How to make a book
XSLT HTML JavaScript CSS Shell Python Other
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How to build a book

This repo contains the build framework I used to write JavaScript Testing Recipes. It converts the source text written in AsciiDoc into EPUB, MOBI and PDF formats, checks all the example code, and gives you a word count. It includes a cover image for each format, and has some customisation of the print formatting for the PDF. The main tasks are:

  • make test: runs all the tests for the example code
  • make book: compiles the source text to all the publishing formats
  • make words: prints a word count for the source text
  • make: runs all the above tasks

I'm tremendously grateful to Chris Strom and Tom Stuart, who answered a lot of my initial questions, and to the authors of git-scribe, which I cribbed some of my toolchain from.

What do I need?

You need these programs, which if you're using Ubuntu you can get using apt-get install.

  • asciidoc
  • fop
  • ebook-convert (part of Calibre)
  • make
  • python and python-pygments
  • xsltproc

The example code that's run by make test also requires PhantomJS and Node.js.

How does it work?

When you run make in this directory, the following things happen:

  • All the files named browser.html under code/browser are run via PhantomJS
  • All the files named node.js under code/node are run via Node.js
  • The AsciiDoc source file book/book.txt is compiled to DocBook XML
  • A Python script applies highlighting annotations to the XML
  • This XML is converted into XSL-FO and EPUB using the DocBook XSLT stylesheets
  • A Python script applies syntax highlighting to the XSL-FO and EPUB files
  • The XSL-FO file is compiled into a PDF
  • The EPUB files are bundled into a zip archive and converted to MOBI

The book's formatting is controlled by the files in the book directory, in particular:

  • book.txt: This is the root file for the book's content, written in AsciiDoc.
  • book-docinfo.xml: Contains additional XML that specifies the cover image.
  • common.xsl: Stylesheet with rules common to EPUB and XSL-FO output.
  • epub.xsl: Stylesheet that controls the generation of EPUB from DocBook.
  • fo.xsl: Controls generation of XSL-FO from DocBook, which is turned into PDF.
  • fop.xconf: Configures fop, which turns XSL-FO into a PDF. Tells it where your fonts are, and so on.
  • Formatting data for Pygments, which is used for syntax highlighting.

To make sure the code that appears in the book works correctly, it is included from the files in code (which are checked by make test), rather than being written inline with the source text. AsciiDoc uses the following syntax for doing this:


The AsciiDoc language annotation is then used by Pygments to highlight the imported code.