XLibris active reading machine
View a page at time
As shown in this screen shot from XLibris, readers view a page at a time, and almost the entire display is dedicated to the page. This screenshot was taken with the Mutoh 12P, a 768×1024 100-dpi color pen tablet display.
Reviewing paper documents is facilitated by the marks made during reading: marks not only record information but are also used to organize it for later review. There are three common venues for marking: annotating on the page, taking notes in a notebook, and writing on loose-leaf paper. Annotations on the page highlight key information but tend to be lost in piles of paper. Notebooks are compact and can be reviewed quickly, but taking notes can be tedious and error-prone. Unbound notes can be reorganized flexibly, but require even more effort by the note taker.
XLibris’ Reader’s Notebook combines the best features of annotating directly on the page, of taking notes in a separate notebook, and of organizing index cards. As with paper documents, readers mark on the page in the context of the document, yet without the laborious and imprecise step of copying. As with a bound notebook, readers can review concise annotations by time. Finally, as with note cards, flexible filtering and sorting of the view allow readers to reorganize their information as needs change.
Annotations as queries
XLibris helps readers find further information by generating queries from their annotations. XLibris generates these queries in two ways:
- further reading lists present material related to a reader’s overall interests
- margin links suggest digressions related to particular passages
Further reading lists
When readers reach the end of a document, they often want to know more. The document may not emphasize the topic they are most interested in, or it may spark an interest in a new topic without providing enough depth or detail. Many documents include references, but these may be out of date, and may reflect the author’s interests rather than the readers. XLibris augments this traditional practice by automatically generating further reading lists for each document. Unlike static references, these lists reflect the interests of a specific reader at a specific point in time. The reader’s interests are inferred from annotations, and no additional intervention from the reader is required.In the further reading list view, each related document is presented as a clipping of the most relevant sentence with key phrases underlined.
Margin links provide serendipitous access to related documents during the active reading process. As readers mark up passages, the system finds related documents and presents links unobtrusively in the margin; our intent is to provide a modeless link suggestion mechanism. Because margin links persist, readers can follow links at their leisure. We use thumbnail images of the target page as anchors. The reader taps on an anchor to move to that page.
Skimming is one way readers gain a quick impression of a text. When skimming, the reader’s eyes typically search for and alight on key words or sentences and take in short passages before moving on. Sometimes the reader becomes engaged and shifts into deep reading, or is distracted and moves into quicker skimming or into riffling.
XLibris’ “skimming mode” highlights phrases and sentences that are characteristic of the document being skimmed. We call out key phrases because they can be read at a glance and tend to reflect the topic of the nearby text. This assists with the activity of scanning the text for relevant portions to read. The Wall Street Journal and People Magazine use a similar technique of boldfacing company names and Hollywood celebrities’ name to help readers find information. We also highlight summary sentences to support a speed-reading–like activity.
Skimming mode uses shades from gray to black to indicate term importance. Meaningful terms are identified by heuristics that select noun phrases. The shade for each term is then based on a statistical information retrieval measure: terms that occur frequently in the document but occur rarely in other documents are colored black, while terms common to many documents are colored light gray. For example, the term “digital library information appliance” would be colored black when it appears in this document. Skimming mode chooses summary sentences to emphasize with a commercial text summarizer.