Suzanne Chapman, at, has the interesting tag Pageturners. This term has been used to describe eBook systems that allow the user to have the feel of actually turning the pages of a print book, by clicking an icon or by using the mouse to mimic the motion of turning a paper page.

Like Chapman, I’ve thought of “Pageturners” as a sub-category of eBooks, and have searched in Google for the concept/term. It turns out this is a difficult search term because it gets confused with use of the word to describe “a book so good you can’t put it down.” So use of the word to describe an eBook is, in a way, a cute play on words, but Google doesn’t do well with double-meanings!

Aside from the difficulty of searching, though, the concept is a valid one, and it’s useful to have Chapman’s links on it, especially in this posting and in her Delicious links.

Actually, I think I can see in Chapman’s lists that the meaning of the term has evolved in her mind, and I suspect also in the shared mind of the Net. In what seem to be her earlier links, the sites she links really were “pageturner” eBook systems, which tried to simulate the feel of turning pages in a print book. But other, seemingly later, links seem to broaden the concept to include eBook viewing systems that get away from the idea of simulating print books.

Likewise, on the Net generally, at first it seemed like the goal in designing eBooks was to make them feel as much as possible like print books. But as we get used to the idea of eBooks, it becomes clear, I think, that the best way to design eBooks is not the best way to design print books. Print books have advantages, and eBooks have different advantages. The real challenge of designing eBooks is how to convey their nature and content in the small amount of screen space of a computer window.

In thinking about the presentation of an eBook that features pictures, Google Books, I think, has established the principle that the intro screen for the eBook should communicate clearly that the eBook has pictures …

… Which is not to say that the Google Books About this book – Intro screen is perfect. But for now it has set the standard.

PS to Suzanne Chapman: Thanks for confirming my idea that “Pageturners” is a good tag — I’m adding it too. Though I think it’s an “old design” idea for eBooks, I suspect it will continue to be around for a while more.

Finding a heavily illustrated book that’s in both Google Books (GBS) and Internet Archive (IA) gives a good comparison of the strengths and weaknesses in the way illustrated books are presented in these systems.

Shown below are the “intro” pages for the book in the 2 systems. The clear advantage of the GBS intro page is that the sample thumbnails in the lower right make it immediately obvious that the book has COLOR pictures of good quality.

In Internet Archive the main job of intro screen (below) is to direct the user to options to view the book, in the box in the upper left, and there’s no indication that the book contains pictures.

Even after pulling up the DjVu option to view the book — which is a tricky matter, see how to do it here — there’s no intro screen at all in DjVu, just an imposing blank page waiting for the user to change display options or begin paging through the book sequentially.

DjVuIt’s when the user chooses display options and begins viewing the book that the advantages of DjVu become evident. The most important option, especially if pictures are an important part of the book, as they are in the Mracek Atlas book shown here, is to turn on the thumbnail display bar (at left) by clicking the icon in the lower right corner of the DjVu display window. It then becomes easy to scroll through the thumbnails and get a good view of the nature of the pictures in the book, and how they relate to the text. In the Mracek Atlas, it happens that the first third of the book is all text, and the last two-thirds is mostly pictures, so the user can scroll to the pictures easily.

Use of thumbnails is a good way to provide access to pictures in a book. But as simple and obvious as it is, thumbnail access is lacking in most e-book systems, so both GBS and DjVu are to be applauded for providing it, in their different ways. Here’s a comparison of the two systems …

In GBS, the About this book page gives immediate thumbnail access to a maximum of 30 pictures. Additional pictures have no thumbnail access, and can only be found by scrolling through pages or text searching.

DjVu has the disadvantage of having no Intro page that gives an overview of pictures in the book. But when the user knows how to set the display options, it provides good thumbnail access to an unlimited number of pictures. In a book like he Mracek Atlas, with over 100 pictures, this is a definite advantage.

Postscript: It wasn’t easy to find a book that’s in both GBS and IA, so I was especially pleased to find the Mracek Atlas discussed here that has pictures in Hardin MD! The full citation for the book is: Atlas of diseases of the skin, by Franz Mracek, 1899 [GBS | IA]

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.

The Digital Library Collections at Yale Medical Library are notable for several reasons, especially the apparent emphasis that’s being given to the effort by the library’s administration — The digital collections section of their website is featured prominently on all of the Collections pages on their site, as shown below.


Yale is unusual for other reasons — They are one of the few medical/health sciences libraries that have included biomedical/scientific pictures in their digitization efforts, in addition to the historical/archival subjects more commonly done by libraries using content management systems. Also, Yale is unusual in using Greenstone software for digital content management, rather than the more commonly used ContentDM.

The main grouping of digital resources at Yale are described on the Digital Library Collections page. This includes 7 collections, which are mainly historical, but also includes the Pathology Teaching Collection (see sample below), which continues to be used as a teaching resource at Yale. The resources in this section, done with Greenstone, have metadata descriptions, and are searchable.

Pathology Teaching Collection
Fuchs Herbal

Other resources are available on the Electronic Texts in the History of Medicine page. This includes 13 historical works, some of which are notable for their illustrations — See example above from Fuchs’ pioneering 16th century herbal, Primi de stirpivm. Also notable are colored illustrations from the herbal of Christian Egenolff. The Electronic Text sources appear to be image scans only (apparently not done with Greenstone), with no metadata, or other associated text, so they unfortunately are not searchable.

About Greenstone — Yale is one of the few US groups using this digital library system, which originated in New Zealand, and is used widely in other countries. Here’s a list of Greenstone sites.

New York Public Library is a rich source of digital resources, both text and images. This is especially interesting because they have done an excellent job in making connections from the library catalog (CATNYP) to digitized resources.

Because NYPL is an active participant in Google Books, their recent text digitization efforts seem to have gone into this. They’ve done a good job of making links from CATNYP to the books from their collection that have been digitized for Google Books.

A searchable list of all NYPL’s Google Books in CATNYP (32000 titles) is here ….

To search a subset of this, add a keyword, either in the address bar directly …
… or add a keyword in the search box.

It’s helpful to have this easy access to NYPL books that are in Google Books through CATNYP, but it’s surprising that the CATNYP record gives no information indicating the print version from which the Google Books version has been digitized. Here’s an example of a book title found in CATNYP, with separate entries for the Google Books and print versions, with neither record linking to the other.

While NYPL’s book digitization efforts seem to be concentrated in Google Books, they continue to do their own image digitization work. As with Google Books, they do a nice job of making links in CATNYP, from the catalog records of books from which they’ve digitized images to the images in the Digital Gallery. The screen-shots below show an example :


This shows links between the CATNYP record for the book American medical botany to the images from the book in the NYPL Digital Gallery.

I see on pages in the Digital Gallery that they’re working on a “new look” for Gallery pages. Here’s the new look for Gallery pages for American medical botany. It’s an improvement in many ways, more streamlined, but doesn’t seem to have a link back to the record for the book in CATNYP.

From the Digital Gallery IT Architecture and Delivery : “Runs on an open, extensible architecture … managed through an Oracle database … ColdFusion software provides the application programming interface that integrates metadata and images for web delivery…”