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Book Brainstorming



Given analysis and research done on book-examples and book-formats, this page documents various thoughts and strawman proposals for a book microformat.

Table of Contents


HTML is a general-purpose markup language used for electronic documents, mostly for onscreen reading. Some content, however, is more suitable for other kinds of presentation and being able to reuse the same content for different media types has been a design goal or HTML and CSS.

It has been shown possible to use HTML as a format for book publishing. In the authoring process, it was helpful to use a set of class name on HTML element to further classify content. The classes, along with their associated structural elements, mostly served as hooks for the associated style sheet. In particular, the class names helped separate the content into different sections of a book.

Parts of a book

The user interface of books is fairly standarized. There is typically a front cover that includes the title of the book and the name of the author(s). Inside the cover, one will find a table of contents, chapters, and index and so forth. The table below lists commonly used section types.

Section typeDescription
frontcover The front cover
halftitlepageThe halftitle page is simple with only the title of the book, and perhaps the name of the authors
titlepage The title page contains (at least) the book title, the name of the author and the name of the publisher
imprint The imprint page typically starts with a copyright statement and also contains information about where the book is printed, its ISBN number etc.
dedication The dedication page is where you find "for mom"
inspiration Many books contain inspirational quotes by other authors
foreword Many books contain a foreword written by someone other than the authors
preface The preface is written by the authors and often contains an acknowledgement of other contributors
toc Table of Contents
lot List of Tables
lof List of Figures
chapter The content itself content is typically organized in numbered chapters.
uchapter Many books contain unnumbered chapters, e.g., an introduction.
part Some books organize sets of chapters into parts
afterword An additional, often unnumbered chapter at the end of the book
references References from the text of the book are often listed in a separate section
appendix Additional information can be organized into appendices
biblio The bibliography lists other books and sources for further reading
glossary The glossary defines terms used in the book
index The index is a list of keyword with page references
colophon The colophon page contains information about the production of the book
promotion Promotional material from the publisher, e.g., a list of other titles in the same series
backcover The back cover

In boom, the section names are used as class names on the <div> element:

<div class="halftitlepage"><h1>Title</h1></div>

Not all books has all sections. A typical novel will have instances of around 10 sections. (My copy of Robert M. Pirsig's "Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance" uses these sections: frontcover, inspiration, praise, promotion, titlepage, imprint, preface, inspiration, part, chapter, afterword.) Non-fiction books often use more sections. (My randomly chosen title from O'Reilly uses 16 sections: frontcover, halftitlepage, titlepage, imprint, toc, lof, foreword, preface, part, chapter, appendix, index, bio, colophon, promotion, backcover.)

Are there too many sections?

It may be argued that the list of possible section names is too long for a "microformat". While one should always strive for simplicity, a few things should be kept in mind:

  • the section names only affect on attribute on one element (namely, the class attribute on the div element)
  • publishing is an established industry and paper-based books are not likely to change. As such, the format describes something that already exists.

Nontheless, some of the proposed sections could be combined. for example, the forewords and the preface are often formatted in the same manner and there is no need to distinguish between the two in the style sheet. Another similar example is the list of tables and the list of figures. And having a colophon isn't that common, is it? However, all the proposed section types are in common use and the cost of listing one more type is small compared to the extra cost of differentiating between sections through other means than standardized class names.

Are there enough sections?

The list of possible section types is seemingly endless. For example, one could have different types of sections for different types of promotional material. The postcard, which is often included in books, is formatted very differently from the list of other books in the same series. Thus, having several promotional elements would make sense. However, in the interest of simplicity it is important to keep the number of section types at a manageable level.

In the end, determining the list of section types for a microforman is a judgement call.


  • boom - the Book Microformat

See Also