book layout with Scribus

scribusI used the free, open-source layout program Scribus to design the interior of The Ethics of Anarcho-Capitalism. It took several hours to learn but, after that, it was a pleasure to use.

There are already good tutorials available for how to do book layout with Scribus, but I thought it would be helpful to describe the solution to one of the bigger challenges that I faced in producing a print-ready PDF.

The difficulty was not due to Scribus itself, but rather that I chose to use IngramSpark as the manufacturer for my hardcover books. When I was comparing them to Lulu.com, it seemed that the main difference was that IngramSpark makes slightly nicer books but is harder to use. Quality seemed worth a little extra effort, but I did not realize how much harder it would be.

The default PDF produced by Scribus was readily accepted by KDP, so when IngramSpark rejected it, I was surprised. What was more surprising was that the error was “internal error.” Wow. As a bonus, this error is only returned after a few days of “processing”.

Screenshot from 2020-03-04 07-37-23
An internal error has occurred processing this request, please try again or contact support for assistance.

IngramSpark’s customer support was not very helpful. The first few times I contacted them they just said, “try again.” After a week, I convinced them to open a case with their technical support. After a few more days of failed attempts, a new error message appeared. Even better, it only took about 15 minutes to fail.

Screenshot from 2020-03-09 10-54-20
DIFFERENT FONT TYPES IN PDF FONT AND EMBEDDED FONT FILE. One or more fonts contain multiple font types within the same embedded font, which will prevent the file from processing through our systems.

Now that I could make 4 attempts per hour, I was able to narrow things down quickly. The problem was that IngramSpark requires all fonts to be embedded, as opposed to outlined. I used Minion Regular, Minion Bold, and Minion Italic in the book body and Scribus would only embed the latter two if the output format was PDF/x-1a. To get the option to output PDF/x-1a, I needed to enable color management as described in this forum post.

Unfortunately, after submitting the new PDF/x-1a file, IngramSpark rejected it because it contained ICC profiles (which I added to get the option to export PDF/x-1a in the first place).

Fortunately, I found a helpful comment on Stack Overflow, which enabled me to “fix” the PDF produced by Scribus so that IngramSpark would accept it. It uses GhostScript to remove the ICC profiles:

gs -o interior_no_icc.pdf 
    -sDEVICE=pdfwrite 
    -sColorCoversionStrategy=Gray 
    -sProcessColorModel=DeviceGray 
    -dCompatibilityLevel1.4 
    -dOverrideICC 
    interior.pdf

Finally, the file was accepted. A few days later I was able to order hardcover copies and, a few days after that, the hardcover version automatically appeared on amazon.com alongside the KDP paperback and ebook.

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