Comments on the Multilingual Go Book Project


#1

In another thread, a particular go book (see https://www.gobook.eu/) was suggested, leading the discussion on a bit of a tangent from the original topic. I want to offer my comments and suggestions on this project, so I am creating a new thread here.

Message to the Author @JethOrensin

I enthusiastically support the general concept of making more introductory go literature freely available in more languages. I wish that more people were as willing as you to give their time and effort toward such aims.

However, I think that there are several ways that the execution of your project could be improved, in order to better achieve your vision in the long term.

Transform it into Collaborative Effort

Currently, the book has been written by one person, and seems to have a sense of finality in terms of its content, since you have already filed for an ISBN and seem to be asking for help in only making translations.

I recommend that you look for collaborators that not only help you with translations, but also toward improving, editing, and expanding the content. Perhaps, the project could even evolve into a community-driven effort to produce public content.

Copyright Status

The current copyright notice in the book is quite problematic. Particularly this part (emphasis added):

This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This statement seems to suggest the people are not even allowed to read the book, which does not seem to be what you intended. On the other hand, most commercial books simply state “All rights reserved” along with a statement prohibiting reproduction. I’ve never seen a book forbid general use.

Your copyright statement also asks people to share this book only by referencing the website, where they can download it. This could have scaling issues (if the book were to become popular) since it concentrates the bandwidth burden on a single website. Also, there does not seem to be much reason not to allow people just to share the file directly. You could add a page or two to the book in order to explain the aims of your project, which would avoid the need to point people to a web page.

Seconding the recommendation from others, I also suggest that you consider moving the project into a Creative Commons license, which would also facilitate a transition into a collaborative project.

Technical Issues

The PDF file size is very large (250 MB for color, and 90 MB for greyscale). This could hurt distribution to people with poor connection speeds and/or costly data rate plans, and might restrict the usability of the book on devices with limited storage space. I imagine that it may also have an impact on your hosting costs, if the book becomes more popular.

The needlessly large file size seems to be due to the figures being created by simply taking screenshots. There are various software packages (see https://senseis.xmp.net/?GoTypesetting) for typesetting go diagrams that would produce sharp (vectorized) results that are also much more compact (in terms of file size).

Why did you bother to apply for an ISBN at this stage? My understanding is a that a new ISBN would have to be acquired for each update, edition, and translation. That seems to add a lot of overhead for a project of this nature. What benefits does having an ISBN even offer for this type of project?


#2

Hello, @yebellz thank you for taking the time to write all these suggestions. :slight_smile:
Let us see what can be done :

Currently, the book has been written by one person, and seems to have a sense of finality in terms of its content

I am very open to suggestions, corrections and additions, but at this moment as far, as the content is concerned, I have received feedback that is a bit confusing to me (e.g. some say the book is too long, others say it is too short, other say it is too simple, others say it is too complicated, you get the picture :slight_smile: ) and I really cannot see how I can adress all those contradicting matters … what I am certain off is that whenever someone spots a mistake (be it in the text or the diagrams), I can and do correct it immediately. I have no confusion there.

And there are quite a few of those mistakes, mostly minor grammatical ones ( an “is” missing here and there or a sentence that needs some restructuring) and a couple of wrongly numbered diagrams and things like that. If anyone finds any of those or thinks that I am talking nonsense at some point, please send me the mistake and I will fix it immediately .

I recommend that you look for collaborators that not only help you with translations, but also toward improving, editing, and expanding the content. Perhaps, the project could even evolve into a community-driven effort to produce public content.

It could, and I certainly hoped that this would have been the case, but unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be enough people that want to do such a thing. And I do understand why someone wouldn’t really want to invest his time on it. Written by some obscure SDK and requiring free work, is not exactly something that would have people rushing to help :stuck_out_tongue:

Back in December when I launched the website and asked for feedback and suggestions on how to organise the translation, there were some very good ideas and I tried to implement a lot of them (e.g. creating a cloud environment where we could all access the file and translate live OR installing Pootle like here in OGS and stuff like that) I poured a lot of time into it, but in the end of the day things couldn’t work due to my cheap website package. The company told me that if I wanted such lofty stuff, I should go and take a VPS, which I couldn’t do at the time.

I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t provide the best service, so by January I decided that Google docs would have to do for the time being and depending on how things went, I would have given the money to get a VPS and do all that flashy stuff. I think that most people would agree that this is a reasonable “one step at a time” way of thinking :slight_smile:

To cut a long story short, at this moment there are only a couple of people working on this project and only for a couple of languages and I am very thankful to those people because even long established places like Sensei’s do not seem to have too many contributors nowadays, so I am happy that there are people willing to help. But I really do not think that other people are not helping because the work is being done in Google Docs instead of GitHub, for example.

The project has a very small dynamic at this moment and that is the fact with which I need to work with and I need to improve a lot of other things first :slight_smile:

On the other hand, most commercial books simply state “All rights reserved” along with a statement prohibiting reproduction. I’ve never seen a book forbid general use.

As I said in the previous topic, this is my first book, so for the typical stuff I went along with the flow … I googled a “typical book disclaimer” and just put it there …
To give a better explanation since we are not derailing another topic here: I made those pages after finishing the English book and I was so glad to have managed it, and at the same time anxious to begin translating in Greek, that I didn’t really give much thought to such typical matters. I am an avid book reader, I have hundreds of physical books in my house and I never really bother reading the first “disclaimer” page, so it was just a page that had to be there, but I didn’t really give it much thought.

Obviously I was wrong :slight_smile:
In the next version upload (possibly by the end of this week), I will amend that.

Your copyright statement also asks people to share this book only by referencing the website, where they can download it. […]
Also, there does not seem to be much reason not to allow people just to share the file directly.

Well, yes, but there is no prohibition about it … it says:
“When sharing this book, please do so by referring to the original website, so that everyone can contribute to the embelishment of the available translations and the books provided.”

… of course you could just put it in a flash-drive and give to anyone, but if you are going to send it via the internet why not use the original link, instead of downloading it and sending it directly to someone else? Seems like simply sharing the ling is the most practical idea.

This could have scaling issues (if the book were to become popular) since it concentrates the bandwidth burden on a single website.

That is a big “if” that doesn’t seem like a possibility in the forseeable future … :stuck_out_tongue:
I did have a second - outside source - of downloading the books ( I had uploaded them to box.com ), but I took those buttons down when I uploaded the Portuguese first chapter because there was no need for them (and my uploading speed is horrible ).

You could add a page or two to the book in order to explain the aims of your project, which would avoid the need to point people to a web page.

I did, they are pages 1 and 2 in the book and most people seem to dislike them quite a bit, judging from the feedback I’ve received. I didn’t really want to clutter the book with the things I wanted to say or do … I wanted the book to be almost totally about Go (188 pages out of 192 to be exact), so that is what I did and left the explanations for the website.

The PDF file size is very large (250 MB for color, and 90 MB for greyscale). This could hurt distribution to people with poor connection speeds and/or costly data rate plans

I am one of those people and trust me, uploading takes hours … that being said I can download 90mb in an acceptable speed and considering that nowadays most people have gigabytes of music even in their smartphones, it really doesn’t seem that much size-wise.

I did try to create downsized versions of the pdf, but that really messed up the diagrams and made them fuzzy and horrible … I will see what I can do in terms of outputting a pdf in a smaller page size, but with a high image quality. That would reduce the file size, but inhibit the amount of possible zooming. I’ll experiment upon it.

Why did you bother to apply for an ISBN at this stage?

I honestly have no answer other than “all books have one”, so I thought that it was needed …
If you go to the website you will see that :
The ultimate goals of the project are two:
a)
Produce more translations of the book, with the help of of other native Go players
b) Eventually have the funds to print some physical copies and give them to the Go associations of each country, so they can distribute them as they see fit.

so, if I was to print them, they had to have an ISBN … or at least that is what seemed reasonable at the time … needless to say that goal “b” was ( and proved to be) too lofty, but the groundwork for it was done either way.

Thank you very much for your time and your suggestions.
Have a nice day!


#3

Are you familiar with the concept of “raster” versus “vector” graphics? Common image file formats (like JPEG, GIF, PNG) use a raster format, which stores images as a grid of pixel values. The drawback to such formats is a tradeoff between file size vs image quality.

On the other hand, vector graphic file formats (such as SVG, EPS) store image data as a set of shapes defined by parameters. There is no inherent resolution limit, since these files can be rendered on demand at any resolution (i.e., you get sharp graphics no matter how much you zoom in). Not only do they provide infinite resolution, they can also be highly compressed (when the graphics are just composed of simple geometric shapes).

These formats are ideally suited for go diagrams, which are simple to define via basic shapes (i.e., they are just circles and lines). Of course, you don’t have to manually draw circles and lines to make diagrams, since there are several software packages (see Go Typesetting) for generating vector graphics go diagrams.

I don’t think any one is going to prevent you from printing a book without an ISBN. Maybe the laws in Greece are different? However, at least in the US (and I thought most places), you can always produce a PDF, share it online, print it out, distribute it, etc. without needing an ISBN. I was under the impression that ISBNs only become crucial when you start to consider the commercial distribution of a book, where most vendors/publishers/distributors would require an ISBN at least just for product tracking.

Also, keep in mind that different ISBNs need to be assigned for each edition and format of the book (for example, the PDF, soft-cover printing, hard-cover printing, etc. all need different ISBNs). Also, if you plan to update the PDF file to fix typos, you need a new ISBN since it is a new edition.

Why go to the trouble for printing the book for the go associations? Who is going to pay for all of that? Why not just share the PDF file with them?

It seems like the aims of your project might also include commercial ambitions at some point?


#4

@yebellz

These formats are ideally suited for go diagrams

Well, it is a bit too late to re-do all of them now (they are over 700 diagrams) just to reduce the file size by some megabytes. I agree that some years ago a 90mb pdf might have been considered large, but today it is a pretty normal size ( an average game app is around 38megabytes, for example )

Also, if you plan to update the PDF file to fix typos, you need a new ISBN since it is a new edition.

This really sounds like there has to be some limit on how many typos you have to correct in order to be considered a “new edition” (else by simply correcting a couple of spelling mistakes, that would require you to pay again for a new ISBN, which really sounds improbable, especially considering how much it costs in some places). So, I checked that a bit and it does not seem to be so. I quote :

“If you only correct typographical errors, and don’t make any substantial changes to the text, you do not need a new ISBN because it’s considered a reprint. A new edition would contain substantially new material, a major revision, or the addition of completely new elements. Anything that makes it a new book is likely to create a new edition and, therefore, need a new ISBN.”

So, I guess it is fine and it seems that I can shuffle some pages or even add a few of them here and there without any issue. Thanks for bringing the matter up, by the way, because I hadn’t really considered it before. :slight_smile:

Now to your three questions, in the correct order :

Why not just share the PDF file with them?

I already did.
It is free and I went on their social media to let them know about it. The printed version is just an extra help that I would have loved to provide. :slight_smile:

Why go to the trouble for printing the book for the go associations?

Because even though I made the first step an e-book, I understand that a lot of people do not like them. Personally, I am a physical book fan, so I thought that if I could get to print some copies and hand them over to the Greek Go association that would help them spread Go even better.

What sounds better in a Go promotion ? “Here is a free copy of a beginner’s book” or “go to a website and download a book” ?
In case one, the prospective player leaves with an actual book in hand … in the second case he leaves with something he has to download (and he might never really get to do that).

Call me old-fashioned, but I like physical printed books.

Who is going to pay for all of that?

I hoped that donations might help in coverting that cost, else, (which was always the most likely outcome) I will eventually pay the money needed for some copies to be printed and be handed over for free, both to the Greek Go Association and the Cyprus Go Association.

Before I do that, I need to get some more feedback on proofreading in the Greek version though, in order to print them with the least possible mistakes. :slight_smile:


#5

First off, my compliments on finishing such a thing. Trying to put together a related (though hopefully not competitive :wink: - and actually not so ambitious) product I can appreciate all the hours that have been put into creating such a thing. Whatever ideas on how to improve the book come next I am sharing in a hope of actually helping, those are things that just came into my mind upon my cursory look at the project, I honestly do not mean them in any bad criticizing way. Seeing your honest and thoughtfull reactions to feedback I just thought it worthwile to share my own ideas.

Easy fixes:
Such a book needs hyperlinked table of contents :slight_smile: - no excuse.

Blablabla ISBN
Unless you plan to actually make it a commercial project you absolutely do not need ISBN. In fact I would be carefull about it. In many cases ISBN may come with an obligation to send several printed copies of your book to national libraries - which you have to pay for yourself. Fixing a few typos does not mean you need to get a new ISBN, but still, it can be more trouble than it’s worth for you right now. You can always get it later if you need it…

The book size and image formats:
I am lucky enough to have quite a decent internet speeds. Yet, when someone first linked me your book and I saw 90MB I though “screw that” and closed the download. Not because it would take too long, not because I want to be an ass**, just because it is more than it should be. Maybe I am in the minority who acts like this, I don’t know, but that was my reaction. Not to mention mobile usage. A lot of people nowadays tend to read e-books on transport unless one has unlimited data, 90MB can be a lot.
And converting to svg, we are talking tens of MBs saved. And nicer prints. A lot of work, I know. But maybe something to consider for future. (Do you have the .sgf saved?)

And finally probably the most painful isse:
As it is, and again I do not mean this in a harmfull way (and maybe it is also connected with me persoanlly, as design is big part of my work and maybe other people don’t care) I am sorry, but to me the book just is not pretty to look at the moment.
If you have properly assigned styles and formating this may be “easily” improvable, and it is probably largely fault of having to work with google docs (which honestly would be a dealbreaker for me), but

  • There is just abundance of alignment issues, the paragraphs jump all over, even the chapter header seem to jump up and down between pages, pictures are misaligned…
  • some paragraphs are indented, some are not…
  • there are HUGE chunks of text in italics, which is annoying to read (to me at least :slight_smile: )
  • plus some minor typographical and language errors, which are to be expected in such a vast work…
  • and overall the crapmed desing (which can make sense if the aim is to produce a lot of prints, but not for an e-book), weird horizontal lines, bordered textboxes and solidly underlined headings just look kind of way too oldschool to me.

All said and done those are minor points, I know. But if I learned something in my freelancing years, it is that first impressions matter A LOT: And no matter how good a content of a book is, if it looks “ugly” a lot of people just will not read it, beacause it does not look professional enough.

Sorry to sound so negative, it was not originally my intention, it is just easier to point out what we see as “problems” instead of talking about all the good qualities. I absolutely 100% appreciate all the work put into this and it is quite an accomplishement already! These are just notes that come to mind if someone asked me to try and impove upon it even more :slight_smile:

P. S. And if someone seriously said the book is too short he/she is crazy :smiley: It is an introduction…


#6

Hello @AdamR

I am glad you checked the book and I want to thank you for taking the time to write feedback on it. I really appreciate it.

Trying to put together a related (though hopefully not competitive :wink: - and actually not so ambitious) product

First of all, I want to wish you luck with your endeavor … the more material available to help spread Go, the merrier :slight_smile:

I honestly do not mean them in any bad criticizing way.

The second thing is that you do not have to worry about such a thing. I know that we live in a weird era were people seem to find new and very imaginative ways to get offended, but I am a bit too old for this new fashion. Calling a spade a spade should not be offensive, so if someone doesn’t like something I did or wrote, I want to hear about it. So, there is no need to sugar-coat things, I want people to tell me if something sucks and see what I can do to fix it.

To the points now:

Such a book needs hyperlinked table of contents :slight_smile: - no excuse.

Indeed … I really need to get off my mind together and fix that. The issue is that every chapter has its own typesetting file (oldish computer FTW ) and I have to combine them everytime. So, I cannot use the typesetting tool to hyperlink the index to every page directly and I have to find another program to do that, after I have combined the smaller pdfs.

I think FoxIt editor can do that and I want to try it for the next upload.

Yet, when someone first linked me your book and I saw 90MB I though “screw that” and closed the download.[…] just because it is more than it should be.

Good point. The pdf and the typesetting was created in huge B4 pages, so if I manage to reduce the page-size, that will reduce the overall size of the pdf … I will run some tests and see what I can do :slight_smile:

And converting to svg, we are talking tens of MBs saved. And nicer prints. A lot of work, I know. But maybe something to consider for future. (Do you have the .sgf saved?)

I do have all of them and after chapter 4 it dawned to me that I might need to re-visit some diagrams and make corrections, so after a point I have them named according to the corresponding pages. So, half of them are organised properly, but the prospect of remaking all of them seems daunting. At least I want to see what the “smaller page size” result will be, before going down that road.

If you have properly assigned styles and formating this may be “easily” improvable, and it is probably largely fault of having to work with google docs (which honestly would be a dealbreaker for me)

No, I do not have assigned styles because the book was written directly on the typesetting tool and it was translated directly on it (translating from English to Greek a lot of sentences and boxes had to change size). This means that now, for the Google doc, I have to copy-paste the text out of the typesetting tool, manually and re-style it (bold, headers and all) and then re-style it when I copy-paste the translated parts.

This also answers the following issues :

  • There is just abundance of alignment issues, the paragraphs jump all over, even the chapter header seem to jump up and down between pages, pictures are misaligned…
  • some paragraphs are indented, some are not…
    and overall the crapmed desing

I just couldn’t make some things fit. Which I know that it sounds lame, but when faced with the choice “less text and abrupt stopping of a sentence or two misalgned headings in opposite pages” I always had a policy to favor the text/explanation.

And I really wanted that feature of the explanation of a diagram to be right under the diagram (or at least beside it) to avoid that back and forth from the main text to diagram 43 which we see in the usual Go book arrangement ( it is possibly a matter of preference, but moving my eyes around a book makes me lose some of my focus ) and that added quite the extra trouble, especially when one diagram needed 2 lines of text and the next one needed 4 lines. Eventually, in the second part of the book I made the diagram text in one text box and started writting “left image” and “right image” which made things look much better. I did a lot of such corrections for the Greek version in most of the first chapters as well, but I never got around into streamlining the English version like that.

In my “to do” list is going through the first 100 pages, fixing text boxes and finally using the ruler tool and perfectly aligning most of the diagrams.

But if I learned something in my freelancing years, it is that first impressions matter A LOT:

Oh, this is very true and a very solid advice. :slight_smile:
I usually say something similar to people that are opening a shop, that on the opening day it has to be at its peak shape and not have “soon to come” stuff and imperfections.

In this case I admit that I just couldn’t get myself to polishing it, even if I should have known better … despite having a lot of other things in my plate, I finished the Greek translation and typesetting in three months and while I was happy to have completed the whole thing, I was just spent … I just wanted the books to be out and see if the whole idea was of any use or value to other people (if it was not going to be useful, no amount of polish would have really helped or mattered).

So, I am now slowly gathering feedback and starting to think how to climb the mountain again :slight_smile:

Sorry for talking too much, I just think that the things that are being pointed out in this thread are very legitimate observations, so they really deserve a good explanation instead of a cursory one.

Be well! :slight_smile:


#7

@AdamR

I am lucky enough to have quite a decent internet speeds. Yet, when someone first linked me your book and I saw 90MB I though “screw that” and closed the download.

Hello again! As promised I uploaded a compressed version of the file in the website, as well as the latest proofreading improvement. Since it was proposed here I wanted to let you know that it is ready … this time it is a more modest 30Mb size (1/3 of the previous one).

I haven’t had much luck with the hyperlinking of the index though, because I haven’t found a free pdf editting tool that does that yet. If anyone has knowledge of such a tool, please let me know and I will make the hyperlinks immediately.

Have a nice Sunday :slight_smile: