Linux as a Publishing Platform

Using Linux, OOo, Scribus and The GIMP lowers the barriers to taking your book to publication.
Linux in After-Purchase Care

Taking care of customers after they purchase a product is an important part of developing a good reputation as well as repeat business. Because book authors and publishers thrive on repeat business, this kind of after-purchase care is especially important for Clinton. Open-source software is helping Clinton address that issue in two different ways. The first is through his Web site, where he posts supplemental materials for his books, which often is material provided by his customers. The contents of the Web site are maintained as a text file and are converted with Python DocTools. He uses CVS to maintain version control on those contents, including the text of the book itself. This work is done at Clinton's home, on his Linux machine.

The single largest part of after-purchase care is the player forums Clinton maintains at The Forge, an on-line site for independent game publishers. Hosted on Linux and using the popular phpBB forum software, it provides a low cost, highly effective mechanism for building a community out of existing customers. These customer forums suggest new ideas and serve as a good introduction to the product for new and prospective customers. The forums also help provide inspiration to existing customers when they read what other customers have done.

Conclusions

Although many technically inclined people are out there with something to say, there are many more small publishers that are not technically inclined. When I asked Clinton about this, he said that the combination of OpenOffice.org, Scribus and The GIMP is suited perfectly to willing users, even if they aren't technically advanced users. As the IT director for a printing company, Clinton has helped introduce many non-technical employees to OpenOffice.org and The GIMP. Most if not all of the people he introduced to these tools stopped using the commercial software equivalents. The users cite the superior features and ease of use as the reasons for their switch to open-source tools.

The single biggest hurdle for most people is installing Linux itself. Converting to a new operating system is no small move, even if it is more powerful and offers a serious price advantage. Linux distributions such as Ubuntu make the move easier. To help address that concern, Clinton is presenting sessions on self-publishing at gaming conventions. He also will be giving away copies of Ubuntu, his preferred distribution. Ubuntu is designed with the end user in mind and is intended to be a desktop Linux distribution.

The first steps to capitalizing on Clinton's work, however, may not involve Linux at all. OpenOffice.org and The GIMP already are available for Windows and Macintosh OS X systems. Users who become comfortable with these new tools on a familiar operating system then may become more open to trying a new operating system where all of their tools are already available.

The compelling story here clearly is the ability to publish without fear of expense. Although print-on-demand publishing isn't appropriate for every book, it is suitable for a lot of books. Low overhead coupled with a low initial investment in tools can make it possible for many more authors/publishers to distribute their work.

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Great work!

Denwer's picture

Thank you for so informative and useful source, guys. Thank you.
[saved to "favourites"] :)

Kudos

Anonymous's picture

As someone that just finished writing and publishing a 244 page book using OpenOffice, I was very interested in reading how Clinton used these tools in the production of his book. While I will admit that using custom scripts is more than I needed to do, I did seriously consider using Scribus for the final layout. The deciding factor in my story was the lack of time to learn how to use Scribus which I am correcting right now. I did all my layout and final editing using OpenOffice 1.4 which worked quite satisfactory. My own walls to writing and publishing completely in open source were that I already use and know Photoshop and did not have time to learn GIMP although I did give it a quick try just to see. My next book will use more open source tools like Scribus and GIMP along with OpenOffice.

It is a amusing to watch a geek try to be a publisher in a few short months. And I thought networks were a pain... darn it, why wont that graphic STAY WHERE I PUT IT!!

The fun part is telling people that I used a free word processor and watch their faces.

Mike Sweeney
"Network Security Using Linux"

Publishing

grj's picture

Maybe Clinton Nixon should publish a book on publishing books with the tools he used.

the revolution was 35 years ago.

Anonymous's picture

The first book published using only free software might be the TeX book, circa 1970. This was the real revolution in publishing. Since that time, thousand of books have been written entirely with TeX or LaTex.

The TeX - Revolution

Betsy Winni's picture

Well well - TeX was - and is an exellent tool for doing books and hi-tech writing. Yes, indeed! I personally liked the old WordPerfect - just a black screen and lot's of shortcuts you had to remember.

But that were the old days. Today it has to be WYSIWYG to be sucessuful

Quite a few people also run S

Alex's picture

Quite a few people also run Scribus on their MacOS X systems using Fink.

Scribus template objects

Anonymous's picture

The behavior of objects on a Scribus template that this article describes as a fault isn't. The whole point of templates is that they override what is added to ordinary pages.

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