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Flip or Flow

 

There is a hot debate at the moment as to whether online magazines and books should follow the look and usability of print versions, with a page flip presentation format or whether we need to move on and not try to replicate old media formats in new media.

Flip Format

Many magazine publishers have adopted the flip format, supposedly because it allows them to duplicate the look and layout of the printed magazines. However, they fail to comprehend the poor user experience this offers.

In most cases, online magazines are in A4 or Letter size, and don't fit readily to today's computer screens, allowing for the typical row of menu bars at the top of your web browser.

This means that to display a whole page one cannot read the text, and the on page scrolling is necessary. Combine that with the column layout and one can expect a mass rise in repetitive strain injuries.

Not a good experience at all - and certainly not equal to the experience of a print magazine - so why bother.

Flow Format

Online text needs to flow both vertically and horizontally to allow for viewing on multiple devices, with different screen sizes. The typical ebook uses a 14-16pt font in a single column and allows the reader to use the page down button to advance the content.

The horizontal width of the central column must allow for various screen sizes, with ultra small devices using horizontal flow - a necessary sacrifice for the convenience of portable content.

The primary concern around use of single page ebook formats is digital rights management. In flip page layout, the user must load a temporary applet or have on-screen reading sofware to read the document, whereas a simple PDF ebook is accessible by all using free standard PDF readers. Unfortunately this also makes them easy to distribute without paying - a genuine concern for authors attempting to protect their already low royalties, and publishers protecting their investment in the content.

 

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