Thursday, July 23, 2009

Part Of The eBook Vision

I think it was @bshermcincy who made me aware of this video. It was in his own backlog and he finally got around to seeing it, then tweeted it. Since the Copyright date is 2007, he must have a backlog like mine.

The video is from Editis, which is described in this Google-translated French as:
Activity and strategy

2,600 employees, nearly 44 brands Edition occupies leading positions in three editorials universe: Literature (large format paperback), Education (school, extracurricular activities, college, college, university, legal and medical) , Reference (dictionaries and encyclopedias) and in the field of publishing services (promotion and distribution). Prestigious homes, services are performing cutting Editis the second french publishing group and a major player in publishing in Europe. The ambition of Editis is to strengthen its positions on the french market, continue to grow and expand its influence in the francophone world.

In other words, this is a major print publisher.

And yet, though mired in print, they had the vision to commission the follow video. (Has any American or British print publisher done this? No!)

Watch this, then see the screensnap commentary afterwards. You'll want to read the commentary. There are things not apparent simply by watching the video.

If that was too chunky for your liking, go directly to this Editis page and select from two non-chunky versions.

And now the screensnaps and commentary.

First, I'm hobbled here. I don't understand spoken French, so my comments are based on trying to derive meaning from the context. Expect some errors.

A woman returns home from work. Her man is busy typing. (I can't say husband -- there are no wedding rings.)

Notice his touchscreen monitor!

He can scroll the screen.

And it's somehow set to zoom the current page too.

The woman pulls a leather-bound thin book out of her shoulder bag.

It's an eBook device with dual color touchscreens!

In the video, you can see the page-turning animation, which is captured here a bit in the skewed text on the left side of the first snap. A bit of a UI inconsistency with what's presented later, as I'll point out.

The guy scrolls through his document using his fingertips. If you haven't caught on by now, they are making a larger point about handling information.

The woman continues to read.

What's interesting at first glance is that the notion of a "page" is preserved.

And when she pinches out to enlarge the text, you can see someone gave this some real thought. This isn't just a Gee Whiz video. The margins go away. See? The margins were there all along not simply for aesthetic value, but to provide space for type enlargement while still preserving the page!

The guy scrolls through his document ...

... types a title page ...

... and when he touches the first page, all the other pages go away, seemingly to indicate it is now a document (an excellent UI touch!) ...

... which he drags to the upper right corner of the screen. What is not evident here but becomes clear later, is that there's a Mail icon up there and he is sending this manuscript file to ... someone. To his publisher, Editis?

He visits a ... bookstore?

He buys eBook editions by running his black-leather eBook device ...

... over the bar code (RFID?) on a paper book's back cover.

An in-progress list of his purchases ...

... with the last purchase added.

This screensnap is for @HarlanCoben -- his work really gets around!

I'm going to repeat these two screensnaps because you might have missed it in the video:

... highlighted in red, that's a ginormous flatscreen pimping books. (Something Moriah Jovan left out of her bookless bookstore scheme.)

The tab for the eBook purchases and the merchant's touchscreen system. Notice the prices! They seem to be the same as ones for print books.

This is a nice UI touch ...

... the covers ...

... "fill up" as they are transfered to the customer's eBook hardware.

His eBook hardware is interesting because it folds down like a steno pad. More thought put into this, showing a variety of form factors.

Now dig this ...

... when she opens the book, she gets a CoverFlow-like auto-animation of the book covers. This happened the first time she used the book earlier, but it was too brief a shot to be seen clearly. Notice this is the first time we see pages scrolling across the dual screens like that. Also notice the book she chooses: it's the one her guy just bought in the bookstore!

Now look carefully here:

... two points. First, the pages scroll from one screen to the next. This is unlike the opening behavior we saw with an all-text book at the beginning, with conventional page-turn animation. Second, not shown in the snaps, she is able to drag an item off the screen to save later. (Why she does that instead of simply bookmarking isn't clear.)

Aside from him reading poetry, it's unclear if that is from his manuscript or an eBook he is reading.

Apparently the eBook hardware envisioned here has GPS but cannot take pictures. During their walk, the guy is receiving audio from the hardware via a wireless (Bluetooth?) earpiece. What's not clear is whether it's the eBook he just bought that's leading him around. Has the content been geotagged? (Something I will have to add to the smart eBook metadata!)

They visit a museum ...

... and purchase an eBook and guided tour.

With the graphic filling up as the data is transfered to the eBook hardware.

Look at the size of that paper book! He buys it ...

... in eBook form ...

... with a swipe.

Later he's apparently sent the cover to the book he wrote ...

... and it's animated! This has been an on-and-off debate I've had with others. Do we really want animated covers? Currently, such animation would suck battery life. They'd also suck up CPU cycles. And what if somehow the cover managed to crash, preventing access to the eBook? What if an animated cover from a sample eBook contained malware? Also, would it be possible to dismiss the cover before it has completed its little jig? And where exactly would these dancing covers stop? Would we also have covers with video, with the writer pimping the book? It'd also be possible to have a cover that's several times the filesize of the text alone! This is not a debate that will end anytime soon, I think.

Look carefully at these next two sequences. The first:

She's doing a vertical scroll! Does she actually have two eBooks open? That's a real possibility, because look at this second sequence:

She simply drags items from the left page to drop onto the right page. I'm guessing what she's doing is creating an on-the-spot scrapbook of places they intend to visit. But what if it's a scrapbook of places they've already visited? That brings up the questions of Why? and What for? Would she refer to it if they visited again, to see any changes? Is the scrapbook something she could share with others, to recommend those places to see? That seems like a lot of work for sharing. Importable bookmarks would be lighter-weight and easier.

Another interesting sequence:

I'm guessing he's received an eGalley from his publisher and is making last minute changes. I cringe at the idea of using a stylus on that screen, but let's pretend these future screens are truly scratch-resistant or scratch-healing.

And then he scrolls vertically...

This change in UI makes sense here, in that it would distinguish the file from an eBook.

And then he drags it to the corner of the screen ...

... which, since no icon is shown, perhaps we can assume is a default behavior for emailing something?

I like this shot:

That's an In Your Face to all the people who've said, "But I'd never take eBook hardware to the beach like a cheap paperback book!"

Some more thinking that went into this video:

He's using his steno pad hardware in single-screen mode. The text crawls to the next page. Look closely at the upper right corner. He's listening to music while reading and a crawl of the music's title is appearing in the banner there.

Now watch this and weep, you owners of that pathetic Kindle:

She's reading a book review and clicks on a link for more information ...

This causes a block of text to slide aside ...

... revealing the book being reviewed ...

... and brings up a transaction page ...

... where she buys the eBook ...

... and it's right there.

Here again we see the un-booklike behavior of the pages crawling across the screens.

Notice again the margins around the text, for pinch-out text enlargement that preserves the page.

Time is greatly compressed for this next sequence. At a cafe, the writer meets someone ...

... apparently his eBook has now been published ...

... the other fellow pulls out his eBook device ...

... it's steno pad-like too. And look at the icons!

The writer touches his eBook ...

... and drags it to one of the icons ...

... and this time ...

... it's a book icon. Does that initiate a transfer to a nearby eBook device set to receive?

Later on, the woman is in that neighborhood bookstore ...

... and she sees ...

... the cover of the eBook written by her guy!

In this sequence, don't look at the man, look behind him:

Yet another flatscreen advertising eBooks/books!

Final sequence. The writer is outside and his eBook device rings!

... he pulls it out ...

... and he has received ...

... an ePostcard of congratulations from the woman. The graphic has animated fireworks in it too.

There's lots to consider here. What kind of eBook framework, for example, would allow a block of text to move? I don't see that being possible with the current ePub spec. Does anyone?

I also don't believe there will be any place for a physical store that displays books. That's what a library is for. Besides, who would really want to venture outdoors to buy something that can be purchased in your own home? That's just screwy. That's a make-work method a Soviet-like regime would design!

At the beginning, where the writer is moving things around on his desktop monitor -- that highlights what a huge FAIL Windows 7 already is. hp, Asus, MSI, and others are already shipping all-in-one desktops and nettops with touchscreens. That's the future. But what is Windows 7 really designed as? A facelift of the same old stuff Microsoft has been flogging during the 20th century! With the news that 91% of computer purchases over $1,000 are going to Macintoshes, Apple is going to bury Microsoft by devising the touch-friendly desktop interface Microsoft ignored in Windows 7.

Finally, what I love about this video is the absolute frictionlessness of the eBook experience. No one has to dick around with stupid hardware buttons. No one is looking at a dumb vertical list of all-text titles. The idiotic file format wars have been solved and people can just go ahead and buy and read!

The only thing missing is the justification for print-like prices for eBooks. Ah, but this was made in 2007, not this week.

Well done, Editis!


ap said...

Well done, Mike! for decrypting all these suggestive ideas/concepts from the video flow...

Editis should really publish a "making of" in order to open a discussion about all these features. This would be useful for all designers from hardware manufacturers, software publishers, authors, editors...

Snowbag said...

About the physical store: first, I suspect that it is a way for the publisher not to alienate (independent) booksellers, still a fairly influential part of the Francophone/European book market. It is a way for them to say to their vendors, "see, you can be part of this, too." Oh, everybody is visiting or whatever instead? Gee, we didn't see that coming.

Second, books are sold (and maybe stolen) in a slightly different manner than music or video. While the video shows the gentleman choosing his books by the cover, most folk like to look though a book, examine the index, see the pictures included, etc. It is hard to buy some books without ever seeing the physical text.

Amazon's browse feature is okay, but sometimes not enough. A Google book preview/partial scan is good, too, but uncommon for new books. So a retail space where you can see the book might be nice. I do this all the time: see books at Barnes & Noble or even the library that I can get later via the used market or Amazon. I frequently need to take a look before I buy. Of course, I don't like to pay retail, and I doubt if anyone will really want an e-book at the same price as a published work, despite what Editis proposes.

For music, we have the radio, myspace, and speedy theft that doesn't really require extended previewing before purchase or theft. And I suspect that a lot more stolen music is either sitting unplayed on a 500GB drive or just trashed than people acknowledge. Reviews, clips, and trailers motivate the purchase and theft of film and video. The experience with the text is a little different. Reviews help with some books for some folk. But real browsing is a big deal, still, I suspect--not that we can't be weaned from it.

As I'm writing this, I wonder if my assertions would seem particularly archaic if I substituted "LP" or "CD" for book. "People love to browse record stores"--blah, blah, an argument that has already been proven wrong. Part of the difference is that you couldn't usually hear the music you were browsing. That's one of iTunes' strengths. You can always peek between the covers of a book. What's an e-delivery system really going to bring to the table? And can it survive if it isn't significantly based on theft?

The texts shown in the demo video seems particularly advanced, not plain old txt or password-protected pdf. Clearly DRM is implied throughout. It is interesting how the video didn't present locked versions that provide previews and purchase options, particularly as this would be an issue for epubs more along the lines of magazines or journals.

Oh, did you note the apple postmark on the iCard/ecard?

Xelle said...

We just posted the english subtitled version of this video on YouTube :
We are very interested in all your comments on this vision !

Steve said...

I agree with Apsed, I would love to read more about the making of this video. Like many, I've been watching the news from Plastic Logic and Apple with interest, but everything I thought could be done with an e-book now seems banal!

Editis obviously employed an extremely imaginative writer and director, while the quality of the screen simulations, perhaps CGI work, also impresses greatly.

Previously, I'd always imagined an e-book as a tablet, but this video shows the slim folding format ( in both orientations) offers many advantages.

Mike Cane said...

Did you see the English-language version?

English-Subtitled Editis Smart Digital Book Video