e-paper 0 – iPad App 1

For the last week I’ve been mulling over what I can do to get this electronic bookshelf work started. I’d already planned to do a quick review of the e-paper literature on the net; but in addition to that I started to think that there might be mileage in investigating the use of iBooks and similar apps for the iPad. Clearly there’s a big difference between simulating a bookshelf on an eight foot stretch of wall and representing that bookshelf on a small iPad screen. However, I started to realise that actually it was just a matter of scale and that the basic architecture would probably remain the same for whatever physical size of screen was used. That set me thinking that, although my initial aim was to simulate books on a bookshelf, displaying mementos and photos  in a virtual cabinet, board or frame are also manifestations of a broader capability – to make personal things visible and accessible. That was the point I decided to draft the following set of functional components:

  • Objects: Books, Photos, Mementos, Posters/paintings
  • Screen: Size, Colour/B&W
  • Interaction: Mode, Process
  • Display templates: Single full screen, Two half screens, Row, Four quarter screens, Other, User defined
  • Playlists: All Books, All photos, All mementos, All Posters/paintings, User defined

With my thoughts a little clearer, yesterday I spent an hour or so scanning the net for info about the current state of e-paper. I found an excellent 2011 article published in the Journal of the Society for Information Display by J. Heikenfeld et al, entitled, ‘A critical review of the present and future prospects for electronic paper’. This seemed to suggest that a lot was going on and that there was a lot of potential, but that e-paper, at that time anyway, wasn’t a mainstream product. A search of the current suppliers seemed to verify this. There don’t seem to be many suppliers and specific product info isn’t advertised – general capabilities are described with invitations to contact the company to discuss requirements. I began to realise that getting my hands on long lengths of e-paper was going to be difficult.

I then started looking at the many and varied iPad bookshelf/pinboard apps. The Apple iBooks app seems to be limited to a single representation of book covers in rows on a white background and only for PDFs. Another product, SideBooks, provides a bookshelf representation (in a variety of possible colours/designs) but, like iBooks, only displays the front covers – not the spines. It also enables hierarchies to be constructed i.e. an icon of the spines of 6 books represents a whole lower level bookshelf and so on indefinitely. Unfortunately SideBooks can only handle PDF, ZIP, CBZ, RAR and CBR Formats – so not JPG photos. However it does enable new items to be imported via Dropbox (this is simple and quick) or iTunes. I tried putting several photos into a PDF and importing it into SideBooks and this worked well – the resulting file sat on the bookshelf with the image of the first photo displayed on the cover. This will be fine for mementos.

This, then, is where I’m up to. I shall continue to look through the labyrinthine Apple Store to come up with a Bookshelf/Display Board product that can handle both PDFs AND Photos – but I’m beginning to think that I might just get on and do this experiment using SideBooks.

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