For decades I’ve been creating documents based on the 8½ x 11-inch – letter size – sheet of paper. Throughout most of that time, the document would actually wind up being distributed on printed sheets of letter size paper. Even when the final result would be in a different format – a magazine article for example – the original manuscript was still submitted printed on letter-size paper.
In the digital era, we seldom submit printed documents. Thanks to email, the word-processing file makes the trip to the editor in its digital form. Not only does that make editing and layout much easier, it saves time and money moving those words back and forth between all involved. With the growing popularity of e-readers and tablets, people are using them to carry and read the “stacks” of business information they must absorb on a daily basis. Yet, in many cases, those documents are still created for letter-sized paper – even in situations where they will never be printed.
The fixed layout of words and images on the printed page is also a dinosaur of the paper era. Tablets, e-readers and smartphones come in all shapes and sizes – most of them much smaller than “letter size”. And, today’s documents contain more than just words and images. Now there’s hyperlinks, audio and even video. The design elements that have made the Web such an enjoyable experience are being adapted to do the same for documents presented on these devices. That content automatically adjusts to fit on whatever device is used to view it and the reader has control over things like font type and size to insure the best possible viewing experience.
Although many ebook readers are trying to present something as close to the traditional book-reading experience, other developers are embracing change. Applications like Flipboard use Twitter to collect and display content published on the Web in a beautiful graphic layout. Other apps like Pulse News take news feeds to a new level. More of these types of platforms are coming online daily.
While many pundits love to tout the so-called demise of blogging, it continues to thrive and frequently serves as the basis for much of the content these new apps display. We genea-bloggers are well-placed to take advantage of them to build our own publications based on the content already published in our blogs. Your content can be re-organized and re-purposed into an ebook using platforms like PressBooks. If you aren’t already announcing each new post via Twitter, now’s the time to start. It’s an alternative to RSS distribution that is getting a lot of attention from application developers – well beyond those mentioned above. Services like TwitterFeed and Feedburner (for Blogger sites) can make it happen automatically. You’ll also find Twitter users – like my @genBUZZ account – are creating very effective news services using Twitter.
Even if you want to create a more traditional document, may I suggest that you look to building it to tablet or ereader dimensions rather than letter size. The sample above shows a PDF document displayed on the Kindle Touch ereader. PDF documents don’t “flow” to fit the ereader’s screen like ebooks so a PDF designed for the small screen not only makes it easier for those readers to enjoy your creation, it’s still a pleasant read on larger tablets and even desktop screens. My guess is a good number of your readers will thank you for it.
Don’t know how? Check out Layout Tips for Kindle and NOOK Readers for help.
Tablets and ereaders will continue to grow in popularity. Old habits die hard, but my guess is letter-size documents will soon go the way of the buggy whip. Are you ready to make the move away from letter?