The only drawback is that it is not easy to port into other formats. The pdf version is not very good and RTF is pretty much out of the question. But it’s ok because it was pretty much built for the web anyway and that’s where it will stay.
For the textbook, I wanted it to be not just for the web but for a variety of formats, including (as the word “textbook” suggests) a printed book. That’s why I went with DocBook, which seemed to serve my purposes. Unfortunately, now I need an XSLT processor and have to mess with XSL to make any kind of major tweak which is a huge pain. Still, since the original document is XML, it’s still portable and shareable. I also really enjoy the ability to easily reorder content around because I’m still trying to figure out how to arrange everything.
Unfortunately, I’m finding some annoying issues with DocBook that lies with the purist mentality that absolutely no formatting should be in the document itself. Can you believe that there is no built-in support for freakin’ line breaks?? So when I want to write a dialogue, I either have to use “literallayout” which means I have to mess with the whitespace therefore completely ruining my prettily formatted xml or I have to add my own custom tag and XSL template, which means it’s no longer docbook and I have to carry around my customized XSL forever.
Another example is the complete lack of support for strike-through text. Apparently I should use subversion or something to track revision changes. This is a perfect example of purists thinking they know better than you. But have they considered that maybe I want to show readers what doesn’t belong in a sentence and should be deleted? Nobody can imagine all the uses people have for various formatting so they shouldn’t try to second-guess what you need them for.
For now, I’m not going to let it bother me and just concentrate on the content. Worst case, I can always port the stuff to whatever I want by hand. Or maybe I can just run a cleanup perl script at the end. I don’t even want to think about PDF conversion right now. I evaluated FOP at Hitachi when they needed documents with dynamic data and format customized for each company. I told them to forget about it and go with Big Faceless Java PDF Library. Even with a crazy name like that, it’s probably the smartest thing I ever did there. The funny part is that took a multimillion dollar company MONTHS to license something that costs several hundred dollars. We almost released the tax modules with “DEMO” written in large letters across the back of all the documents.
I don’t know. Maybe I should try LaTeX or something? I know next to nothing about it except that you have to compile your document!