Many long-term LaTeX users have on their bookcase a copy of The LaTeX Companion, an excellent guide to ways to tackle a wide variety of problems in LaTeX. Having it available electronically has been something that many people have wanted, so I was very pleased when I heard from the lead author, Frank Mittelbach, that this was in the offing. The electronic version, as a PDF or in eBook format (ePub and Mobi), is now available from InformIT, the publisher’s online store.

The price is very reasonable: $23.99, with a discounted price ($14.99) available until the end of the year using code LATEXT2013. For that, you get all three formats in DRM-free form: the PDF is watermarked but otherwise identical to the current print version (the 2nd edition). It’s not a new edition: the (excellent) text is that written by Frank and the rest of the team in 2004. For many purposes, that makes very little difference as LaTeX is generally very stable, but if you are interested in biblatex, TikZ, LuaTeX or other ‘new’ developments in the LaTeX world then perhaps it’s not the book for you.

As the PDF is identical to the print version, it works best on bigger screens where you can give it the full width and size it needs. The eBook forms work better on dedicated readers, but at the cost that the code examples are inserted there as pictures. There’s a good reason for that: only in the PDF is the typography done by TeX, so to see the real results in the eBook forms means that pictures are the only way to go. You get all the internal links you’d expect in all of the formats: the table of contents to chapters, references to the bibliography and so on. Having all three formats for one price means you can both take advantage of the flexibility of eBooks and have a copy with high quality typography all available to you where ever you go. Being electronic, you can also search the text (only the PDF lets you search the examples as only there are they not pictures.)

There’s very little downside to the electronic copy: the cost is good, the restrictions are minimal and the text itself is of course excellent.