Academic journal article Visible Language

BINDING THE ELECTRONIC BOOK: Design Features for Bibliophiles

Academic journal article Visible Language

BINDING THE ELECTRONIC BOOK: Design Features for Bibliophiles

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper proposes a design for the electronic book based on discussions with frequent book readers. We adopted a conceptual framework for this project consisting of a spectrum of possible designs, with the conventional bound book at one difference pole, and the laptop computer at the other; the design activity then consisted of appropriately locating the new electronic book somewhere on this spectrum. Our data collection consisted of a web-based survey and two focus groups, all of which used a set of questions based on five human factors, to collect information on the opinions and practices common to graduate students in English and other frequent readers. Our purpose was to identify features considered crucial by frequent book readers. We addressed the goal of incorporating these features by developing an electronic book design called the Bi Sheng, which attempts to accommodate the significant features of conventional books while adding functionality derived from the electronic form of the text.

INTRODUCTION

The electronic book and electronic book reader have not yet been widely adopted by the majority of frequent book readers. This paper addresses the question of what an electronic book might look like that would appeal to this demographic. We ran a study with frequent book readers, in an attempt to gauge their reaction to existing e-books and e-readers, in order to identify what elements they consider crucial in the reading experience. We found that frequent readers would reasonably wish to retain the familiarity and benefits of regular book-reading that they have enjoyed, but would be interested in a technology that added still more benefits. In response, we propose a new design for the electronic book, the Bi Sheng,' which will combine the pleasure of book-reading with the flexibility of the e-book and e-book reader.

Although he aptly concluded, in 1992, that manipulating electronic text was still more difficult than manipulating paper, Andrew Dillon also proposed that there might be better ways to organize information. However, by the time the second edition of Designing Usable Electronic Text (2004) appeared, Dillon's assessment on paper preference and usability had not really changed. He claimed that research still "suggests that paper is by far the preferred medium for reading" and that transferring texts to the "electronic medium is insufficient and often detrimental to use" (p. 4). The book is not a limiting form, he suggested; one could argue for "paper being the liberator as at least the reader always has access to the full text" (p. 117). Proposing a way to shape the electronic text for greater Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Dillon suggests the TIME framework (task, information, text and ergonomie variables) in an attempt to work with readers' tendency to impress structure on information (p. 126). For the purpose of our study, we look to a skill which is learned early and is easily transferable - text manipulation (p. 139). Manipulating paper and pages is a crucial and familiar aspect of interaction with a text; any attempt to create an electronic book for the frequent reader must, in some form, reproduce this (p. 179). Because electronic texts, especially e-books and e-book readers, have yet to provide the visual and tactile affordances provided by paper texts (e.g., the two dimensions of the electronic book give no indication of text size, content quality, age or usage (p. 125), an electronic book which provides those elements would serve as a mid-point between the useful familiarity of the paper text and the potential of the electronic. The Bi Sheng would provide what Dillon (2003) calls for: an e-book reader with a "richer sense of user experience, one that allows for aesthetics as much as efficiency" (p. 68).

AVERSION HISTORY

In the year 2000, D.T. Max looked back at the already cooled e-book industry, recollecting in "1994, when I first reported on the proposed electronic-book industry, I drank a lot of cappuccino with pony-tailed men who quoted Marshall McLuhan. …

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