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NuvoMedia Rocket eBook

One of the first electronic books to hit the market.

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The Scenario

NuvoMedia was cofounded by Martin Eberhard and Mark Tarpenning to create one of the world’s first electronic books.  Palo Alto Design Group (later bought by Flextronics) was hired to do the industrial design and I was hired to create the user interface.

At the time, there were no existing interface ideas to draw from for a mobile device.  The design solution had to be "transparent" and not get between the reader and the text.  How can we create a new interface that embraces the technology and the historical context of a print book?

What I Explored

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In order to facilitate the best reading experience, the screen real estate needed to be dedicated to the content.  We had room around the edges of the digital screen to put programmable buttons, but where to put them and how many?  Their image had to be fixed as it was not part of the digital screen.  (Touch screen technology had yet to be invented.)  I spent a lot of time thinking about what functions were important enough to warrant their own button and which buttons might contain a menu and what items belonged on the menu.

Icon  & Menu Design

As this was the pre-smart phone era, there were no mobile operating systems like iOS or Android from which to get standard components to build an interface.  I had to design my own icons for this device.

There were four top-level icons that would be permanently visible on the edges of the glass (but not part of the digital screen).

  • Library – a menu to access other reading material

  • Book – a menu to access book functions, such as search, bookmarks, highlighting

  • Orientation – change the text orientation from vertical to horizontal and back

  • Short Cut – a programmable button the user can set to their favorite library or book function

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