I just got an update for the RSpec Book and it comes down as a new ePub file. Just before installing it on my iPad so I can read it in iBooks, I wondered: hm, it’s a new file, I wonder if iTunes will see it as a wholly different book? Well, actually: yes.
The second thought: if it’s a “new” book, will it preserve all of my old bookmarks and highlights? Yikes, the answer is: no!
So of course when I went back to the book and checked the Bookmarks list I got a nice big blank page. Ugh. I think one of the #1 rules of UX/HCI design is to never lose user-input data. I spent a lot of time creating those bookmarks and notes. That’s human effort. There may have been important things in there too. (After all the whole point of making notes is the fact that our capacity to remember things is so limited we have to preserve critical knowledge by making note of it.)
It turns out O’Reilly books has a recent blog entry on this too.
OK, I totally understand that since the source material may have changed that keeping an exact bookmark is pretty much impossible—after all, isn’t that the definition of an “update”, that the material has been altered? Still I think that there are things that we can do to ensure that people’s ePub bookmarks and notes don’t just simply vanish:
- If you are deleting a book that has user-input bookmarks and notes be sure to confirm that the user is about to destroy this data.
- ALLOW ME TO EXPORT MY DATA. Even if it becomes completely uncorrelated with the book source at least let me save those notes.
- When making bookmarks and notes create multiple levels of meta data that note the i) word, ii) paragraph, iii) chapter, and iv) volume. That way if the old location has moved at least you can pop up a message to the user saying something like: The book text has changed. Bookmarks and notes in the [CHAPTER] chapter are still available but no longer reference the same location. At least I still have my notes in the general vicinity of where they were!