Books are so ingrained in our mental model, that’s it very hard to think outside the concept of the page. The problem with the eBook is that it itself is a legacy idea; you take the pages of a book, digitise and put it on a screen. In the past decade we’ve advanced the usability and design opportunities of the eBook, but it’s still the same legacy product at heart.

That’s fine for novels where reflowable text and indicators to showing progression through the content, but for reference books like textbooks and manuals, that’s a little trickier.

  • How do you reference a page without pages?
  • How do you keep the instructional design of the layout?
  • How do you get a “feel” for the size of the book to move freely around in the content?

All these questions go back to that artificial content component, the page. A page does not mean anything, but it contains the information that does.

Books produced for both Inkling and iBooks, although proprietary, have shown what’s possible when you go beyond the standard EPUB. By breaking those bounds and identifying the individual blocks of content (image, paragraph, questions) we can build a better eBook, with intelligently reflowable content but still have a well formatted document with a rich design.

What if users let go of their “pages” to see what they can create. Remember “legacy” eBooks aren’t just being pushed into schools, look around and you’ll see plenty of examples of “second-class” EPUBs being created to appease customers who don’t use iBooks.