail and can also be backed up in the same manner. In the end, the final product is shipped to the customer… in the case of software, it’s distribution via CD or DVD, or perhaps a release for installation on a server, and for a book, it’s delivering a manuscript to the publisher, perhaps in a format such as HTML or PDF®.

Upon some reflection, writing a book is, in many ways, similar to writing an application: you create text or code which is saved to a file (or files — typically one but could be more) file in some format, proprietary or otherwise. Additions, changes, or deletions are made to the file(s), which is then updated when the file is (re)saved. Backups need to be made, some versioning may be required to keep track of multiple files during the course of development, and finally, the resulting file(s) have to be delivered, as described above. Because of all the similarities described, we assert that it is possible to use a development environment utilizing open source tools to not only write application with, but also be able to create the entire manuscript for a book as well! While this entire concept should not really be mind-blowing, it does represent a trend seemingly growing in popularity in the open source world.

In particular, we highlight the following requirements that are necessary when creating a manuscript, especially with co-authors:

  • Text Formatting
  • Editing
  • Versioning and Backups
  • Automated Testing of Code
  • HTML/PDF® Generation
  • Author Communication

In this talk, we highlight one particular case study, the development of Addison Wesley’s 2009 publication, Python Web Development with Django, as well as provide some insight into other projects created using similar tools. Open source software has radically affected how applications are built today, and this phenomenon has the ability to affect the book publishing world in the same way.

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wesley chun

Google

WESLEY J. CHUN, MSCS, is the author of Prentice Hall’s bestseller, “Core Python Programming” (http://corepython.com), its video training course, “Python Fundamentals” (LiveLessons DVD), co-author of “Python Web Development with Django” (http://withdjango.com), and has also written various technical articles for Linux Journal and cNet. He is currently a senior software architect at a Silicon Valley startup and also runs CyberWeb (http://cyberwebconsulting.com), a consulting business specializing in Python software engineering and technical training. He has over 25 years of programming, teaching, and writing experience, including more than a decade of Python. While at Yahoo!, he helped create Yahoo! Mail and Yahoo! People Search using Python. He holds degrees in Computer Science, Mathematics, and Music from the University of California.

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Picture of wesley chun
wesley chun
07/13/2009 4:05pm PDT

although i say that “this entire concept should not really be mind-blowing,” i’ll try my best to blow up some minds…. :-)

  • Intel
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • SourceForge.net
  • Sun Microsystems
  • Facebook
  • Gear6
  • Kaltura
  • Liferay
  • MindTouch
  • MySpace.com
  • Novell, Inc.
  • Open Invention Network
  • Rackspace Cloud
  • Schooner Information Technology
  • Silicon Mechanics
  • Symbian Foundation
  • Twilio
  • WSO2
  • Yabarana Corporation

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