Aaron Sumner


Breaking the Page: A Book Report

How can e-book technology change what it means to read? Peter Meyer’s Breaking the Page explores that question and proposes a number of ways e-book designers can leverage the best of the new technology—and avoid some overused antipatterns—to make the e-book experience more enjoyable to the reader. This 100-page preview edition of the book is full of examples from a number of apps, including cookbooks, Bibles apps, textbooks, and even the Kindle and iBooks apps. While the general focus is on tablet-based reading, though, many of the information design patterns shared in Breaking the Page apply to large amounts of content on the web, and even traditional, desktop-based software.

Meyer’s writing style is also worth noting. Breaking the Page is not a technical book; you won’t find code snippets or file downloads to go along with the examples he shares—rather, the book reads more like a conversational brainstorming session with Meyer, and a productive one that. He’s clearly put a lot of thought into the future of reading—so much so that his ideas make the likes of Apple’s new iBooks Textbook format seem dated.

One thing I’d like to see in the book is a discussion on the benefits and drawbacks the e-book format has for people with reading disabilities. So far most of what I’ve seen on this front has amounted to little more than a rehash of the 1990s CD-ROM multimedia titles that inundated schools—it seems to me that with the advances we’ve seen in web services and APIs today’s e-book can provide a much more robust experience to all readers, without adding a lot of extra overhead to the e-book software itself.

The preview edition of Breaking the Page is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in writing, developing, publishing, or teaching with e-books. I look forward to reading the finished product when it’s available.

More information about Breaking the Page is available from O’Reilly.

Note: I wrote this review for O’Reilly’s Blogger Review Program. It’s a pretty nice deal: Get a free e-book to read, share a review in your blog, get another free book to read. Sign up for yourself to take advantage of this deal, and watch for more book reports in my blog.

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