Mike Shatzkin’s latest post looks at how designers and developers of illustrated ebooks for adults might want to take a somewhat modest approach to the format, eschewing multimedia bells and whistles for a classic fixed layout that lets the reader zoom in to view details:

We have 500 years of experience figuring out what makes an illustrated book that the person holding it will find appealing and useful. Designers learned how to use spreads (placing content across two facing pages), which don’t exist on digital screens (unless they are artificially created there.) They learned how to use sidebars to hive off some content from the narrative flow. They understand how to approach things differently if they’re designing primarily for function, like a cookbook or a crafts book, than if they’re designing for beautiful pictorial presentation (your classic “coffee table book”).

When we get to the digital version, we have the opportunity, or perhaps we should say the temptation, to add much more, not just change the layout. […]

But, in fact, just the “fixed page layout” […] could add enormous value to the user […] Whether you’re talking about a collection of beautiful pictures of Paris or of puppies, being able to blow up a picture to be able see a close-up of a part of it could be an enhancement that costs nothing to deliver.

It’s a conservative approach to illustrated ebooks, but Shatzkin openly admits as much; he calls it “an admittedly short-term view” that takes into account the reading expectations of the current generation of illustrated book consumers.

He also notes that the development costs for enhanced ebooks can be prohibitive, and many illustrated manuscripts—photography and art books, for example—might be easier to bring to market digitally if publishers don’t try to produce The Elements each time.

Read the full post at idealog.com

(Photo: Richard Masoner)


  1. As Mike attests, he’s taking in the conservative views of current print readers. And yes, that’s short-sighted: There’s no point in making a tablet emulate paper; it’s so much more than paper. Designers should be concentrating on the “bells and whistles” that will attract new audiences to reading, not cater to the old (and shrinking) audiences.

  2. I think I’d like to see them master plain text first, before we start worrying about digital editions 🙂 I continue to see unconscionable textual glitches in many of the commercial ebooks I read.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.