Make good books faster with Booktype

Book production in a dynamic HTML and XML-first single-source system can be very fast I Photo by Sourcefabric
Book production in a dynamic HTML and XML-first single-source system can be very fast I Photo by Sourcefabric

If you want to give Booktype a test ride, go to As an author, you can also join the Omnibook community, our social platform for authors, for free. If you are skilled in the forces of the webmaster, you might want to install Booktype on your server or local machine. Then this article is for you. If you want to run Booktype for your business, check out our hosting and support plans.

Since the release of Booktype 2.0 in October, we've been impressing authors and publishers with how fast complex book production can be in a dynamic, HTML and XML-first single-source system built entirely with Free Software. Two new developments have made Booktype deployment and PDF rendering even faster.

The first enhancement is that .deb packages of Booktype 2.0 are now available from our apt server for Debian 8.2 'Jessie' and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS 'Trusty'. These packages speed up Booktype deployment by automating the installation of dependencies and instance configuration. System administrators are asked a series of questions about the desired configuration by the debconf system, which sets up a default Booktype instance and stores the answers in a local database for the next time the package is installed or upgraded. Debconf has both command-line interfaces for servers and GUI installers for desktops in GNU/Linux distributions based on Debian, including Ubuntu, so that packages do not need to supply their own installation wizards.

The command-line debconf interface offers installation wizards for Debian and Ubuntu GNU/Linux servers

The command-line debconf interface offers installation wizards for Debian and Ubuntu GNU/Linux servers

These debconf questions can also be localised in our Transifex project so that they are easier to follow for non-English speakers. We currently have twelve language translations for these strings contributed by the Booktype community, with the latest translation being Japanese. If you'd like to give the .deb package a try, start with the Booktype 2.0 manual which contains full instructions. Alternatively, if you're comfortable with git and you use DigitalOcean virtual servers for development, or Debian in general, you might like to read the Booktype installation tutorial just published on the DigitalOcean community site.

The second enhancement came with the release of PHP 7.0.0. Because the mPDF renderer that we recommend for turning book chapters into complete, designed PDFs ready for the printing press runs on PHP, this major rewrite of the language has delivered a very significant improvement in PDF generation time for Booktype. We had heard great things about PHP 7.0.0 enabling code to run twice as fast, but the reality exceeded our expectations. Booktype can reduce the time it takes to produce a book from weeks, hours or days to a couple of minutes. The length of the book, font sub-setting or substitution, and character sets such as Arabic or Traditional Chinese can all add significantly to rendering time. In our benchmarks with the new PHP 7.0.0, a 453 page book that previously took 2 minutes 24 seconds to render is now ready for download in 52 seconds, almost 2.8 times faster. Our thanks are due to the PHP team and the mPDF community on GitHub which has been updating the mPDF code to run on the new PHP release.

We were talking about Booktype in the FLOSS Weekly live netcast on the January 19th, 2016. In case you missed it you can watch the recording here! And if you're a Django or Python hacker, send us a pull request on GitHub. As we're hiring extra developers for Booktype client projects, pull requests are a great way to impress us with your skills and knowledge.

Now you have seen the light of open source development. If you decide that you prefer to delegate all things related to server administration, upgrades and backup, check out our hosting and support plans on the Booktype services page.


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