This essay is part of the 2015 Big Ideas Issue. Find the complete list of Big Ideas essays here.
As book publishers adapt to a world where both print and digital editions are desirable to readers, it is important for us to focus on formatting the content in a way that best suits how it is being read. But what readers, authors, publishers, and retailers often forget is that the best formatting for digital doesn’t have to be a mirror of the print edition -- and often offers a better reading experience if it is not.
There is a lot to be learned from examining how people navigate content on the internet and the new experiences being developed for online news, magazines, and social reading on mobile devices. We have all become used to searching, finding results, seeing snippets, and then digging in to really experience content, and readers have developed new expectations for navigating nonfiction, which extends to books.
But what does that mean for book publishers? Well, it can mean changes that are subtle or more radical, but always in support of a reader’s full immersion in a great story. Examples of subtle changes include making images bigger and in color when it’s possible, bringing credit info in line with images, and removing front sales material. These types of common sense changes recognize that the digital experience is unique.
A more radical change might be ensuring that content and design adjust to fit screen sizes, from the smallest mobile phone to the largest tablet. A radical change might mean rethinking how the content is organized or should be navigated, knowing that a reader is likely to encounter more bite-sized content as they read more on mobile devices. The beauty of digital is that these alternatives are possible in ways that were never available to us in print. For example, footnotes can pop up in place in an ebook and be accessed without disrupting the reading experience.
As we work to develop new experiences for our cooking and craft books, we are experimenting with applying these lessons from online content and testing new types of ebooks. While these new editions differ from their print counterparts in that the content is arranged differently and include extra navigation, they are always the same stories. And that really is the heart of what we are working to do: Let the reader more immediately and easily get to the parts of the book they most want to read.
Related story: The Big (and Small) Ideas Changing the Book Industry