The Content’s Platform.
Across our research, we have encountered more than a few individual initiatives for creating digital reading experiences for books’ content. Alongside personal projects, commercial companies are setting up content apps for business use. Publishers, mainly due to budget limitations, create partial digital apps, leaning mostly on scanned PDFs or e-pubs. Their digital content is being sold mainly through other platforms. As we described in chapter 1.3, there have been a few tryouts from magazine publishers to create their own apps, but this did not grow to normality. What we would like to do in the next phase is to set up a collection of digital reading materials, all hosted in one app.

In this article, we will review the basic technological requirements for this digital reading platform. A detailed design of the interface should be one of the first steps to start setting up the platform, and the technology provider should be chosen accordingly. Further down the road, the platform’s technology must be able to evolve within the changing needs and customs for an extended period.

Presenting Multiple Contents.
The first condition for the platform is to be able to host a large number of content-containers and present them in a mannerly order. The containers files would be organised by categories for different sorts of displays. The detailed categories for displaying and the algorithms behind them will be determined during the platform’s set-up phase.

Other platforms of digital content are increasingly using machine-learning technology and personalized suggestions to present their content. It is but reasonable to examine how it can work for reading content as well.

We must also concern the files types. Being welcoming to many creations of content, the platform should supply clear guidelines to its files’ technical requirements. The reader can experience different reading designs but should have a smooth reading experience with each one under the same roof.

We would investigate these options together with potential technological providers in our next phase of the research.

Navigation Possibilities.
The e-pubs and websites have created a few functions that digital users got accustomed to. From the examples we have seen in our pre-research, private initiatives create their own navigation methods, and larger scale organizations create a unified system for all the different documents. We tend to the latter because we believe it will allow the design of the content itself to be free of extra functions on the one hand, and help the reader getting used to a systematic, repeating navigation system on the other.

Features such as search, content menu, browsing pages, start-where-last-stopped, text enlargement, bookmarking and notes – should be examined and defined in full in the platform’s set-up phase.

Cloud-Based Library and Testing App.
For the past 15 years, Adobe’s layout design software Indesign has been the most popular text-design software in the world. Therefore it is no surprise that Adobe was the first to release in April 2011 a significant technological solution for creating digital reads: the Digital Publishing Suite.

The dramatic change DPS brought was a first complete workflow for creating and publishing an original interactive reading experience. Not a readable PDF and not a website, but a complete content app. The solution included:

  1. Extra interactive features in the design-for-print software
  2. A testing app.
  3. Non-programming exporting-to-app files solutions for
    the content creators (usually designers).
  4. An air-based content bundler platform for the publishers
    to use for distributing and monitoring publications for mobile devices.

Since introducing DPS eight years ago, Adobe has changed their work tools and bundles quite often, and at this point of time, their pricing method and workflow remain unavailable to independent designers and small-to-medium publishers. But two components of the DPS idea remain very relevant for the platform’s success: a test app and the bundling function.

Whatever tools or code languages will be used to create the new reading containers, we find it very important that the platform should provide it’s content makers a unified testing app to check how the content will perform on various devices. This will be crucial for both the content makers and the platform’s curators to create a fluent reading product.

A cloud-based library allows a dynamic and flexible content update, providing usability data and DRM protection. These are three features of high importance to writers and publishers, with benefits for the readers as well.

In the next phase, these requirements should be discussed in further details.

Streaming, Downloading.
In the existing process of buying digital books, you would purchase an item and download it to its designated app. In this case, you can slowly create your own library of chosen items. This is a classic book collecting method. With the new digital reading platform, we wish to offer the readers a more elastic experience. The emphasis is on enabling people to read more – more content, more efficiently, more suited, more involved. Not slowly building up, but reading a lot, and on demand.

For that, we looked at other media, such as music and video. One game-changer feature of the new music and video apps is the adaptive streaming function. Freeing the devices from unnecessary space-holders, the new streaming allows watching videos adapted to devices and internet speed. Using this method for reading content will allow combining enriched graphics, video and audio files while maintaining a fluent reading experience.

Downloading is used for offline use, for example, in flights or wifi-free vacations. The download is being done to the app, not the device, and can be kept for as decided. Whether all content can be downloaded or not will be up to agreements with the content owners (writers/ publishers), but we would recommend this option to be one of the platform’s possibilities.

A significant role in creating a market is word-of-mouth, digitally acknowledged with the arrow-sharing-icon. We find that it is of high importance that every content-file will have a sharing option from the platform and to the platform. For this, each content will need a link, to be shared through the common sharing apps: message, mail and Whatsapp and to social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.

A detailed discussion about sharing options should be held during the following research. We would like to hear more about it from more publishers and readers so we could present more clear requirements from the technology supplier.

Subscription Services.
We intend to build the platform in a way it can provide for itself. For that, payments will have to be charged. It is, therefore, necessary for the platform to be able to manage transactions for purchases and subscriptions.

Tech Providers.
During our pre-research and from our own experience, we found few companies in this market which have been active for about 10 years. They have broad experience with publishers as well as with commercial companies. At least two of them answer the requirements as mentioned above and should be considered as the technology providers of the new platform.

In our conversations with them, they all describe a feeling of being ahead of their time. They are very interested in being part of setting the new platform.

Of course, there is always the option for self-development. At this point, we see it as a time and money consumer. It is always a possibility for later down the pipeline, but not before testing the existing options.

Creating a Shared Platform.
A crucial part of this research and it’s following phases and what separates it from other projects is the attempt to create not an individual success but a shared platform for multiple reading contents.

Defining the technological requirements should follow the vision of the complete experience. In the next phase, we would classify those requirements with publishers and readers.

To be efficient with time and money, we would like to examine existing technological solutions before developing new ones.

next article: Multi-Channel Publishing