Where do we read?
At the beginning of Digital Publishing, most of the content was aiming for the ideal reading environment, preferably a couch or a hammock. For that vision, digital publishing was promoting direct downloads of off-line reading content to tablets or designated reading devices. Also in our interviews, some people said that they like to read on paper, detached from screen and interruptions.

We wouldn’t argue the enjoyments of paper-reading that we, personally, share as well, but there is also no denying that people read more and more on their digital devices in many different situations than before.

What are the best devices for in-depth reading, and what are the challenges in designing the digital reading content for them? In this chapter, we will review what we find is important to further investigate.

TV / Desktop / Laptop / Tablet / Smartphone.
Can you read “Sapiens” on a mobile phone? And the Lonely Planet Japan? will their content be the same on a tablet or not?

When moving to a digital platform, the options are wider than the ocean. From our pre-research it appears that desktop and laptop reading is associated mainly with work or study-related reading. We would like to start our library focused on free time in-depth reading. For that reason, we would like at this point to focus our research on mobile devices only – tablets and smartphones.

Tablets and smartphones grew very closer in size and in functions in the past few years, yet tablets’ screen size is still larger, and in most cases, they are not being used for telecom communication. Though smartphones are smaller and contain many distractions, they are also the most available device at all times. According to researches, 91% of the Dutch people are mobile phone owners.

Eventually, we believe that the designated reading devices should be determined individually, based on the content.
In our next phase of the research, we would test together with content-owners and designers which content fits which device, and which suits multiple devices.

Android / iOS.
The two leading mobile operating systems currently controlling the mobile devices market are Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. While being similar in many ways, they have extreme differences in others.

Since our primary goal is to make reading more accessible, we find it a must that the app for the new digital reading experience will be suitable for them both.

Multi-Channel Publishing.
From interviews we held with technological companies specializing in digital publishing rises the issue that one of the biggest challenges of any content publishing nowadays is the innumerable forms of digital devices.

In our research, we are examining 3 challenges derived from this:

  1. The need for multiple designs.
  2. The need for digitally-intended work process.
  3. The need for qualified work-force.

The best solutions at this point for handling multiple screen sizes design is using adaptive and responsive designs. Simplified, adaptive design is considering the content relevant for each device sort (tablet or smartphone), and responsive design will place the design in proportion to the different device sizes (iPhone 7 or iPhone 8 Plus, for example).

Responsive Design is a single content-design that reflows across different displays
Adaptive design uses optimum and unique templates for each device class

In the next phase, we would write more in-depth about technological means to do so and combine them in the guide for the new digital reading design.

Digitally-based, in our case, means having the digital output at the heart of content creating. In many ways, this is already happening with creating content to publishers’ and writers’ websites, social media etc. In practice, it will affect the writing, editing and designing process. For example, writing and editing are advised to use Markdown editors to get all texts and data HTML-ready. Creating and editing digitally-focused content would make the multi-channel publishing challenge much more effective: when the content itself is already in plain text HTML, streaming it to different designs for different devices would make the process faster and smoother.

“The idea of database publishing – using one document (for all outputs) –
has critically changed our workflow”
Pia Pol on the series ‘Making Public’ by Valiz Publishers

“Any good designer is strong on creativity and ideas, but modern design professionals will also need the ability to apply their ideas to the ever-evolving digital ecosystem, articulate their thinking, and communicate the commercial value of their work. With these skills, designers can take their place as a key part of multi-skilled content creating teams.”

A designer’s guide to Enterprise content, Rakuten/Aquafadas 2018

To succeed with the first 2 challenges, challenge number 3 is stepping to the front: the need for qualified editors and designers. Since the design for digital reading has not established yet and from what comes out of our interviews, such designers are not yet a norm. As we discussed in chapter 2.4, designers will need skills combinations, including understanding typography, creative thinking for the digital arena and collaboration skills. Working with Markdown might have become more known, but from our conversations comes out that there is still room to strengthen its presence by writers and editor.

In our next phase of the research, we would like to create qualifying workshops and courses for designers and writers wishing to be part of the new digital reading experience.

Digital First.
The multiple devices derive multiple formats, managed by two different operating systems. The standard content consumption today requires the best performance on every screen. For that, the content of the new digital reading experience will need to be suitable and flexible.

There is one point of no dispute in our research so far, and that is that to create a complete digital output, this must be in mind from point one of creating the content. It is also indisputable that this is a process that will take time to implement.

In our next phase, we would handle the multi-channel publishing challenge by creating several prototypes. In the creation of the prototypes, there will be a focus on:
– A completely digital process.
– Defining content to devices.
– Involving the editors and the designers throughout the whole process.

next article: From Product to Service