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Most eBook reading apps break any content down to pages to mimick the text breakdown of physical books.

I haven't been able to find a deeper discussion about that approach, so I tried and listed pro and con arguments for breaking down textual content to pages in opposition to alllow for continuous vertical scrolling:

Pros of breaking content down to pages

  1. Familiarity of users to the pattern of pages in physicial books
  2. Ease of navigation (you can forward/rewind on content by simply tapping on the screen, instead of having to reposition precisely the visible portion of screen, which is the case in vertical scrolling. In other words, with vertical scrolling, every time the user has finished reading the content visible on the viewport, he has to touch/scroll manually readjusting what's on the page (which in time consuming and requires cognitive load to reassess if what's on the viewport is satisfactory)

  3. The user gets a sense of how much he has progressed and where he did stop reading (page numbers) in a clearer way than with vertical scrolling (even when artifacts like a progress bar is used)

Cons of breaking content down to pages

  1. If the content is not fully textual (there's images, graphs, tablets, etc.), there's a high editorial cost to break the content down to pages properly
  2. The user has no ability to view specific parts of the content together if they're in pages that aren't shown together in the viewport (e.g. If the user sees pages 94-95 and 96-97 together, the user doesn't have the ability to look simultaneously at pages 95-96 and has to go back and forth on the navigation.

That given, which pattern is the best one? Have I missed any pros/cons of the page breaking down approach?

  • One of the best blog I found, whitneyhess.com/blog/2009/06/30/… – user102008 Jul 19 '17 at 13:30
  • Too much content at the same time can be hard to digest. Example: language learning. Small chunks of the target language works best in this case. – Fernando Jul 19 '17 at 18:59
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Content should adapt to the medium. Naturally, content created for a physical book will not work for tablets and phones due to the reasons you outlined.

With continuous scrolling, you can still section out the content in pages and show progress as you scroll. You can offer page and scroll views.

However, you still cannot solve the problem of "I am reading description about Image A but Image A is 2 pages down". The Image is still off-screen and requires the user to scroll up and down.

Maybe you could first identify the text/image content blocks, create blocks that show them side by side, insert them as off-canvases and allow users to drag left/right. However, this requires editorial work.

Or... you could link the image in the text open it when tapped or long-pressed.

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