Why an article about a children’s book site? When I first came across the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL), it immediately struck me as being visually elegant, but could I justify putting it on an academic blog site? The more I thought about it, though, the more it seems very much on target — The theme of this blog is the digitization of pictures, including especially pictures in books. Another theme is that in mass digitization projects, the main concern seems to be text, and that pictures are often overlooked. So, yes, ICDL, with its elegant presentation of pictures and text, is right on target. … And then, of course, finding ICDL in Google as a prime example of a “digital library” seals the deal!

ICDL has many excellent features as a children’s book site e.g. its novel ways to find books, by color, theme, etc and its inclusion of books in a wealth of languages. The aspect of ICDL that I’ll highlight briefly here though, that can serve as a model for any site with illustrated books, is its polished delivery of text and pictures, featured especially in the Book Overview screen, shown below.

Book Overview: Calling the doves = El canto de las palomas

The Mouse-over Preview, that shows an enlarged version of a the thumbnail as the user holds the mouse pointer over it, makes this screen especially effective. To see the nice touches at work here, try changing the window size — As the window is made smaller, the thumbnails also become smaller, so that all of them remain visible. And, even better, the mouse-over preview window does NOT shrink, keeping the same size no matter how small the thumbnails become.

Though ICDL lacks some features of a full-fledged enterprise book-viewing system (text is not available as text), its innovative presentation of book pages serves to show how far existing systems have to go in presenting books with pictures — There’s just no substitute for displaying small versions of the book’s pages that show the pictures and how they relate to the text, and ICDL is a model of how to do this.

ICDL has its roots at the University of Maryland; it’s now run by the ICDL Foundation. It’s written in Java. For more technical details, see paper by ICDL authors.

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