disclaimer: with "book" I'm mainly referring to texts that gravitate around a technical / scientific topic, like math books or programming books, not really romance or narrative.

Considering the tradeoff and the target of such product, I should use icons in a book that falls in the previously described "family of books"?

For example:

enter image description here

The keypoints that I found are:

  • tradeoff between distracting the user from the content and inform the user about the semantic of the content

  • sometimes a gray background is enough to recognize some piece code but it's a convention not really popular or viable in book world, plus most of the time you have more than just a duo paragraph + code.

  • if you use icons you are likely to get an impact on the layout of the page, and sometimes it's not even possible to paginate your content at all (epub, e-books in general)

  • if you distribute your content on multiple channels, and for example, on 1 you use a pdf and on the other one you use epub, you are not shipping the same feature (you can give a specific layout to a pdf, you can't format the look of an `epub), therefore you are not consistent with your own philosophy / approach.

In general the real question is: it's easier to interface yourself with a book that uses icons or with a book that simply tries to lay the content in an intuitive and reasonable way?


In your example the icons are used as a sort of flag in the margin to draw attention to the alinea and to give it a classification (tips / obstacles). I can see the use for this in educational textbooks. It breaks up the text and makes it easier to scan the page.

For example, if your studying for a test and you've already read the needed chapters and you're just memorizing it, it could be of use if you could focus on the (in your example) tips for weight loss and obstacles for weight loss. All text in between can be considered in dept text that explains those tips and obstacles. The idea is you'll remember this text when you see the bullet points. When scanning the pages, your eyes will be attracted to these flags which makes it easier to find those bullet points you're looking for.

So adding icons could make your content more intuitive and scanning it can be done more efficient.

If it's all true I just said, I don't know. I've googled the matter just briefly, but couldn't find any relative information. This is just what I think is a logical deduction.

  • so you are saying that they make sense as an "entry point for entry level explanations" but what about the generic audience ? What about the generic idea behind the use of icons in this kind of media ? – user2485710 Mar 7 '14 at 19:32
  • 1
    @user2485710 I don't think the use of icons should be limited to the web. People apparently read the shape of words instead of words letter for letter. Icons symbolize words with a single simple shape. That's the main reason icons are used on the web. Why shouldn't that work in books. But it's should be limited to certain books. No romans, like you said. It should fit with the concept of the book. – Paul van den Dool Mar 10 '14 at 9:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.