Unbound pages – design for reading onscreen

Some on this list might be interested in the article I just wrote for The Magazine about the typography of ebooks and design for the screen – or rather, for a plethora of screens:


Although The Magazine is subscription based, non-subscribers can read the full text of one article a month.


28 Mar 2013 — 12:27am
ebooks flexible layout General Discussions reading responsive design screen typography text typography

John, it's always interesting reading your pieces, and this one is intriguing as well, althought, paradoxically, on my screen it doesn't look good at all - in The Magazine site I see very long lines of text and no margins!

That said, about the specific issue of your article, the few reading experiences I had with e-books (even those made by corporate publishers) were disappointing. I wonder if there isn't a way to transfer (translate?) a book design layout made with, say, Indesign, to a tablet or an e-reader device, for example using the pdf format which still seems to be the best for rendering books layout (by the way, didn't Amazon introduce a sort of "as printed" e-books format?)

Nicola – You can certainly do that, but then what you get is a static layout, which only works if you're viewing it on an appropriately sized and oriented screen. What I’m talking about is flexible, adaptive layout. And having the tools to design that well.

> I see very long lines of text and no margins

The margins look fine on my computer (Mac using Safari).

Very clearly written and expressed, without being condescending - nicely done. I certainly agree that it's high time reading software took layout seriously. BTW, I like the "return-from-footnote" links!

One thing I'd love to see properly implemented is multiple columns. The main question there is: how do you reconcile that with vertical scrolling? Here's an idea: don't. Scroll horizontally instead! :-) In fact the human existence -including our reading "hardware", from the acuity of the retina to the structure of the neck- is much stronger in the horizontal dimension. The ancient scroll was right on.


Hrant – Pagination based on the actual screen you’re reading on would eliminate the need for “scrolling” as we use it now. Instead, you’d page down (or over) from one multi-column page (if that’s appropriate to the screen size & shape) to the next.

But you’re quite right that multiple columns on a “page” larger than the screen makes no sense whatsoever.


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