Breaking the Page: Preview Edition
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Released: December 2011
Pages: 100

"Multimedia” and “interactivity" are the poster kids for ebooks' potential, but how do they really make books better? Breaking the Page delivers an inspirational answer, filled with real-world examples that demonstrate how innovators are fulfilling screen publishing's promise without botching the reading experience.

Every digital book ingredient gets a deep-tissue inspection. From navigational dashboards to new kinds of indexes, from animated typography to stop-motion tutorials, Breaking the Page maps out how to conceive reader-friendly productions. Above all, it's a skeptic's design guide—as much about what to leave out as what to put in. It will challenge you to think about adding enhancements not simply because you can but, instead, only when you should. Coverage includes advice on how to:

  • Integrate audio, links, and motion so they partner with prose rather than distract from it
  • Design content to match the reader’s mindset—from info snackers to patient perusers
  • Compose for the traditional page as well as the “infinite canvas”
  • Instrument “smarter” books that aid memory and assist comprehension
  • Conceive multi-state graphics and customizable charts
  • Embed social tools to harness reader enthusiasm while respecting their need to focus
  • Make sense of everything from eInk to ePub, and from app books to books in browsers

This free Preview Edition is a three-chapter sampling of the full book. You'll find thought-provoking looks at why readers browse, navigate, and search, and the unique ways that digital productions can service these needs. Loaded with best practice case studies, this book belongs on the screen of anyone who cares about how we will communicate ideas in the 21st century.

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oreillyBreaking the Page: Preview Edition
 
3.3

(based on 4 reviews)

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75%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Helpful examples (3)
  • Well-written (3)

Cons

    Best Uses

    • Intermediate (3)
      • Reviewer Profile:
      • Designer (3), Developer (3), Educator (3)

    Reviewed by 4 customers

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    (0 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

     
    1.0

    Really, really obvious stuff

    By Dayrunner VC

    from Los Gatos CA

    Pros

      Cons

      • Not comprehensive enough
      • Recycled Content
      • Too basic

      Best Uses

      • Novice

      Comments about oreilly Breaking the Page: Preview Edition:

      Wow, what a collection of obvious thoughts and observations! Total waste of money.

      (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

       
      4.0

      Promises to be an excellent full edition

      By MBT

      from San Francisco, CA

      About Me Designer, Developer, Educator

      Verified Reviewer

      Pros

      • Easy to understand
      • Helpful examples
      • Well-written

      Cons

        Best Uses

        • Expert
        • Intermediate
        • Scholar

        Comments about oreilly Breaking the Page: Preview Edition:

        In Breaking the Page: Transforming Books and the Reading Experience, Peter Meyers offers a compelling argument for moving beyond the printed page to embrace the potential of the digital book as an intuitive, holistic, and interactive "reading experience." This preview version offers three chapters: 1) "Browse Better: TOC, R.I.P., 2) "Find Faster: New Ways to Search," and 3) "New Ways to Navigate: Getting Around inside a Book." The full edition promises a comprehensive list of topics including memory aids, tools of analysis, active images, animating content elements, audio, layouts and the infinite canvas, short-form content, collaborative creation, social sharing, customization, and new methods of marketing, publicity, and monetization. Meyers' Breaking the Page argues that for the digital book to be successful, we must "replicate [reading] experiences"—not merely "copy [the] features"—of the printed book.

        In the full edition of Breaking the Page, Meyers hopes to offer an in-depth look at the future of the book, including identifying the best ways of translating print to digital, examining the changing role of the editor in book production, how to facilitate both linear and non-linear modes of reading, and how to minimize disruption of the reading flow while providing relevant interactive content for readers. He suggests that the digital medium has the potential to improve the printed book by offering "a richer canvas on which authors could compose, and by helping readers solve a handful of memory and comprehension challenges." But he also offers the sage caveat that editors and authors should enhance "digital documents not simply because [they] can but, instead, only when [they] should."

        The three chapters available in this preview discuss the perceived affordances of tools that primarily facilitate information retrieval. Chapter 1, "Browse Better: TOC, R.I.P.," identifies the problems of the list-form table of contents and provides alternatives to print-based descriptive lists of items that impose an arbitrary hierarchy on a text. Meyers argues that these alternatives, the most notable of which he terms the "Matrix of Contents" or "Start Screen," empower users to make their own browsing choices because they facilitate scanning and content spotlighting, which allow "pick-your-own-path options for the reader who wishes to explore. In chapter 2, "Find Faster: New Ways to Search," Meyers discusses the limitations of the printed index and illustrates solutions using examples from well-known websites and apps (including Amazon's faceted search). Meyers argues that "a well-designed digital index can be a key part of instrumenting smarter books, ones that help readers find and retrieve information more efficiently." In chapter 3, "New Ways to Navigate: Getting Around Inside a Book," he discusses how readers "locate" themselves within the landscape of digital texts. Meyers asks how the digital reading experience can aid memory retrieval and "location-specific finding" when lacking the tactile feedback of a physical book. His solutions revolve around methods for visualizing the natural "breakpoints" in a text (he uses, as examples, Inkling's ingenious "Spine" and double-column table of contents).

        Of particular note in this preview are Meyers' thoughtful sketches and use of screenshots of existing websites and reading applications. Recognizing the power of the visual, Meyers deftly mixes image and text to provide a glimpse of what promises to be a persuasive digital codicology. It struck me that Meyers has hit upon a crucial point—that recipe books offer insight into our digital reading future as they necessitate attention to non-linear modes of reading, varying types of categorization, and the use of relevant (and in this case mouth-watering) supplementary media. An apt addition to the book would be a chapter on accessibility, that is, a discussion of how these exciting new features of the "infinite canvas" could make texts increasingly accessible to readers with disabilities.

        Meyers' expertise in the many facets of publishing is readily apparent, as is his meticulous attention to research and detail. The colloquial, friendly reading style evokes the feeling of a fireside chat, and this is a book easily understandable to the non-technical reader. Breaking the Page offers a strong contribution to the discussion of the future of the book as it relates to current debates in epublishing. Authors, publishers, editors, scholars (and anyone with an interest in digital publishing) will find this a fascinating read. I, for one, wait with baited breath for the completed version.

         
        4.0

        A look at what could be with e-books

        By Aaron Sumner

        from Lawrence KS

        About Me Designer, Developer, Educator

        Verified Reviewer

        Pros

        • Easy to understand
        • Helpful examples
        • Well-written

        Cons

          Best Uses

          • Intermediate

          Comments about oreilly Breaking the Page: Preview Edition:

          Peter Meyer's Breaking the Page explores that question and proposes a number of ways e-book designers can leverage the best of the new technology—and avoid some overused antipatterns—to make the e-book experience more enjoyable to the reader. This 100-page preview edition of the book is full of examples from a number of apps, including cookbooks, Bibles apps, textbooks, and even the Kindle and iBooks apps. While the general focus is on tablet-based reading, though, many of the information design patterns shared in Breaking the Page apply to large amounts of content on the web, and even traditional, desktop-based software.

          Meyer's writing style is also worth noting. Breaking the Page is not a technical book; you won't find code snippets or file downloads to go along with the examples he shares—rather, the book reads more like a conversational brainstorming session with Meyer, and a productive one that. He's clearly put a lot of thought into the future of reading—so much so that his ideas make the likes of Apple's new iBooks Textbook format seem dated.

          One thing I'd like to see in the book is a discussion on the benefits and drawbacks the e-book format has for people with reading disabilities. So far most of what I've seen on this front has amounted to little more than a rehash of the 1990s CD-ROM multimedia titles that inundated schools—it seems to me that with the advances we've seen in web services and APIs today's e-book can provide a much more robust experience to all readers, without adding a lot of extra overhead to the e-book software itself.

          The preview edition of Breaking the Page is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in writing, developing, publishing, or teaching with e-books. I look forward to reading the finished product when it's available.

          Note: I wrote this review for O'Reilly's Blogger Review Program.

          (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

           
          4.0

          a journey into the future of ebooks

          By David Briddock

          from Cheshire, UK

          About Me Designer, Developer, Educator

          Pros

          • Helpful examples
          • Well-written

          Cons

            Best Uses

            • Intermediate

            Comments about oreilly Breaking the Page: Preview Edition:

            This guide to the embryonic world of electronic books is full of observations, ideas and suggestions. It discusses the ebooks of today, their capabilities, relative immaturity and shortcomings. And it hints at the ebooks we might own tomorrow, ones based upon innovative approaches, designs and techniques.

            Even in this shortened shortened three chapter preview edition, there are rich veins of information to be discovered. With plenty of useful material for anyone interested in the future of ebook creation and publication. Subjects covered include effective navigation, table of contents integration and the true purpose of indexes.

            Peter Mayers makes the case that ebooks shouldn't try to slavishly copy the best features of our printed books, but instead replicate the actual experience of a physical book. Something that can be achieved with carefully considered, reader-focussed design. Certainly not an easy trick to pull off, but essential to realise the ebook's inherent advantages and rich potential.

            There are so many topics to consider. Content scanning, intelligent searching, intuitive gestures, smart hyperlinks, interactive material, even user-defined flow - all unobtrusively combined with uncluttered readability.

            Peter exploits his extensive publishing industry experience, knowledge and contacts to deliver a collection of interesting and up-to-date examples. Examples that are carefully chosen to highlight both good and bad practices. Examples that encompass competing technologies, such as EPUB, MOBI, HTML5 and apps. Examples that work for basic electronic ink screen e-readers, and ones aimed at the latest multifunctional tablets with their full colour displays.

            We are just the beginning a journey towards building a better ebook. It's far from obvious which initiatives will be ultimately successful, and there'll be many failures along the way. I'd suggest that thoughtful, elegant and purposeful ebook design, is more likely to succeed over any particular technical standard, file format or technology. But it will certainly be a fascinating journey.

            The full version of this book promises to help illuminate this journey. And I for one can't wait to read it.

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