A study into electronic book design and production : hyper-book and the hyper-book builder
This work is concerned with research in the field of electronic publishing and, more particularly, of electronic books. It concentrates on an analysis of the stages of development of an electronic book from the acquisition of the source material to the actual use of electronic books, with particular attention to the interface design issues. The main objective of this research is to demonstrate the appropriateness of adopting the paper book metaphor for representing electronic books, which are specifically designed to be parts of an electronic library. In addition, these electronic books are produced semi-automatically using a flexible publishing environment. A model for an electronic book (hyper-book) and an environment which supplies tools for generating electronic books (hyper-book builder) have been defined and successively developed. Hyper-books are produced by importing electronic texts (in SGML or ASCII format) into an empty template, and by applying a number of tools in order to provide appropriate layout and reader services. Hyper-books incorporate hypertext features (e.g. history facilities and links), paper book features, and some other computer facilities (e.g. search functions). Design principles for hyper-books have been partially deduced from paper publishing and from experiments with electronic books. An application in the environmental domain (in particular, in the area of Global Change) was developed and used in order to evaluate the hyper-book system. The objectives of the evaluation were mainly to assess system usability and utility. An evaluation conducted by assigning a number of tasks to two different groups of subjects (computer experts and computer non-experts) has demonstrated that both groups achieved a good performance; therefore, computer expertise does not represent a significant aid in order to perform better or execute tasks quickly. These results lead to the conclusion that the system is easy to learn and use by everyone, therefore it is appropriate to employ the book metaphor.