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What is the future of the electronic book? No body can answer this correctly but we can have a pretty good go at predicting it. The idea of an electronic book has been around since the late 60’s but with technological advancements in the early 2000’s this has finally been made possible. As technology is forever changing typographic design has a huge part to play. The electronic book is now challenging the sales of the printed book, as it is the prefect way to hold 100’s of books in the grasp of one device. But the big question is will the electronic book kill the printed book. At the minute the ebook isn’t quite yet a finished article, but the technology is now there for us designers to grasp the ebook and take the user experience and design to the next level. The whole design and interface needs to be established in a way that there’s a universal system, like the way the printed book was created in which its simple notion of ‘you just turn the page’. Should the whole way we read books be re-thought? Should grids and layouts for ebooks be different to those printed? What is the purpose of the electronic cover? This all needs to be considered before the ebook can reach its full potential. Typography on the electronic screen is getting more and more high resolution. Type will become even sharper which gives designers the look that they would normally get on a printed page. Which brings electronic typography closer to the beauty and quality of the printed book. Users also have the opportunity to change type to their preferred size and typeface. With all this in mind and many questions to be answered, Typographic will take you through the proposed future solutions and technological advancements as to why the electronic book will kill the printed book. Cameron Turnbull, editor


01_ Past future predictions of the electroinc book Pg. 1

02_ Typography within the electronic book Pg. 5

03_ Grids and layout within an electronic book Pg. 13

04_ Whats next for the cover Pg. 14

05_ Electroinc libaries Pg. 20

06_ The next break through in publishing Pg. 26

07_ Will graphene change the electronic paper Pg. 30




ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

Past future predictions The tablet computer and the associated special operating software is an example of pen computing technology, and thus the development of tablets has deep historical roots. The depth of these roots can be surprising to people who are only familiar with current commercial products. For example, the first patent for an electronic tablet used for handwriting was granted in 1888. The first patent for a system that recognized handwritten characters by analyzing the handwriting motion was granted in 1915. The first publicly demonstrated system using a tablet and handwriting recognition instead of a keyboard for working with a modern digital computer dates to 1956. In addition to many academic and research systems, there were several companies with commercial products in the 1980s: Pencept, Communications Intelligence Corporation, and Linus were among the best known of a crowded field. Later, GO Corp. brought out the PenPoint OS operating system for a tablet computer product: a patent from GO corporation was the subject of an infringement lawsuit concerning the Tablet PC operating system. Tablet computers appeared as futuristic props in science fiction in the second half of the 20th century, with the depiction of Arthur C. Clarke’s NewsPad, appearing in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the description of Calculator Pad in the 1951 novel Foundation, by Isaac Asimov, the Opton in the 1961 novel “Return from the Stars”, by Stanislaw Lem, The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy in Douglas Adams “150, 000, 000 words in a 1978 comedy of the same name, and the numerous devices depicted in square inch. 1.5 million Gene Roddenberry’s 1966 Star Trek series, all helping to promote and the concept to a wider audience. Many people have been volumes in one foot cube.” disseminate trying to predict the future in the past and in some case have got it right Reginald A. Fessenden 1864 with people having inspiration form the past Reginald A. Fessenden in the 1800’s predicted that “150, 000, 000 words in a square inch. 1.5 million volumes in one foot cube.” Reginald A. Fessenden talking about books in a time that there was no notion of an electronic device. In 1972 the ‘Dynabook’ was designed by Alan Kay in response the army having tank repair manuals that were so big that they couldn’t get them into the filed in an easy way. So he designed a solution to this by coming up with the ‘Dynabook’ the first electronic book. But it was only a cardboard prototype because they didn’t have the technology back then to produce what he was thinking. In 2007 and when the e-reader came out the tablet looked very similar to the ‘dynabook’ created in 1972. When the kindle came out it almost felt like a time shifted design, something that came from the past. The period in the 70’s where designers was coming up with new technology and none quite knew where the electronic book would go the technology wasn’t there. As you can see with the kindle we are almost literally right back in the time that it was created. So we are now in a period where we can decided how these ebooks are going to manifest in our lives. Were still trying to define a language now with ebooks and the digital media.


ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

In 2008, Alan Kay presents the original 1960s Dynabook prototype, which was made of carboard.


ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

_ THE_FUTURE OF_THE_ ELECTRONIC BOOK_ _ We do more reading on the screen today than we did even a year ago. If we are ever to have a golden age of reading on the screen, this might be the start of it. Tablets, Nooks and Kindles make buying a book or magazine for the screen almost unavoidable. With smartphones, we carry our reading material with us and enjoy instant Web access, enabling the reading experience to flow smoothly from one device to another. And those devices probably have stunning HD reader-friendly screens. Throw in companion services like Readmill and 24symbols, which allow us to share our reading experiences, and we have perfect screen-based access to all aspects of the written word. Good Typography Cannot Be Handcrafted Anymore in the past, typography was viewed as living only when it reached paper. Once a publication was edited, typeset and printed, it was done. Nothing changed after that. Good typography and readability were the result of skilled typesetters and designers. Today, typography exists not only on paper but on a multitude of screens. It is subject to many unknown and fluctuating parameters, such as operating system, system fonts, the device and screen itself, the viewport and more. Our experience of typography today changes based on how the page is rendered, because typesetting happens in the browser.


ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

What is a book anymore, anyway? We will always debate: the quality of the paper, the pixel density of the display; the cloth used on covers, the interface for highlighting; location by page, location by paragraph. Hunting surface analogs between the printed and the digital book is a dangerous honeypot. There is a compulsion to believe the magic of a book lies in its surface. In reality, the book worth considering consists only of relationships. Relationships between ideas and recipients, between writer and reader. The electronic book is no longer an immutable brick. It’s ethereal and networked, emerging publicly in fits and starts. An artefact is complete for only the briefest of moments, shifting deliberately, layered with our shared marginalia and demanding engagement with the promise of community implicit in its form. The book of the past reveals its individual experience uniquely. The book of the future reveals our collective experience uniquely. For those of us looking to shape the future of books and publishing, where do we begin? Simply, these are our truths: The way books are written has changed. The canvas for books has changed. The post-published life of a book has changed. To think about the future of the book is to understand the links between these changes. To think about the future of the book is to think about the future of content. So intertwined are our words and images and platforms, that to consider individual parts of the publishing process in isolation is to miss transformative connections.These connections shaping books and publishing live in emergent systems behind the words. Between the writing and the publishing, publishing and consuming, consuming and sharing. We have an opportunity now to shape these systems. And in doing so, to refine the relationships between authors, publishers, readers and texts. What tools will we embed within digital artifacts to signal this shifting relationship with literature? To surface our shared experience? To bridge the raw pre- and post- artifact spaces that so define the future of publishing? If you look at the size of the type most people choose for their Kindle, iPad, or any other device used for reading e-books, you’ll see that it tends to resemble that in books for people with vision problems. Logical enough, because when you’re reading an e-book you do indeed have vision problems, compounded by poorly set type.




ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

_ IMPROVING_THE FUTURE_OF_ SCREEN_TYPOGRAPHY _ Enlarging the text addresses the first problem of screen type: legibility. When set in sizes considered normal for print on paper — 10- and 11-point — it can be a struggle just to decipher screen type. But making type larger by itself enlarging it to, say, 12or 14-point, does little to improve readability, because the low resolution and display techniques of computer and e-book reader screens prevent the fine character definition and spacing we’ve become accustomed to in print over the years. The question of readability is not just an academic or aesthetic issue: Studies show that people read printed text 25 percent faster than on-screen text. What can we as typesetters do about this? Very little, as it turns out. The most immediate problem is that screen type is not sharply rendered. On a computer monitor, including the flat screens used by tablet computers, this is true in part because screen images are created using glowing pixels. The type you read, for example, isn’t made up of black pixels; it’s made up of the spaces left over after the colored pixels around each character outline have been illuminated to imitate white. Things that glow have an aura, so some image fuzziness is inevitable. You can control this somewhat by turning down the brightness of your monitor. But more important is that operating systems intentionally make type fuzzy using a technique called anti-aliasing, or more popularly, font smoothing. (This is a misnomer; the type gets smoothed, but the fonts, being software, are unaffected.) This technology attempts to compensate for the low resolution of computer monitors, which rarely exceeds about 100 pixels per inch (ppi); monitors may have gotten larger, but their resolution as measured in pixels per inch hasn’t increased much. Font smoothing uses partially illuminated pixels to fill in what would otherwise be jagged edges of characters, where individual pixels would be clearly visible. On screen, smoothed type looks much better than unsmoothed type, and it makes type legible in smaller sizes. It also allows you in many cases to differentiate one typeface from another, although in common text sizes, one seriffed typeface tends to look pretty much like another.


ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

Rasterization In digital type, characters are designed as abstract drawings. When a text is displayed on screen, this very precise, ideal shape needs to be expressed with a more or less coarse grid of pixels. As screens turned from mere preview devices for printing output into the actual medium we read in, more and more sophisticated rendering methods were developed in order to make type on the screen easy and pleasant to read. Future Developments More and more type designers are becoming aware of the technical issues that arise when fonts are used on the Web, particularly TrueType hinting. As the Web font business grows, they are willing to put some effort into screen-optimizing their fonts. In the near future, we will hopefully see a number of well-crafted new releases (or at least updates to existing fonts). With increasing display resolutions but more importantly, improving rasterizers, we will slowly have to worry less about the technical aspects of font rendering. GDIbased browsers will certainly be the boat anchors in this respect, so we won’t be able to use TrueType fonts that aren’t carefully hinted for yet another few years. Once this portion of Web users has become small enough, the process of TrueType hinting (which is time-consuming and requires considerable technical skills), becomes less crucial. While most Web fonts currently on the market are TrueType-flavoured, I am expecting that the industry will largely switch to PostScript, which is the native format nearly all type designers work in (the fonts that are easier to produce). The Sans Office

TheSans Office Regular and Regular Italic

TheSans Office Bold and Bold Italic

TheSans Office has the conventional (TrueType) four-font structure: Regular, Italic, Bold, Bold Italic. TheSans Office is manually hinted, which results in excellent on-screen quality. TrueType hinting takes full advantage of Microsoft’s ClearType technology. ClearType uses subpixel rendering to improve the appearance of text on screen. The image above shows the difference between a PostScript version of TheSans (left), and TheSans Office with TrueType hinting (right).


ISTD Typographic issue Seventy



Responsive typography Responsive typography can change to optimize for a variety of devices, from smartphones to tablets and everything in between. In a nutshell, responsive design is the idea that your layout automatically adapts to the screen definition, not just screen size but also pixel density, thus better facilitating the user experience. Our website is a great example of responsive design in action!

Alias Un-smoothed

Anti-alias Smoothed

Ideal shape 300 ppi


The Advantage of ‘Electronic Paper’ Dedicated e-book readers, however, typically use a display technology generically called “electronic paper.” Their displays are created using pigmented particles rather than glowing pixels, and the type they display is noticeably crisper, with better contrast than that on glowing computer screens. But they still use type smoothing in grayscale rather than color to render their type, so the type is still essentially fuzzy. Type smoothing drives the eyes nuts, because your eyes are constantly trying to draw into sharp focus what are intrinsically blurry images. Studies show that in the course of an 8-hour day spent looking at screen type, the eyes change their focus some 40,000 times trying to pull screen images into focus. Eye strain, Computer Vision Syndrome, to give it its proper name is the inevitable result. It’s never good practice to give your readers a syndrome.Things won’t improve until screen resolutions increase dramatically, enough to eliminate the need for type smoothing. At 300 ppi, a screen could display one-bit (black-and-white) characters that begin to look like printouts from a 300-dpi laser printer (a look once touted as “near-typeset quality”). Laser printers, though, benefited from a form of type smoothing themselves, as the pixels printed on plain paper were never perfectly crisp. when devices with reader-friendly display technologies make e-reading the functional equivalent of reading printed pages. Very high-resolution display devices already exist, although costs keep their sizes so small that they don’t provide a very pleasant or book-like experience (much less a magazine- or newspaper-like one). We can quibble about the aesthetic merits of print on paper, but that’s not the point here.The problem today is that after 500 years of evolution, the “printed” word has taken a step backward in quality. According to “The New York Times,” electronic publishers are commissioning shorter books because their readers find it too tiring to take on longer works. Ever since I started writing for online magazines I’ve been obliged to write shorter pieces than in the past because editors tell me that online readers simply won’t finish longer articles. With today’s technologies, reading is simply more of a chore than it’s been in the past. Access to reading material is amazingly easy a revolution, in fact. But reading is more than just taking in information, and the aesthetics of text presentation involves more than just making type pretty. It means making type functional as well.




ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

_ REVISED_LAYOUT OF_THE_ ELECTRONIC BOOK_ _ Books are all about boundaries edges but when we come to the electronic book it has none of this. A boundless space hypertext is now what’s defining digital books as we move forward. We need to start to think more about the user experience. With the electronic book there’s not a system to the way we read them the covers are being skipped over. The design of a book comes from historical functional precedence. So when we take these notions and thoughtlessly dump them into the electronic book and digital context it hasn’t been thought-out out properly. What are the digital precisions that we should start to evoke? When Gutenberg established the platform of moveable type in printing he was establishing a universal system around all books would work. ‘Design depends largely on constraints’ the physical book is all constraints we all know how to use it its been around for “design depends hundreds of years. The idea of a book is to just keep swiping. Physical largely on constraints” book design and usability are defined on a base level by the objects physicality. This definition creates extremely predictable usability and charles eames interaction expectations. Beautiful content emerges from predictable containers, predictable interfaces and predictable usability. “The axis cemetery of the spine is always there; one can simply work over it, but not deny it. In this respect book typography is essentially different from the typography of single sheets, as in business print and so on” but when you get an ipad it begs the question where’s the spine? The spine could be on the topside or the other side. You end up with an infinite canvas of space, without defining these the information becomes infinite. Without choosing a spine we default to dual axis navigation with doesn’t work it gives you this sense of borderless space. So when reading the text built off this dual axis navigation you cant build up a system towards it. Simple axis navigation vastly simplifies digital reading. With the ebook there needs to be a universal way that the ebook can be taken and read. Digital books and digital magazines are also completely different and have no compatible interfaces.


ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

Mag+ project Magazines have articles you can curl up with and lose yourself in, and luscious photography that draws the eye. And they’re so easy and enjoyable to read. Can we marry what’s best about magazines with the always connected, portable tablet e-readers sure to arrive in 2010? The articles run in scrolls, not pages, and are placed side-toside in kind of mountain range (as we call it internally). The concept aims to capture the essence of magazine reading, which people have been enjoying for decades: an engaging and unique reading experience in which high-quality writing and stunning imagery build up immersive stories. The concept uses the power of digital media to create a rich and meaningful experience, while maintaining the relaxed and curated features of printed magazines. It has been designed for a world in which interactivity, abundant information and unlimited options could be perceived as intrusive and overwhelming. The purpose of publishing this concept video is first and foremost to spark a discussion around the digital reading experience in general, and digital reading platforms in particular. Thus, we would be more than happy to hear what you have to say regarding the concept and ideas expressed in the video: the magazine reading experience, digital browsing, text versus images, as well as hear about your own digital reading experiences and thoughts. We are all ears.


ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

4. Universal system With the format of the electronic tablet there is no spine in which the layout and spine can be designed and developed around. We need to work towards a universal system where the user can pick up their tablet and know exactly what to do with it, without needing to read a manual before. This system needs to be as simple the printed book that we have been familiar with for centuries.

WHERE’S_T 1. Fixed Layout Format When it comes to books that rely heavily on design elements or large illustrations/ photos (cookbooks, children’s books, comics, etc.), fixed layout may be the better solution if you want to preserve the qualities of the printed page. To put it plainly, the pages of a fixed layout eBook are… fixed! Content (images, text, etc.) will not “flow” across the page if you change your settings, though most devices will allow the reader to zoom in and out. Fixed layout is like the digital version of typesetting; you can embed fonts, choose the exact placement of visual elements, etc. The benefit of fixed layout is that you’re in complete control of the experience. The drawback is that readers are NOT! With fixed layout, readers lose the ability to resize text, change margins, change spacing, and change fonts. Certain kinds of pagination increase the complexity of an application by orders of magnitude. The engineering efforts required to produce beautiful, simple, indigenous, consistent and fast pagination are simply too high to belong in the subcompact space.


ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

3. 2.




_ WHATS_NEXT FOR_THE ELECTRONIC COVER_ _ Are digital covers as we know them ‘dead,’ why do we hold them so gingerly? Treat them like print covers? We can’t hurt them. They’re dead. So let’s start hacking. Pull them apart, cut them into bits and see what we come up with. But it’s dead because the way we touch digital books is different than the way we touch physical books. And once you acknowledge that, useful corollaries emerge. And so we don’t want the cover to disappear. And yet the cover as we have known it is disappearing, rather quickly (nearly eradicated on hardware Kindles). This doesn’t mean it won’t be replaced. Whatever it’s replaced with, however, will not serve the same purpose as the covers with which we’ve grown up. This shift presents a wonderful chance for designers to break from thinking of a cover as an individual asset, and certainly a chance to break from a tight coupling with the marketing department. In a sense, it’s a chance to play again. To hack. And I can’t help but feel that elements of the design of our future digital books should take to heart the craftsmanship and metered rationality embedded in so much Japanese book design. If so much of what book cover design has evolved into is largely a brick-and-mortar marketing tool, then what place does a ‘cover’ hold in digital books? Especially after you purchase it? But, more tellingly, even before you purchase it?


ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

How we can improve the digital cover It’s unsurprising, really. There are fewer bookstores. Less shelves. And therefore more competition around attention. This results in an ever escalating shouting match between covers. But with the present digital inflection, the role of the cover is changing radically; disappearing in some cases. It doesn’t need to shout anymore because it doesn’t serve the same purpose.The digital cover image may help quickly ground us, but our eyes are drawn by habit to number and quality of reviews. We’re looking for metrics other than images, real metrics not artificial marketing signifiers. Blurbs from humans. Perhaps even humans we know! And within the jumble of the interface, the cover feels all but an afterthought. Why the cover? To protect the innards. Why a half-title? It’s a hold-over from when there weren’t covers. Why cloth? Cloth is a fine material in which to wrap stuff you want to protect. There is a tremendous opportunity for book designers and software engineers to figure out what our digital book procession should be. There’s clearly something lost when you’re thrown into a text without context, but how should that context be delivered? What ‘function’ should a cover serve in the digital book space? And even: What is the cover? In iBooks and the iPad Kindle app, covers are reduced to thumbnails barely 200 pixels high. Most typography is rendered nearly illegible. And as certain books become applications, their covers become icons. There is symmetry of loss shared among all physical media as it shifts digital. The ever shrinking book cover parallels the long, slow compression of music jackets. The designers of records must have felt a similar sense of constriction with cassettes and then CDs and now Radio/iTunes thumbnails. So much lost canvas. We need to recognize that [cover] reproduction is out of our control: they will be copied, linked, and reposted, at different resolutions and sizes. We might also recognize that there are potentially many different jobs for the cover to do. So how do you combat this lack of control? You design for total flexibility.


ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

Domino Seth Godin’s Domino publishing imprint embraces and codifies the diminishing cover. The first Domino book, Poke the Box, has no words on the cover, just a line drawing of an excited man. To which Mr. Godin explains to readers confused by the lack of words: “Who needs them? When you see the book online, it’s always accompanied by lots of text. You read the text on the screen, the cover is the icon.” This is an ethos embracing book covers in the context of an sales page. Not a single cover is readable. This may seem like design skeuomorphism, but it’s not. No designer looked at those covers in Newsstand and said: “Perfect! Ship it!” It’s driven by business decisions and legacy-facing infrastructure.The farther out we zoom, the clearer this becomes. The cover image may help quickly ground us, but our eyes are drawn by habit to number and quality of reviews. We’re looking for metrics other than images, not artificial marketing signifiers. Blurbs from humans. Perhaps even humans we know! And within the jumble of the interface, the cover feels all but an afterthought. Old into new So why do so many digital magazines publish on the same schedule, with the same number of articles as their print counterparts? Using the same covers? Of course, they do because it’s easier to maintain identical schedules across mediums. Unfortunately from a medium-specific user experience point of view, it’s almost impossible to produce a digitally indigenous magazine beholden to those legacy constraints. Why? Not least because we use tablets and smartphones very differently than we use printed publications. And so with this great digital flood of the cover, comes a chance to reconsider how we think about covers. To break from nostalgia. Or, even better: to lay the foundation for a new nostalgia. Consider the readers. The readers who have slogged through poorly considered digital editions. Readers who may have never known a well considered cover. Who have yet to experience digital or physical of rational size, crafted with comfort and intimacy in mind. Something with ample white space, a mark of ink, the perfect splash of data.


ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

Domino Seth Godin’s Domino publishing imprint embraces and codifies the diminishing In Between During our present, fleeting, pre/post period of publishing, many books will still flow through traditional retail distribution channels. As such, certain covers will need to serve both digital and physical contexts. Cardon Webb’s work for a series of Oliver Sacks books is stunning in print. But more importantly, shrunk down to icons, it forms a compelling whole.This is the kind of design solution that plays nice in digital space (even better than on your bookshelf, after all, where do you have space to place six books faceout?) and could invite collection in your iPad library, if the had such functionality.


Title: Oliver Sacks paperback repackage Designer: Cardon Webb Publisher: Vintage/Anchor

ISTD Typographic issue Seventy

Title: Works of Clarice Lispector Designer: Paul Sahre, Erik Carter Publisher: New Directions


Typographic 70  

The electronic issue

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