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Old 02-03-2009, 04:48 AM   #1
Jellby
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Rotating images (portrait/landscape)

Hi all,

I was wondering what would be the "best" way to deal with portrait and lanscape orientations in images, particularly in large "fullscreen" images. Some thoughts I've had:

- For desktop readers, it is better to have all images in their natural orientation, since rotating the screen is not always possible. Or, at least, the desktop reader should have an option to rotate the image and/or text.

- For portable readers, it is probably better to have the images in the same orientation (typically portrait), that way the screen space is not wasted and the user can easily rotate the device to see the image in its right orientation.

- It is possible to store a jpg image orientation in the EXIF metadata, so that even if the file is stored in portrait orientation, there is enough information for any program to rotate and flip the image if needed.

- It is not possible (as far as I know) to rotate an image with XHTML/CSS, but I think it is wit SVG.

So, what solution would you propose? Ideally, every reader, desktop or portable, would have a single button to rotate the screen to any orientation, but I'm afraid that's wishful thinking
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Old 02-03-2009, 05:07 AM   #2
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Very often printed books will have a combination of "landscape" and "portrait" orientation illustrations. Eg, the original illustrations for Dickens' books were printed using whatever orientation fitted each individual illustration best. There's no reason that the same couldn't be done for eBooks. It doesn't work so well if you're reading on a monitor, of course, but I'd guess that the overwhelming majority of people read eBook fiction (perhaps not reference books, though) on portable devices.
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Old 02-03-2009, 05:28 AM   #3
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Another thought: how much of current devices having "portrait" screens is an artifact of designers trying to make them seem "book like"? There's an ergonomic factor involved in the width of the text, but a physical book which didn't reflect this in its physical proportions would be wasteful or awkward in a way which reading device need not be. My vote would be to go for convenience now with images rotated to optimize for a portrait display, but perhaps with metadata to allow the potential for correct display on future non-portrait devices? Rotating with SVG seems the worst of the options though -- only achieves the desired effect on a small number of viewers ATM and provides no ability to use the metadata to make an intelligent rendering decision.
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Old 02-03-2009, 05:45 AM   #4
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I think the reason that books do use portrait orientation is that it reduces side-to-side eye movement to have a fairly narrow page, which makes reading more comfortable and less tiring.
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Old 02-03-2009, 06:06 AM   #5
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I think the reason that books do use portrait orientation is that it reduces side-to-side eye movement to have a fairly narrow page, which makes reading more comfortable and less tiring.
Right, but my point there is that e-book devices don't need to have a comparatively narrow display in order to show narrow lines of text, at least not in the way physical books would waste so much paper if they didn't.
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Old 02-03-2009, 06:12 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by llasram View Post
Right, but my point there is that e-book devices don't need to have a comparatively narrow display in order to show narrow lines of text, at least not in the way physical books would waste so much paper if they didn't.
I can hear all the complaints that the text does not use the whole screen already. I agree with you point but think it will be possible to get people to accept a forced line length.
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Old 02-03-2009, 06:25 AM   #7
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Rotating with SVG seems the worst of the options though -- only achieves the desired effect on a small number of viewers ATM and provides no ability to use the metadata to make an intelligent rendering decision.
Since this is the ePub forum, I was thinking in ePub books, and I understand SVG is a required feature of ePub readers. But I agree the decision whether to rotate a given picture or not should probably be made by the reader (software) based on the picture's metadata and the device screen, and not be something imposed by the book.
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Old 02-03-2009, 06:29 AM   #8
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Right, but my point there is that e-book devices don't need to have a comparatively narrow display in order to show narrow lines of text, at least not in the way physical books would waste so much paper if they didn't.
I'm afraid I'm rather unclear about why you don't like portrait orientation for eBook devices. It seems the "natural" way to do it, given that this orientation has been proven by centuries of experience in printed books to be what works best.

Of course, there's no "technical" reason why an eBook reader couldn't have a display which could be rotated between portrait and landscale orientation (as, for example, the iPod Touch does automatically), but I'm sure that for the majority of reading material (there are exceptions, of course) portrait orientation works best.
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Old 02-03-2009, 07:29 AM   #9
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I'm afraid I'm rather unclear about why you don't like portrait orientation for eBook devices. It seems the "natural" way to do it, given that this orientation has been proven by centuries of experience in printed books to be what works best.
This must be an American English vs. British English thing.

The ergonomics of reading mandate fairly short lines, I certainly agree. Our centuries of experience have shown that the best way of delivering those short lines on paper is to have the layout of the paper track the layout of the text -- thus pages which are shorter horizontally than they are vertically.

For e-book reading devices all I'm saying is that other layouts are possible and haven't been tried yet. One could have a device with a landscape display which shows two columns/"pages" of pure text, but allows large images to fill the entire display. One could have a flexible-screen device which could unroll to a portrait display for text, then unroll further to a landscape display as per the latter two colums/pages etc. Such displays would allow one to easily view two documents side-by-side, for comparing changes, for bilingual text, for text and commentary/annotations, and so on.

Ultimately all I'm saying in that e-book devices introduce other options, and we won't know for certain what's optimal until our civilization has as much experience with the digital text as it does with the printed page.

-Marshall
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Old 02-03-2009, 07:31 AM   #10
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Thanks, Marshall. I now see what you're saying, and I agree with you completely.
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Old 02-03-2009, 07:35 AM   #11
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Since this is the ePub forum, I was thinking in ePub books, and I understand SVG is a required feature of ePub readers.
If only it were so easy :-/. That was my attitude, but at this point the majority of EPUB renderers do not handle SVG or do not handle it well. AdobeDE handles it fairly well, but appears to render only a subset of the full spec (perhaps SVG Tiny? I haven't seen it documented and I honestly haven't tried to pin it down yet). Calibre's 'ebook-viewer' is tied to the version of WebKit in the current version of Qt, which is pretty old and doesn't handle in-line SVG. The desktop version at least of FBReader has some support for SVG, but again doesn't handle in-line SVG, and renders SVG images at their "natural" size, ignoring any CSS size properties on their rendering box. Beyond that, AFAIK no dedicated reader application has any support for SVG at all.

-Marshall
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