A Look at Bookalope’s New Right-To-Left Script Support

Reading Backwards: Introducing RTL Script

Picture this. It’s the weekend and you’re calmly observing people slipping in and out of the bookshop. Some walk out brandishing the latest fantasy installment. Others leave with a trusty classic. And a few might even grab a comic or two. Whatever they choose, it’s likely that the text inside reads from left to right. Right?

Photo of a book printed in Arabic.
Photo of a book printed in Arabic.
Book printed in Arabic. Photo by Masjid Pogung Dalangan/Unsplash.

Not exactly. In English, we start reading and writing from left to right. The second we pick up a pen or scan the screen, our instinct is to follow that west-east orientation. It makes sense. We’re used to it. But the fact is several…

There’s a good chance that, when you think about some of the printed books in your collection, you think about more than just the story or the information they contain.

Print books have covers — sometimes hardback, sometimes soft. Print books have a weight and a feel to them, they have pages. They even have a smell.

When you look inside a book, you can easily flick from chapter to chapter or section to section because of their visual cues. Chapter titles and headings, for example, are often larger and more pronounced than the body text, and they sometimes appear…

If you’re a book designer like me, you’ll understand a familiar frustration.

You love books and want to enjoy the creative process of actually designing one.

Then you receive a new manuscript, and you get stuck doing other things: checking the content of the document and cleaning up its structure and formatting, eliminating the clutter or cruft that editors and various bits of software leave behind, and maybe even pondering accessibility information.

When I talk to publishers or freelancing designers, I often hear colorful stories about the convoluted paths that a manuscript can take through a book production workflow.

An illustration of how a manuscript is modified and converted into different file formats again and again in a workflow.
An illustration of how a manuscript is modified and converted into different file formats again and again in a workflow.
A manuscript’s path to the final book can be convoluted. Different people prefer to work with different file formats, file conversions are often hairy, and content is changed manually.


Since their widespread emergence in the early 2000s, ebooks have attracted considerable attention — and even some controversy.

While some readers have mourned the so-called ‘death of the book’ and a loss of the print book’s more tactile qualities, many others have welcomed the portability and improved accessibility that ebooks can offer.

For readers with a disability — such as visual impairments, reading difficulties like dyslexia, and motor skill problems — ebooks represent a more viable format by which to access stories, information and reading experiences that have otherwise hovered beyond reach.

An ebook reader, iPad, a notebook and pen, and a cup of hot chocolate all on a rough wooden table.
An ebook reader, iPad, a notebook and pen, and a cup of hot chocolate all on a rough wooden table.

As the BNGO Books team has observed, ebook…

For the past few months, I have been experimenting with ebook import for Bookalope. At first, it was just a fun idea, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more it makes sense.

What if, for example, I could take an outdated, invalid, or even broken ebook, feed it into Bookalope, and automatically get an updated, valid, and fixed ebook for my effort? And because Bookalope is all about intelligent automation, could I update and fix a whole batch of ebooks in one go? What about ebook accessibility? Could I add or improve that as well?

Along with Kindle’s…

I enjoy designing books, because typography and beautiful books are dear to my heart.

When I receive a new manuscript to turn it into a print book and ebook, I like to spend my time on working with the book’s visual design rather than laboriously cleaning up text and structuring content. I want to enjoy the typographical playground rather than fixing issues inherited from a history of editing the manuscript. I want to experiment with the visual design and not worry about the book’s content and semantic structure.

I want to click a button and enjoy my hot chocolate, while…

The way we share written stories changed with the advent of computers.

For much of human history, a written story was — sometimes quite literally — set in stone. In medieval Europe, scribes turned writing into an art. And since the invention of movable type in the fifteenth century (I recommend reading Alix Christie’s novel Gutenberg’s Apprentice), we have evolved the art of book design and typography into a perfected craft: typefaces, illustrations, inks, paper, binding. We manufacture books, and we make them everyday items to behold, amuse, entertain, and educate. (Amaranth Borsuk’s The Book offers a modernist overview.)


Jens Troeger

Software craftsman, underwater photographer, meditation guide, traveler, book lover, dendrophile. Maker of @bookalope.

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