Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Site Releases

We have been making various enhancements to the Exact Editions platform in the last couple of weeks. In many cases these improvements just merge into the slipstream and practically nobody notices. There was a small improvement of this type yesterday, and I am going to mention it because it needs to be noticed.

For a good while we have offered power-users a keyboard command which speeds moving between pages {Ctrl+left, Ctrl+right, for page forward or page back}. These moves speed up reading and work for the double page view and the single page view. We have also recently introduced a 'fit to width' icon. These two functions work well together now as the browser 'remembers' your fit-to-width preference and so allows readers to zip through a magazine with pages fitting themselves to the circumstances of the individual browser in use at the time. This change is symptomatic of the need to keep a reading platform as unobtrusive and 'silent' as possible. Ideally the readers of the publications on our platform should not notice that they are using Exact Editions at all. They should be fully in the book or immersed in the magazine.

Exact Editions works best when the users really don't notice the fact that they are using a web platform. So we need to let users know about the Fit-to-width Icon, without ramming it in their face... Here it is:

We have a way to go yet, but gradually we seem to be getting there.

There are two more recent changes that merit a blog mention. Publishers sometimes wish to be able to sell a collection of books for a single price, as a set or shelf (whilst perhaps also wishing to sell them singly at individual prices). This functionality has been requested by several of our partners and is now supported. The management of 'title sets' in the Exact Editions platform is quite sophisticated and tracks through into the way individual accounts are managed, renewed, promoted and paid for.

We have also frequently been asked whether we can support 'territorial restrictions'. This is not something that generally appeals to magazine publishers, but many general interest book publishers have to support this concept of 'regional markets'. They simply do not have the right to sell the digital edition to a customer resident in Asia or the Australia. We can now support this requirement. Which is not to say it is an entirely good thing to have lots of them! Geographical restrictions on the web are a bore and they complicate both the e-commerce and the support function. Our system is country-based and is driven by the address of the credit card or PayPal account, it applies to the transaction. Once someone has bought a subscription they can read it anywhere, which is of course the way it works with physical books. So publishers and agents should be happy with that.

Note: I edited this post, shortly after posting it. One of the new features we introduced yesterday seems not to work perfectly on all the important browsers. Its a 'nice to have' rather than an 'essential' usability feature. So it may come back in due course...... Version control, version control! Keeping track of it on Web Services and on Blog postings can get complicated!


moz said...

I'd love to see ebook readers supported better. I have a sony PRS-505 and would love to read more magazines on it. Obviously graphic-heavy stuff like Velovision is not going to work very well on a 600x800 black and white display, but The Philosophers Magazine would be ideal if I could just get the text (as RTF or a single text-only HTML page).

The VeloVision whole-issue pdf actually works ok on the 505, but it's slow and irritating compared to something like Asimov's Science Fiction bought from fictionwise as a proper ebook. I'm not sure how much work is involved in the conversion, but offering (say) TPM and Red Pepper in epub format would be extremely useful to me.

Adam Hodgkin said...

Well this is really a LOT of work. I would say that offering TPM or Red Pepper in EPUB format is nearly impossible (all the pictures and layouts). On the other hand it is possible to offer more support for Text only reading (see the Text we offer for visually impaired). There is the potential to do more for this, and I expect we will be able to do so. But not for overly proprietary e-reading systems.