Big Buck Bunny Board Book

A board book for babies, based off of Blender’s iconic and freely-licenced short film, Big Buck Bunny.

Sep 17, 2015

Project update 5 of 7

Creating a Picture Book with Free Software

The main page of this crowdfunding says that the "entire book is being made using freedom-respecting software". Some have wondered what that means, or what tools I am using, so let me explain.

Firstly, when I say "freedom-respecting" I am primarily talking about the four freedoms of the free software movement, which state that users must have:

  1. The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
  2. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbour.
  4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

For example, if I were to create this book using Microsoft Word, I would be using software which disrespects each of these freedoms, in at least the following ways:

  1. The MS Word EULA forbids installing the program on all of my computing devices at once.
  2. The MS Word EULA forbids studying how the program works and also the source code is not fully available.
  3. Microsoft uses both copyright law and the EULA to forbid creation or distribution of copies of the program.
  4. Microsoft uses both copyright law and the EULA to forbit creating or distributing modifications to the program.

So, what am I using?

###Starting at the bottom

First of all, I use laptops whose software fully respects my essential freedoms. For this project I am using my Respects Your Freedom certified Gluglug Thinkpad X60, and also my Novena. Both machines have been designed so that all software running on them that can be modified by me, the user, respects my freedom. Neither machine is currently available for general purchase, but if you want something similar I highly recommend minifree laptops.

Installing freedom-respecting software on my computer is nice, but starting with a computer that supports freedom is even better. The Novena even extends this freedom to some of the hardware components! (For more on hardware, see my article Electronic Device Freedom.)

###Now I’m here

To get the sort of resolution I need for a print book, I needed something better than taking screenshots of the Big Buck Bunny video in order to get my images. I also wanted more precise control over the image I get than a normal video player scrubber gives. I used the wonderful avconv to extract frames from the 4K-resolution version of the video, providing me with to-the-frame precision and high-resolutions that make the book look great.

For layout, I considered two choices: Inkscape and Scribus. In the end, I chose Inkscape because I was more familiar with it already, though Scribus has more support for some print details that might matter for other projects. Inkscape is able to open the EPS templates I’m sent by printing companies, I can set up "guides" to match, and then easily scale and crop my images, place my text, and lay things out to fit the bleed/trim requirements for print. Inkscape also has a powerful filters engine that allowed me to create a subtle torn paper effect to sit under the words on each page.

For the ebook I will additionally be using pdfshuffle to take the individual pages from Inkscape and assemble them into a single PDF.

###The Video

What is a crowdfunding campaign without a promo video? For this video I used primarily OpenShot, primarily because of its support for the Ken Burns effect that I use. Some animations were done using LibreOffice Impress, but if I were to do it again I would definitely use Synfig Studio.


Finally, since I want everything in the book and eBook to be freely reusable and remixable, I needed to use freedom-respecting fonts. I chose Droid Sans for all the main content, and Raleway for some title text. All other assets are either from Big Buck Bunny (which is already reusable), or generated using Inkscape.


Those are the tools I’m using to create this book. Freedom-respecting source material and software tools to provide more access to the free characters that will be presented in this book. Paying forward the freedom I’ve been given to the next generation. The campaign is now at 34% and we have quite a few days left, so get the word out there and together we can get this book printed!

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