Thriving in a Transitional Phase

App startingWe all aim to find the formula for the “next generation textbook”, and as tool makers we sometimes find a bit too few of the opportunities of the platform being used. But then again, what is wrong with a super efficient production process and clear and valuable enrichments based on the layout of a printed book?

Recently the small Norwegian publisher Tell Forlag has impressed us with how streamlined they made the process to release their latest book-as-app. It is called “Ortopediteknikk” and is teaching orthopedics for high school level students.

A clear design goal for the title was that the digital edition could be used alongside the printed edition, with the same page references and ideally the same layout. To achive this, Tell used the following process:

  • Import a PDF with 99% of the design identical to the printed book (layers in InDesign helped make the 1% smooth)
  • Enrich it with interactive elements like quizzes, image pop-outs and custom-made videos, at least a couple per chapter
  • Use the tool’s capabilities of automatic full text indexing and dynamic table of contents, as well as zoom and simple bookmarking out of the box
  • The below screenshot shows the dynamic table of contents where the user can answer quizzes and watch videos directly, and also do a free text search and jump to the relevant page

TOC screenshot

To achieve the perfect looking layout, we have licensed a specialized third party conversion tool and are running this on the server side. So the user can import the PDF directly by clicking the wizard button in Then, with no human interaction, the HTML5 backgrounds are in the tool and can be enriched with interactive elements. Compared to an image-based process, the difference is very clear when zooming in and seeing the perfect vector shapes of the text. And even in casual use, the great readability on high resolution screens is striking. Below is a screenshot of a page from the book that contains a quiz that was added in the enrichment process.

Screenshot page Ortopediteknikk

We have talked to teachers that prefer this book-like visual layout more than reflowable pages. In out experience, it also depends on the content what fits most. So is this a “next generation textbook”? Maybe not, but it is clearly a textbook that provides great value and enrichments to the next generation – and is popular and recognizable for teachers.

If you want to discuss in more detail or have a title (or an entire library!) that could come to life through such an enrichment process, please do contact us.