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Subject: Re: [docbook-apps] O'Reilly blog...

On 2/1/2013 11:31, davep wrote:

It's an interesting article, and the issues it brings up are real. DocBook XML is fine when it fits the shape of the hole your problem has made in the world. The current stylesheets have a bit of flexibility and customizability in them to reshape that plug a bit, but it's pretty rigid in practice.

(I'm working from the assumption that most DBX creators use the stock stylesheets as-is, or with minimal customizations, most of which are pasted in from third party resources. I'm aware that you can get a lot more flexibility out of DBX if you're willing to write some XSL{T,FO,} yourself. I'm just betting that most are like me, and don't.)

I just happened to be reading a status update from one of the authors of _The Art of Electronics_[1], regarding the upcoming third edition. Its second edition is such a perfect example of the typesetter's art that DBX wouldn't work for it as-is. The third edition has a feature that would prevent even a ham-handed attempt: the 'x' chapters.

You see, _The Art of Electronics_ has been so popular over so many years that you can write something like "AoE chapter 4" and expect many people to know you're talking about the op-amp chapter.

So much has changed over the 24 years (!) that have passed since the second edition came out that the third edition will be a substantially new book. They're recommending that people who have a copy of the second edition keep it as a supplement to the third, because they had to throw out so much material to make room.

But, rather than renumber all the chapters and thereby create confusion when people with different editions make reference to the book, the authors have come up with this creative solution. The old chapter number will be for the material most readers will want, with extra stuff moved/added in the 'x' chapter.

I don't see in The Standard Source [2] that the DBX customization mechanism allows for this. No doubt you could completely replace the label.markup implementation, but at that point, what is DBX buying you over some less strict markup or page layout language?

I don't mean to bash the current way DBX works, its creators, etc. I myself have many DBX-sized holes in my life, and I'm happy to plug them with DBX. I simply want to second the observation that not all holes in the world are DBX-shaped.

Frankly, the idea that XHTML, DBX, etc. might be 100% abandoned in favor of infinite flexibility makes me unhappy. We had that already: e.g. PostScript and all the DTP apps that spoke it. Sometimes trading flexibility for simplicity is a good thing.

[1] http://goo.gl/Kt2Rh
[2] http://goo.gl/JCPA6

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