This project was a brief set by Oxford University Press, to create a compelling and imaginative eBook, based on the non fiction title 'Invasive Species'. This book would exist within the Reading Buddy Platform, a service which helps children develop their comprehension skills. As part of the brief, we had to research the challenges and opportunities of the digital publishing industry, in relation to design for reading and interaction design. It became apparent that the publishing industry has evolved rapidly, providing uncertainty for the future and lifespan of an eBook. Facts and statistics surrounding demand including: 'eBook sales dropped 17% in 2017' (Sweney, 2017) and 'Big publishers are losing eBook sales however, eBook sales are on the rise overall' (Collins, 2018), also add to this uncertainty.
However, opportunities of eBooks, including providing a reading experience that suits multiple types of learning, such as kinaesthetic, visual and auditory, are a huge advantage compared to print. Gamification experiences such as quizzes also improve memory and retention, which have the potential to be expanded on due to the utilisation of quizzes in the original title.
My vision for this project was to strike a balance between an engaging and dynamic design, yet with clutter free aesthetic to ensure that all elements actively support reading, rather distracting from it. It is easy with digital interfaces to make each page cluttered with multimedia features, however, as Invasive Species is likely to be used alongside the curriculum, it is important for the text to be digested without distractions.
Reading strategies were also considered to ensure that core reading was undisrupted. This means that all the body text must be clearly visible on each spread, with enough space around it. All text appears in the top left of the page, meaning this will likely be read before engaging with other interactive elements.
Interactions were also utilised throughout the book to persuade readers to re-read information and test their retention, as well as engaging in all aspects of the book.
Guidelines by Walker (2012) and Serafini and Clausen (2012) were referenced to ensure all graphic language features were suitable for the target audience. Playful, hand-drawn illustrations were used throughout the book, for collectable stickers found inside the book, icons, arrows and other interactive features.
A style of brown outlines, rounded corners and consistent shading was developed for the asset style. Brown outlines aid accessibility, as they make the asset stand out and allow placement over different coloured backgrounds. This, alongside having a set colour scheme, helped every page seem coherent, and these elements could be applied across other titles in the Reading Buddy platform.
One of the largest opportunities of the digital format is the use of interactive elements to aid retention, learning and engagement. For this title, I designed the following 4 features which should actively support reading. These are: searching, collectability (sticker book), animation and micro-quizzes.
Searching is an example of gamification, where users interact with the book in order to complete a goal. This potential connotation with apps and video games will promote a more positive user experience. In the book, the magnifying glass is used to help the users search for something specific. For example, on the Invaders Ahoy! page, users are tasked to find the two ‘Spotted’ creatures, by dragging the magnifying glass over its location. This task helps with general geographical knowledge, as they need to know where the ‘Black sea’ is for example, and also provides a sense of achievement when the creature is located.
The sticker book is a concept which has been around for decades, but its integration into digital platforms has been popular in recent years. Modern Nintendo games, such as Super Mario Party on the Nintendo Switch, include collectable stickers which are designed for a similar demographic. This familiar concept, and the link to gaming may provoke a positive connotation to the reader.
Readers would be able to collect stickers while reading the book. This may increase engagement across all the pages in the book, including pages they may not usually read such as 'About the Author' page in order to find all of stickers. Stickers would be linked to the content where they can be found, testing users' retention when trying to find the missing stickers based on the outline provided in the sticker book. For example, the crab sticker can only be found when the user locates the crab on the Invaders Ahoy page.
Animation is used sparingly within the book, as it could easily be distracting and take attention away from the body text if overused. However, multi-media learning aids readers, as connections are made between the pictorial and verbal representations (Clark and Meyer, 2016). ‘Good plants gone bad’ uses this principle, using multimodality to portray the page’s content. When the user clicks on the arrow to move across each postcard, the leaves start to grow onto the page; by the last page they are overlapping over the postcard. This animation helps with visual learning, as it gives a sense of plants being ‘invasive’, as they invade the active reading area. As this is avoided throughout the rest of the book, to allow for text to be digested, this animation should sufficiently stand out and aid the learning on this page.
Quizzes were used across the original printed book, however, these have been expanded, alongside the addition of micro-quizzes, to test the user on information they have already read, as well as allowing them to guess before learning new information. Quizzes are examples of practice interactions, which are proven to improve learning (Clark and Mayer, 2016). The act of physically inputting information aids memory retrieval accuracy more than simply reading a fact. Quizzes also provide explanatory feedback, which aid the learning experience.
Interactions in action
The Reading Buddy Platform
The Reading Buddy platform was redesigned to optimise the layout for non-fiction titles. The contents page, as well as other pages needing constant referral such as the Glossary, were moved into the interface to allow for easier access. Also, as the content can be digested in any order, page numbers were removed to remove the linearity of the title. One of biggest concepts is the ability to customise the interface, by changing the colour of the background to make the learning experience seem more personalised.
Invasive Species could be further developed with more time and advanced prototyping tools. I have considered features with a wider scope which could increase the engagement with the book, as well as with the reading buddy system.
Expanding the quiz features within the book, adding a leaderboard which would allow classmates to compete for high scores. Competitive learning encourages further practice, which would increase engagement across the book, as well as memory retrieval accuracy.
Educational books could come in two versions optimised for the context of learning, either in the classroom or at home. Slight alterations include the use of audio and video for home use which would be distracting in the classroom.
Unlockable features such as colour palettes for the interface, and different reading buddies, could be added when the user completes quizzes, games and finds stickers. Being able to personalise the interface is likely to result in the child becoming more engaged in the learning experience.
Other pages within the book