Digital Directions: The Redesign of Reading
The other option is to more or less abandon text formatting, and let the device handle display—to dynamically paginate and render the font, as is done on the Kindle. This approach provides the greatest flexibility to support varying displays, aspect ratios or even reader preferences. But at a cost: All experience design is missing from the work. All books look uniformly dull.
We Need a New Approach
Both the PDF-based and the device-based approaches to text formatting are unsatisfactory. We need an approach that gives designers the ability to fine-tune the visual experience of a book on screen with as much sophistication as they do on the page, but provide the flexibility to dynamically render the text to support a range of displays, screen orientations, and user preferences. I don't think this is too much to ask. The tools are here to make this possible: XML, cascading style sheets, HTML5, and so on. We just need to get down to business and understand how to make these technologies work together to create a successful mode of communication.
The health and well-being of publishing depends, in part, on our ability to render words on the digital page in a compelling way. And, when we solve that sticky wicket, we can, like Gutenberg, go to Frankfurt to tell the world. BB
Andrew Brenneman is founder of Finitiv (Finitiv.com), a consulting and services organization that develops and executes transformative digital strategy for publishers and other content organizations.