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Re: Book Introducing Free Software to Laypeople

From: Andrew Yu
Subject: Re: Book Introducing Free Software to Laypeople
Date: Thu, 7 Jul 2022 00:08:10 +0800

On 22/07/05 08:47PM, Nicholas Johnson via libreplanet-discuss wrote:
> There is loads of free software, but relatively few people using it for
> their personal computing. So I thought "Why not write a book
> introducing laypeople to free software?" I'm not sure if something
> like it has been done before.

This is quite a coincidence---zleap, Noisytoot and I have started
drafting such a book.  A basic draft is available at
git://, but many improvements are
needed.  As of now it primarily focuses on the command line, but I do
believe that a more general introduction to Free Software is
appropriate.  The main author/editor is zleap, he's really into
spreading ideas and participates in many computing-related clubs locally
near him, taking chances to introduce people (mainly younger people) to
Free Software.  However I do find that sometimes he can get some
concepts a bit messed up himself, so we work together in assistance to
try to provide more accurate information.  Maybe we could work together
on this, don't know.
> I've never written a book before. I know little about publishing or
> marketing, so it would be a first for me. I do have a few ideas:
> * Use LibreOffice.

I find using LibreOffice for writing documents generally and especially
larger documents to be a bad idea.  Documents produced with word
processors are prone to subtle formatting problems, flexibility issues
(no true macro definitions), is quite bad at typography (i.e. does not
hyphenate at correct points many times and doesn't support kerning
properly) and is generally cumbersome.  For normal ``books'', I'd
probably use plain TeX or LaTeX.  In this specific case it may be very
helpful to produce both printed versions (with device independent
formats like TeX DVI, PostScript and Portable Document Format), World
Wide Web pages written in HTML, and plain text versions for people who
want those (i.e. me, for example).  GNU TeXinfo fits this job, and while
the info(1) online manual browser isn't that great, the format is easily
compilable to LaTeX (then to PDF for example), HTML, and plain text,
with outstanding typography for the PDF as it uses LaTeX and TeX under
the hood, and still enough flexibility more than possible with
LibreOffice for other formats.

> * Make the book available both as a hard copy and as an eBook.
> * Make the eBook available as a pdf and epub.
> * Design a website for the book.

TeXinfo is quite good at this.  I haven't tried to produce ePub output
before, however I know for a fact it's doable without much hassle with
TeXinfo and Pandoc.

> * Design a cover page and edit the book.


> * Integrate the lulu API into the website?

I have absolutely no idea what that is.  A quick WWW search told me that
it's a HTTP RESTful API for printing?  Why is this needed?

> I'll probably pay people to do the cover page design, website design,
> and edit the book. The target demographic is non-techie software users
> and the goal is inspiring them to use free software for their personal
> computing.

You could probably also rely on volunteers in the Free Software
community first, many of us would be really happy to help.

> I don't have a detailed outline of the book yet, but I think the first
> chapter should get the reader interested in free software and point out
> some ways proprietary software harms them. Then, in the later chapters
> after the reader is hooked, I'll tie it all together by explaining the
> philosophy of free software. I don't want to start with the philosophy.
> I feel that may come off as preachy, too abstract, and turn people off.


Andrew Yu <>

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