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RE: Active lobbying: Math - leaping over barriers

From: liam <liam@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 21 Aug 2015 12:38:59 -0400
To: Bill Kasdorf <bkasdorf@apexcovantage.com>
Cc: "Belfanti, Paul" <paul.belfanti@pearson.com>, Deborah Kaplan <dkaplan@safaribooksonline.com>, Ivan Herman <ivan@w3.org>, W3C Digital Publishing IG <public-digipub-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <4c783e73a43af2e21f3b2e0e110277d4@webmail.w3.org>
On 2015-08-21 11:51, Bill Kasdorf wrote:

> But for SUITS FOR MATHML to succeed, we need a way to say "this makes
> business sense,

The barriers I have heard so far to MathML becoming significantly more 
widely used in publishing, on the Web, for ebooks:

(1) lack of support in Web browsers and ebook readers.
     Mitigation: libraries like MathJax

(2) difficulty in printing
     Mitigation: AntennaHouse and other robust formatters can handle 
     For one project (almost 15 years ago now) I used an open source 
     that converted MathML to PostScript and hence to images.

(3) overhead of fonts, font complexity
     Mitigation: WOFF has helped here, but browsers including the Math 
     seems a necessary step.

(4) cost of authoring. Reluctance of authors to move from TeX
     Mathematics has always been expensive, with "cold metal" compositors 
     paid typically triple the normal hourly rate. It's complex.
     Mitigations: plugins and authoring software such as MathType reduce 
     cost in many cases. But not all cases. Any publisher who deals with 
     has received manuscripts with notes, "I can't get this to work right 
in Word,
     make the following changes" as if the publisher is a magician.
     It might be that a { eqn-like } alternate syntax for MathML would 
help with
     mathematicians; conversion from TeX is not always 100% possible (TeX 
     a Turing-Complete language!)

(5) incompleteness.
     Simple problems like long division or addition using coins are, it 
turns out,
     hard to do in MathML.
     Mitigation: I think SVG + MathML is probably the answer, with some
     widely shared templates, and with training materials for publishers.

(6) reluctance to change
     Mitigation: we have to show the benefits greatly outweigh the costs 
of not


(a) possibility of reflowable content neeed for Web and ebook

(b) possibility of driving Learning Apps embedded in books - e.g.
     "solve for me"

(c) meeting accessibility requirements

(d) increased text-book sales because of accessibility (a 2% increase 
     be pretty significant, for example, in some areas, and in other 
     having accessible alternate versions might increase competitive 

(e) reduced workflow cost
     The author and/or publisher need to prepare the mathematics in any 
     but with TeX or proprietary formats they then need to convert each
     equation to images or to SVG, and to manage all the additional media 

The barriers need to be weighed against the cost. Any barrier perceived 
as a solid wall will prevent adoption "can't do that because..." so 
either we have to remove the barrier or we have to show through 
mitigation that it can be crossed.

Reducing the barriers might include changing MathML, too, of course.


Liam Quin, W3C
XML Activity Lead;
Digital publishing; HTML Accessibility
Received on Friday, 21 August 2015 16:39:07 UTC

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