Typesetting for portable devices

One of the talks at TUG 2010 was about typesetting for the iPad. Anyone following the general area of working with portable devices (iPad, Kindle, iPhone, etc.) will have picked up why this is interesting. The new book-like electronic devices are posing a lot of questions for those of us interested in typography. The problem is that the screens that these systems have aren’t really suited for the fixed approach that PDF provides. The current solutions go with something more flexible, but as a result miss out on the layout quality that TeX-based solutions can provide.

In the talk, the approach shown off was going very much for a device-dependent approach, and creating pre-defined bitmaps for both landscape and portrait viewing on the iPad screen. There is some good discussion after the presentation about alternative approaches, such as doing the typesetting on the device, reflowable PDFs and intermediate methods.

While I don’t have any of these devices, I can see that thinking about supporting them is going to be important. It’s clear that the overall market is very big, and that there are unique challenges in supporting small screens with a different form of interaction to the ‘traditional’ PDF. So I’m pleased to see that a variety of people are exploring all of the possible TeX-based solutions.