A short time ago, I was hired by Talk Science To Me to do the eBook version of Tantra Illuminated, a very lengthy academic work on the history of Tantrick religious traditions in India.
The book was large and beautifully designed, with a great deal of content from original Sanskrit sources. The design used a number of different, complex elements, including copious margin notes.
I’m in the process of blogging about the complexities of eBook design with non-English alphabets and complex layouts. Part 1 of the series is up on the Talk Science To Me blog. Here’s a teaser:
The project turned out to be far more daunting than I’d imagined, even knowing from the outset that it would likely be more complex than it first appeared. I could easily write a book on the various technical, layout and rendering challenges I encountered creating this e-book (in fact, that might be a good future project!), but we’ll just look at a few of the interesting potholes we encountered on the road to creating the e-book.
A tale of two diacritics
The text in Tantra Illuminated contains significant lengths of transliterated Sanskrit. Sanskrit uses a non-Latin alphabet for which a standard transliteration system called the International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) exists. This is the system employed by the transliterations in Tantra Illuminated.
The IAST relies heavily on Latin characters with diacritic marks. Most of these marks are supported by the majority of e-book readers, so I didn’t anticipate difficulty with the transliterations.
I was wrong.
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