Interaction design

The tablet as book, magazine and notebook

The iPad relies heavily on the metaphors of books and bookshelves when users organize and read novels. Books are displayed on shelves, and you turn pages by dragging them as you would a physical page. Although the implementation is very smooth (and really, who would expect anything less from Apple), I am at a loss to understand why the iPad, intended to carve out a brand new category of interactive devices, should employ such anachronistic forms of interaction. Imagine having to navigate your tunes by first leafing through animated stacks of vinyl records, dragging them to a turn-table, putting down the stylus on the first track to start playback and then subsequently dragging the stylus with your finger to wide grooves in the rendered vinyl to change tracks; b-sides would require you to start over. I’m sure that it could be implemented with silky-smooth visual effects (especially by Apple), but would you want this to be the default mode of interaction? With the caveat that I have not handled the iPad myself, I am quite certain that I would quickly opt for alternative ways of browsing and consuming e-books than the one presented at the iPad launch event. Perhaps the functions are implemented primarily in order to demonstrate to the masses that the iPad is also an e-reader? Lessening the shock of the new by applying a varnish of something familar?
Anyways, I find the two concepts outlined below – Mag+ and Courier – much more interesting when it comes to taking the opportunity to rethink how one might use a tablet in lieu of a magazine and notebook, given the capabilities the platform offers. It is not hard to imagine apps designed for the iPad that ‘borrow’ traits from these concepts in the near future, of course, but it is curious that Apple’s own proposal for reading books is so grounded in the shelves-books-pages metaphor.

The Bonnier Mag+ – a well-conceived take on how and why magazine content can be presented and consumed by use of tablets. Emphasizes not only the immediate interaction with the device, but also the way in which magazines have a place in our surroundings.

The Microsoft Courier – an endless notebook. Captures salient aspects of browsing, collecting and remixing snippets of information as an ongoing process.

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