The last months have been hard for me and thus for the project. Before I embarked on this endeavour, I had two fixed jobs which provided an steady income. Due to multiple factors one of the jobs is gone and the other is severilly diminished. This impacted the amount of hours I could put on Little Webby Press since I needed to sort out my situation post-grant. I'm writing this just as a bit of contextualization, these projects we're all building don't exist in isolation and unforseen situations elsewhere in our lives end up impacting how we deliver our little gems. I do plan to ask for a no-cost extension because of that. Now, onto proper project updates...
The objective of Little Webby Press is to help writers deliver eBooks and Static Websites from their manuscript. The Static Website is WebMonetised and is the part of the project that effectivelly hooks into Grant For The Web from a technical perspective, still the eBooks part is the harder part to build. Effective eBook generation that passes the dreaded Adobe Epubcheck is damn hard and a simple online search will guide you to many developers crying out their frustrations about those strict tests.
It has been a bit more than a month that Little Webby Press is finally able to generate eBooks that comply with those tests. That is very rare for eBook generators and I consider it a major victory. It is important to notice that many of the eBooks you buy out there are not compliant with those tests and work anyway. Those tests are very strict and missing some marks does not mean your book is broken.
Little Webby Press is able to generate EPUB3 books with good styling, hyperlinked table of contents, and no erros or warnings on epubcheck. This means that the eBook part of the project can be considered done for now.
Onto Static Site generation. I spent more than a month pursuing a novel approach which used epub.js from FuturePres to render the real eBook on the website. After I got it done, I quickly realised that this was not the way to go. Yes, the eBook renders well and behaves well, but it feels like an applet embeded in a page. I can't really put into words, there is nothing wrong with their reader, it is a fantastic piece of work. It is just that I think that a true static site book like those generated by gitbook or mdbook (sample mdbook here) is better.
So I changed to work on that. This makes it easier to unlock bonus content using WebMonetisation since I control all the assets being generated.
- ✅ compliant EPUB3 generation.
- ✅ multiple templates.
- ⚒️ static site generation.
- a minimal site can be generated and supports WeMo.
- needs better templates.
- needs code for unlocking bonus content.
- 🐌 documentation has not been touched yet as the UX and patterns are still evolving.
- Documentation in form of videos and text is a large part of this grant and work will begin on it as soon as I have better templates for static site generation.
- 🛑 MOBI and PDF generation.
- When I originally wrote the proposal, I added the need to generate MOBI (to support selling eBooks on Amazon) and PDF because people like PDFs.
- Since that time, Amazon switched their requirements to EPUB3 from MOBI which means I don't need to generate MOBI anymore.
The current key activity is evolving the templates and the static generator to the point that a beta can be launched. I'm very close but I'm not a web designer, as in my layouts are not really pretty. I'm working with this in mind and making it possible to add custom layouts and even bundling them later with Little Webby Press. This way I can later accept template contributions without the need to change anything or even recompile the code.
I've got very low energy right now. I'm living in a new country (the UK) for the past two years and haven't yet established many friendships here. Due to lockdown, I've been isolated and living on groundhog day mode for many months.
At the moment, I don't really have the willpower to engage into doing a well structured communication and marketing campaign. I understand it is needed, but until I have a better template for the static generation and at least some documentation, I don't think it is very effective. I'm trying to devote my time to fixing that instead.
There is a lot of work to do. The bulkier part of it is the comprehensive documentation I have planned, which goes beyond just using the app but into being an effective web writer.
I will probably need a no-cost extension to be able to finish all I have planned.
The most immediate task at the moment is finishing the static generator.
In the near future, I'd probably benefit from template contributions (they're just HTML + CSS).