The upcoming Books in Browsers conference will focus on books as “networked, distributed sets of interactions,” as opposed to content containers. I’ve asked several of the event’s participants to address the larger concepts surrounding books in browsers. We’ll be publishing these interviews over the coming weeks.
What kinds of formatting and display issues do browsers need to overcome to handle the various forms of book content — 3D, game-like narratives, immersive texts and the like?
Liza Daly: There is, of course, an art to formatting fixed text beautifully. We call this process “laying out” a design, which brings to mind the pre-digital method of physically laying down type or visual elements in collage to produce a unified final page. The challenge for ebook designers and developers is to think less about “layout” and more about “choreography.”
Text can be fluid and responsive — it can reshuffle itself due to display size, orientation, or user interaction. Our job is not to dictate where words on a virtual page must be, but instead to guide them to where they should be. It is not enough to overload a digital page with clickable doo-dads, overlays, and animation: all the elements must move together in concert and, above all, not impair the basic reading experience or enjoyment of the work. This implies a close relationship between an author, a visual artist and a developer — all three must work together to create compelling, adaptive, interactive texts.
This interview was edited and condensed.