Jan 23, 2009

Re-formatting Content. But Not Like You Think...

Back in 2002, I was looking at a project to take some public-domain material and create something that was useful, trying to update some ancient texts in a new and interesting way. I managed to gather together some historical works, essentially covering the period from the end of the Roman Occupation to the Saxon invasions. These included Nennius, Gildas and Caradoc of Llancarfan. I also threw in an outline of Clovis' ancient Salic Law, as kind of a bonus. Whoooweee!

Titled The Annals of Ancient Britain, I put them together in a landscape format, with a height/width ratio that would open a full-page PDF onto the user's computer screen. There was a cover, front material, a user's guide and a very simple navigation system, alowing users to go back to the table of contents, move ahead/back one page, or ahead/back to the next section. (I know you can use the keyboard arrows to navigate, but that only allowed page-at-a-time navigation, and I wanted to avoid the Acrobat Reader interface altogether for a clean graphic look.)

The result was a richly-illustrated, easy to look at, easy to use, and was a very inexpensive download. Designed from the start to be read on-screen, I had envisioned it perhaps as a helpful resource for history students who might be using a laptop. My goal was to bring some color and interest into what most people might find to be a dreary subject--especially considering the authors' writing style, and the image of dusty old books that ancient texts often invoke. I think the basic idea still functions well today, though it could use some updating.

I was considering this question when a friend recommended trimming the right-hand navigation off the page layout (which would render the format just about square) and setting it up to print in
Blurb's 7" x 7" book format, in color. At about 114 pages, it would be about $20, which is far from an optimum price point for something like this. But I might do it anyway, just to see how it works. I have to laugh, though--heading from e-book back to print...am I going totally against the grain? Seems funny.

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