Breaking The Page
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The Table Of Contents (TOC), of course, nicely summarizes a book’s innards; it’s also a pretty decent tool for perusing. But these dryly worded inventories tend to read like proceedings from an adjective-haters’ convention.
The appeal, by contrast, of a home page-style layout is in how it provides many different paths through a book. In fact, it doesn’t merely provide, it actively promotes different reading journeys for different readers. If it didn’t sound so geeky you might call it a “Matrix of Contents”. I prefer the more civilian-friendly “Start Screen”.
on display in these next few examples: a way to zoom from book-view to page-level detail in an instant. These kinds of tools won’t appeal to everyone. But for readers whose noggins crave easy perspective shifting, these tools are a way to get digital books to do something not possible in print
And the Zooming works just as you’d expect: spread your fingers to dive in, pinch to zoom out
on—the New York Public Library released Biblion, a compendium of scanned photos, posters, and newspaper articles from the 1939-40’s Worlds Fair
- Robert Darnton, the head of Harvard’s library and author of A Case for Books
- Solve the problem of writers (mainly academics) who have too much material they’d like to publish on a particular topic, and readers who have not nearly enough time to consume it all
- The top layer could be a concise (Thin Book) account of the subject, available perhaps in paperback. The next layer could contain expanded versions of different aspects of the argument, not arranged sequentially as in a narrative, but rather as self-contained units that feed into the topmost storey
- And a sixth layer could contain readers’ reports, exchanges between the author and the editor, and letters from readers, who could provide a growing corpus of commentary as the book made its way through different publics
the index often doesn’t survive the passage from print to digital
Digital book readers face challenges that print fans regard with a mix of befuddlement and superiority. How does one quickly figure out, for example, how many pages remain in a chapter?
Traversing the TOC
- IPad Text-Book publisher InkLing offers some great design models here. Their revelation? A sufficiently detailed Table Of Contents is a great finding tool—the key being those sufficient details. Even a TOC that lists first- and second-level headers doesn’t capture all that awaits in those sections. Valuable bits like sidebars, info graphics, and videos may not get fair representation in the header list that most publishing tools pull from to automatically generate the TOC.
- But what about novels and other Long Form narratives?
- What if, rather than a miniaturized replica of a book’s contents, the navigational tool delivered more meaningful representations of a story? What if an author or publisher created a “plot review” browser, comprised of summary blurbs for every significant scene or turning point in a long story?