Publishing a Book as an App
36 Views, a leading publisher of art, nature, and travel books, approached Lumina Datamatics to develop an App that would enable iPad and Android users to explore a reference book that covers every known species of reef fish from the East Indian region: Reef Fishes of the East Indies. This monumental three-volume set covering more than 128 families (2,655 species) of fishes is an essential reference for biologists, naturalists, and scuba divers. It represents the culmination of the prolific careers of two dedicated marine biologists, Dr. Gerald R. Allen and Dr. Mark V. Erdmann, who have spent a combined total of over 60 years exploring and describing living treasures in the heart of the richest marine habitat.
Storage of content, which consisted of nearly 3,000 images, proved to be a challenge since the intended users were expected to use this App during their deep-sea expeditions; in other words, the App needed to function in environments without Internet connectivity.
In addition to compatibility with Android, the App was to be compatible with both iPad 1 and iPad 2. Now, while iPad 2 supports Retina view images, iPad 1 doesn’t. This duality resulted in our having to store two sets of images in the App, one for iPad 1 and the other for iPad 2.
Solution and Approach
Considering these parameters, our team implemented the following solution:
- An authored work flow where content from the back end was made available in the native application
- XML, due to its flexibility, was used to structure the content in the back end
- Live InDesign files with images linked to them were the input for development. Since the initial composition, the InDesign file had evolved through time with the addition and modification of content. Due to this, styles weren’t consistent, nor was the flow of text sequential
- Structuring the content semantically with multiple-platform delivery in mind is the key to the success of this product. The structure was defined in XML DOM with linking attributes to images of various types (sections of similar species and more photos)
- Using proprietary scripts, the content from the InDesign file was exported, converted to XML, cleaned up, and validated. The XML was then converted to JSON format, so that it may be fed into any of the handheld devices
- With all the images included, however, the app’s size exceeded the permissible size at Apple Store, so we split the app into three volumes, identical to the printed material. But this approach opened up a new challenge regarding the user’s ability to search various species across different volumes. Because the images were Retina view compatible, memory overload resulted, which increased loading time while browsing. To overcome this problem, we identified the following solution: only 10 images (previous, next species, and family/subfamily photos) are loaded into the temporary memory of the app at any point in time, and in the background, the memory is continuously being cleared, so that the speed remains consistent
- Since Android does not have such size limitation or differentiation of Retina versus non-Retina view images, a single app was made
- There were frequent updates to content during the development stage, especially in the sequencing of images and during addition of new content. These changes resulted in an enormous rework, especially for Android. To overcome this, we created a tool for adding and reordering images and validating the unique identifier and its references to images
- Additional features to improve user experience were made—for example, a notes- and-draw feature; sharing on Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail