New Release: Improving Book Loading Time + Referencing (Beta) + More

This past month we’ve worked on one of the most impactful releases so far.

On our mission to make Perlego’s learning experience the simplest and smoothest possible, we have been working to address two of our biggest product challenges so far:

  1. Eliminating book loading time while reading
  2. Introducing a way for students to reference their reading material

Both the slow loading time and the confusion around how to cite eBooks in the ePub format were the two most critical problems our users were having. These issues, however, also happened to be particularly challenging for us because they stemmed from the very nature of what we do: streaming (read: loading time) eBooks (read: no pages).

So here’s what we solved and built on Perlego this month:

1. (Virtually) No more loading

Loading feedback on ePub

Everyone knows the feeling of staring into a screen showing the eternal twirling of the loading wheel. For a while, on Perlego it came gracefully accompanied with a blank page which said very little about what was actually happening: Was something loading? Was my connection slow? Was the book broken?

This month we worked on different tech and design solutions to improve both the actual loading and the perceived loading. Our new solution ensures that there is virtually no loading time on ePub and considerably less waiting on the heavier PDF format, one of our best achievements in improving the experience so far.

2. Introducing the Citation tool (Beta)

Cite your book in two clicks

Creating bibliographies for university assignments can be a real pain; it usually involves gathering different snippets of information from various sources around the web and using citation tools such as RefMe (now CiteThisForMe) to format the information correctly to be then pasted back into the essay.

Many students got in touch with us to ask how they could cite a book they were reading on Perlego; they told us they were confused because there was no page information they could use to reference a particular section of the book. Epub files — the main eBook format — are designed for digital reading so they lack the very concept of fixed pages in print books, but students are taught to cite on print books and most didn’t know what was best practice in citing eBooks they were reading online. The problem wasn’t so much finding a way to create pages in a format that didn’t need them, but rather finding an easy way for students to cite their book without having to conduct a research online to understand how to cite eBooks without page numbers.

The new citation tool allows students to smoothly cite a book in both Harvard and Vancouver formats and paste their citation into their bibliography in two simple clicks, saving time, hassle and confusion around how to cite an eBook.

As a Beta, the citation tool doesn’t currently work on all titles, but only titles which information provided by the publisher is structure correctly.

3. Back to where you left off

Return to where you last left off

This month we implemented the long-awaited ability to return to where you last left off in a book. While bookmarking and returning to a bookmark has always been a possibility, we now made returning to the last piece of content read a default behaviour, so you won’t need to remember adding a bookmark to find your way back in the book.

4. Smoother font size adjustment

Font size slider

We re-designed the font size adjustment feature on the ePub reader to make it more reactive and less ‘jumpy’ than our previous option, which invited user to click often to increase or decrease text size on screen.

5. More digestible Chapter-by-Chapter reading

Scroll to end of chapter

Since launching our first version of the Perlego reader 18 months ago, we’ve made a few iterations to understand what was the most intuitive way to read a book on a laptop/desktop. We started off with a previous-next page solution but quickly realised in user testing that virtually everyone would naturally try to scroll before realising that they had to click on the edges of the screen to turn page.

We then adopted an infinity scroll solution, which was better in line with the intuitive behaviour people have on computers but presented a completely new problem: scrolling down a 500-page Econometrics book can quickly make you feel overwhelmed by the amount of reading you have to get through, without ever rewarding you on the little reading you’ve already done. Not the sort of feeling you’d want to convey to a stressed student before their exam.

To improve the ‘digestibility’ of a large book and give our users more regular feelings of achievement, we decided to split the navigation by chapters, making each scrolls more approachable and improving loading performance as a collateral. Two birds, one stone.

Have feedback or feature ideas you’d like to share? Get in touch with us and email Cristina, our Product Designer here at Perlego.