Peter Krautzberger · on the web

Epub and mathematics

A while ago Martin Fenner had written about the BeyondPDF workshop and released his epub export plugin for wordpress and started the Wordpress For Scientist Google group.

I had joined that group right away and had wanted to do some experiments for a while now. I have been falling in love with wordpress more and more and I will probably switch rather sooner than later. Then last week Lieven le Bruin released some of his posts as PDF and, upon my comments, also experimented with epub. But the discussion on his blog brought back the issue of mathematics in epub.

By the way, I’m also starting another experiment – writing a paper collaboratively using wordpress! This will hopefully mean I can share more experiences. The main tool for this is pandoc – a great tool for document conversion, especially if, like me, you love markdown. Pandoc will eventually help me convert markdown to LaTeX (for the final touches). I’ll write more about that at some other point.

Anyway, today I finally got around to experimenting with epub and wrote the following lines on the google group.

I have been experimenting with Martin’s epub-export plugin and, as a mathematician, can’t really be happy. There seems to be no good way to export mathematics in the sense that I (and most others online) are too used to LaTeX syntax and MathJax these days.
From what I understand, the current situation is that the epub standard has a “should not”-rule for javascript inclusion and almost all applications block javascripts.
This might possibly change in the future since the epub3 draft contains a “could”-rule for javascript. From a math(jax) point of view, javascript would solve a lot of issues. So I had wanted to experiment for some time and finally got around to it – so I thought I should share this.

A while ago I found a promising story about javascript in epub. In particular, javascript seems to work in the iPad’s ebook app.
Today, I tried to use this knowledge to create some easy mathematics in epub and testing this with a friend’s iPad.

  • Asciimathml inclusion “just worked” in the sense that adding the javascript file and adding the suitable line in the header of my test epub’s chap1.xhtml worked in the iPad app.
  • MathJax inclusion via the CDN worked – that’s great news, since it keeps the file small (but somewhat disturbing since it means all kinds of evils are possible via external javascript)
  • MathJax inclusion in the epub file failed. This is unfortunate. The size of the epub increases significantly (and the process takes ages with the 30.000 mathjax files), but from what I understand the file limit is 2GB, not 16MB…

So I have three questions:

  1. Could anybody try to reproduce this?
  2. Does anybody have thoughts on the problem of actual inclusion of mathjax?
  3. Does anybody know an ebook reader outside of the ipad that tolerates javascript?

Thanks for any suggestions! Peter.