Andrew Glassner left a reply on an earlier post that seemed too interesting to let sit in a comments section. So here it is in its entirety. I didn't ask Andrew, so keep in mind that he wrote this as a comment (not that I would change anything in an edit!).
I like what you're doing here. To me, the interesting thing is that
you're trying to avoid extra work that's been pushed on authors with the
decline of the traditional publication model. That decline has been
hailed as "democratizing" publication, which is true in some ways, but
Here's what I mean. In the 1960's (as I understand
it), to publish a book with math and figures, you'd type the book on
your typewriter (or have someone do it for you from your longhand
notes). You'd leave blank spaces for equations and figures, which you'd
draw in by hand. The publisher would then often hire someone to redo
your figures, and they'd lay out and typeset your book to make it look
Then TeX and LaTeX came along, and authors realized they
could make their own pages. And they did. Before long, publishers
required this, because why should they pay someone when they can get the
author to do it for free? So now the author had to learn LaTeX and go
through the sweat of typesetting math. But the publisher would still
often hire an artist to redraw the figures. My first few books were
developed this way.
Then drawing tools got better, and more
authors started using them, and again the publishers chose to make that
all but mandatory (if you swore you couldn't make figures, they would
hire an artist, but I know that at least sometimes you gave up some
royalties in return).
Then indexing packages became more
widespread. And so, rather than hire a professional indexer (and this is
a much harder job than you might imagine, if you haven't done it
yourself), that too became the author's job.
And so it went, with
authors now essentially required to produce beautiful, camera-ready
works, with headers and footers and footnotes and properly formatted
bibliographies and on and on.
The author's job went from "write a
manuscript, indicate the math, provide sketches for the figures, and
let the publisher take it from there," to the far more demanding
"produce the entire book in every detail."
Since most people can
get the tools required, this is indeed democratizing, in that most
anyone can make a professional-looking book. On the other hand, it means
the author must have enough leisure (or paid) time to learn the tools,
and then devote significant more time to produce all the content to a
professional standard. This is pretty much the opposite of democratizing
- it says only people who have a lot of available time can afford to
produce a book with equations and figures that holds up to modern
You've found some great ways to reduce this burden.
Well done! I've taken a similar attitude in my own works, when I can.
I'm now very happy to illustrate my work with hand-drawn pictures, as
long as they're clear and do the job. I wish I could get away from
fiddling with LaTeX, but programs like the one at
http://webdemo.myscript.com/#/demo/equation are a big help.
interesting to me that we've gone from the author's job being almost
completely about writing words and merely indicating the rest, to the
author becoming a self-contained and fully staffed publishing house
(with typesetter, artist, indexer, etc.), to now where you're shedding
some of those tasks (e.g., pagination) and automating others (e.g.,
screenshots of code with automatic coloring).
What you're doing
really does make it easier to write a book (not merely cheaper for a
publisher to print it), and I say "Hooray!" The easier it becomes to
produce quality materials, the better off we all become.