I particularly like how Martins highlighted how important typography is in retaining the readers’ (ahem supervisors, examiners, reviewers…) interest/attention. That’s so true—I remain certain that I received an award for my paper at a student workshop, partly (or perhaps majorly) because I used LaTeX. One of the panels commented “it’s a very clear, very nice paper—not sure why but it was just very enjoyable to read.”
Lest we’ve forgotten at times amid all the exciting new packages in recent years that let us do various cool things in LaTeX, typography is why Knuth created TeX in the beginning, and why some (I’ll acknowledge not all) users prefer LaTeX over word processors. Martins included this quote on typography in his slides:
Typography matters because it helps conserve the most valuable resource you have as a writer—reader attention.
Attention is the reader’s gift to you. That gift is precious. It is finite. And if you fail to be a respectful steward of that gift, it will be revoked.
(Matthew Butterick, Typography for Lawyers)
Like oratory, music, dance, calligraphy—like anything that lends its grace to language—typography is an art that can be deliberately misused. It is a craft by which the meanings of a text (or its absence of meaning) can be clarified, honored and shared, or knowingly disguised.
and later in Chapter 10:
Writing begins with the making of meaningful marks. That is to say, leaving the traces of meaningful gestures. Typography begins with arranging meaningful marks that are already made. In that respect, the practice of typography is like playing the piano—an instrument quite different from the human voice.
And personally, I do think writings convey the experience knowledge of humankind (I know that sounds a bit pompous, spare me the rod), and deserve to be typeset with ultimate quality for an enjoyable reading experience!
LuaLaTeX compilation is strongly recommended. If you want to use XeLaTeX instead, that’s fine, but you may need to make sure academicons.ttf is installed on your operating system, not just available in your TEXMF tree with the academicons LaTeX package.
Both books are written by Stefan Kottwitz. The LaTeX Beginner’s Guide came out in 2011, and I still consider it as a very valuable book to newcomers — e.g. a useful tome to assign your new research student as prerequisite research-skills reading. (You can read my review of it here) (whoa where did I find the energy to write such long form back in the day?!)
The LaTeX Cookbook is actually still quite new, having been published just a couple of months ago in October. (Which makes this deal even more amazing, especially with the currency situation in this part of the world right now…) Anyway! amazing deal or no amazing deal, this book is another one in the “keeper’s” category. Kottwitz continues his style of accompanying lots of useful code with an equally illustrative amount of explanations and best-practice tips. You know how some cookbooks are all “You want to do this? OK take this code” without too much explanation? This isn’t one of them. So in a pinch, you may be thinking “why can’t I just slap this code in and get it done with” (well actually most code in this book will do that for you anyway), but trust me, you’ll learn much more about LaTeX if you spend a few minutes reading. It’s written in a very easy-to-ready way anyway.
This book doesn’t beat around the bush with introductory material much, but digs into all the interesting things that you’ve probably wanted to do after writing up that first paper with LaTeX, or for writing up your own thesis or book — How do I change the fonts exactly the way I want? Can I draw my circuits/plots/chemical diagrams/flowcharts in LaTeX now? (Yes I enjoyed the chapter on Creating Graphics a lot — in fact you can download it as a sample chapter!) Mmmm you think your doc needs some pretty decorations, let’s see how we can spruce it up — Ah! Ornaments, coloured lettrines, images with rounded corners or badge-shaped, so designer-ish! (Come on, admit it, you know when those creative/productive procrastination mood hits…)
Another chapter worthy of mention is on how to ask a good question, and formulate a minimal working example (MWE), to make it easier for others to help you solve a problem. Having lectured students myself, I cannot emphasise enough how important this skill is. *meaningful nod*
So. Should you get thesebooks? You bet. $5 per book until 6 January 2016!