Tuesday, July 7, 2009

New book viewer available - your feedback wanted!

BHL developers have incorporated the Internet Archive's open source book viewing application into the BHL portal, providing a new interface for using BHL's digital books. Check out last week's BHL Book of the Week, The Edible Mollusca of Great Britain and Ireland with Recipes for Cooking Them, online through the BHL portal at:

Now try out the new book viewer:
*This is also available underneath the "Download/About this book" link on each book. Click "Alternate Page Viewer (beta)".

There are some key pieces of information missing from the book viewer display that are important for BHL users, like the corresponding volumes if the book is a journal/series, lists of names, view of all page numbers & page descriptions, etc. Those have been documented and discussed at:

Look for these improvements to be incorporated into the viewer in the coming months, as the viewer code is open and available for enhancement. For now, the BHL development team would appreciate your feedback on this new viewing option via comments on this post. Let us know what you like, dislike, want larger/smaller, wish would go away and never return, find confusing, find useful...everything - all feedback is useful for improving the display.

Chris Freeland
chris (dot) freeland (at) mobot (dot) org


  1. My suggestion would be to put all the navigational icons together on the left and only have the right/left arrows - the usual items we all seek - on the right of the frame, perhaps with the page number there as well. The icon for 'embed' was the first thing I went to trying to page forward; ie. it seems more like arrows.
    [maybe I'm not clear on this: I guess I'm suggesting that the navigational tools are ambiguous and maybe too close together or illogically associated -- it's minor stuff; I worked it all out with a 1 min trial & error / mouseover]

    As you have a truncated title, can you have mouseover full title?

    In reality, I actually like this (dunno if I'll use it, but that's just a personal pref.) thing and it works well as is.

    I do however recommend changing "Download/About this book"
    "About this book/Download options"
    on the BHL page.

    I say this because the "download" puts me off even moving my mouse towards that (apparent) link, even if I know the site well. It's just a word one is cautious with and I forget that it has a whole menu.

    None of this is criticism Chris; as usual, we are lucky that you guys keep tweaking things for the greater good. Thanks.

  2. I've long hoped for a flip-book type of view as such makes finding what one is looking for easier and quicker than a waiting-to-load, page-by-page view. This is especially true because your site (unfortunately) generates a great many "no response from server" error messages which (even more unfortunately) aren't always addressed no matter how often one reports the bug.

  3. peacay - Good feedback. I'm not sure how much we'll be able to change the button arrangement you described, mostly because the Internet Archive maintains the codebase. But, will certainly pass this feedback on for their consideration. Also a good suggestion about the mouseover for truncated titles & wording on the "Download/About" link. Glad you keep finding the site useful!

    Anonymous - those "no response from server" issues were related to the image viewer we use and we believe we patched the bug with an upgrade from about 2 weeks ago.

  4. Sorry to burst your bubble, Chris, but your server upgrade didn't do all that much to patch the bug. Those "no response from server" error messages are still the rule rather than the exception when attempting to work from your site.

  5. Anon - We can continue to point out the problems with our current interface, but that's not the point of this post. We want to gather feedback on the new interface which hopefully meets users' needs so that we can transition away from the one-page-at-a-time display. Would you like to comment on the functionality of the interface at:

  6. Already commented on it in my first anon post where I pointed out that a flip-type book is easier and quicker than what you have now and is often the only way one can access your materials.

  7. Thanks, Anon. Your messages have made us tweak a few things about the viewer behavior and to look deeper into networking issues related to display of the page images. I'll post another comment here (since I don't have contact info for you) if we find a solution to the load times. Something is clearly not configured correctly with our firewall or outbound network as the experience viewing BHL inside our network is quite fast, while the experience outside is, as you've reported, quite slow. We'll keep digging!