Ben Crowder / Blog

Blog: #paper-epubs

I’ve been playing around with making EPUBs look more like print:

Two book pages. At left is a page from a digital PDF. At right is the same page but modified to look less digital.

Why the madness: ebooks feel kind of sterile to me, and I’m intrigued by the idea of giving them a more analog feel.

The experiment is still early on (I’ve only automated the first step so far), but at this point the process involves:

  1. Turning the EPUB into a PDF (concatenating each file in the EPUB into a single HTML file, setting some print CSS rules, and printing from HTML to PDF in a browser)
  2. Turning each page into an image (at left in the above image)
  3. Eroding/dilating the image to simulate ink spread
  4. Adding a very slight ripple
  5. Blurring the next page, flipping it backwards, and compositing it at a low opacity
  6. Adding some paper texture (at right in the above image)
  7. Compiling all the page images back into a PDF

Other notes:

  • This does mean larger file sizes, but not prohibitively so. (For me, anyway.)
  • Right now I’m experimenting with doing this statically, in PDF but I imagine most if not all of it could be done dynamically in-browser. (filter: blur(0.25px) contrast(3) in CSS applied twice to text can give a roughly similar effect to erosion/dilation, for example.)
  • The current erosion/dilation method is acceptable, but I feel like there’s more room for improvement here.
  • A shortcut to doing the full process is to export a blurred backwards page image, composite it onto the paper texture, and then use that as the background image on each page. You lose the variety, but it’s probably not noticeable.

Reply via email or office hours