Organisation: what the reader is looking for


At first sight, with so much information available on the web, it might seem strange that there is still a need or demand for non-fiction books. But it’s precisely the volume of content available that makes us appreciate it when we find what we’re looking for filtered from the rest and presented in an easily accessible format.

Humans don’t think in a purely linear fashion but we do – at least in English – have a linguistic tendency to see time flow from past to present to future. Most traditional narrative has a plot line that follows some kind of linear thread and even when the story jumps around in time with flashbacks, parallel viewpoints etc., the reader is used to starting at page one and reading through to the end.

But non-fiction isn’t usually a narrative, and digital content isn’t stored in a linear fashion. Most of us have experienced the rabbit-hole of internet research: you start looking for something and then click on a link and then another link and eventually end up somewhere else entirely.

Even when you find something relevant and interesting, it’s not always clear whether it’s fact or opinion, and often there’s nothing to say how recently the content was produced, so you don’t know whether the information still holds true.

This is where good non-fiction books come into their own. A non-fiction book doesn’t just provide information: it organises it and presents it to the reader in a planned and structured way, making the information that the reader is interested in available and accessible in an efficient manner.

This organisation and presentation of the material is what makes the reader willing to pay, so writers need to work together with designers to see where digital functionalities can enhance the reader experience.

Digital publishing in the form of ebooks and apps provides all sorts of tools that writers can use to make sure that, even if much of the material can be found elsewhere, their book is genuinely useful. Footnotes, glossaries, additional background and explanations, pop ups, inter-text connections, external links to other sources, sound files and demonstration videos… all of these functionalities can be exploited to make sure the reader finds what they need.

Despite the traditional idea of a book starting on page one and going right through until the end, that’s only the case for print. When it comes to publications that are to be read on smartphones and tablets, it’s worth investigating how to strengthen the information structure through a well-designed interface and how to use the capabilities of the device to add further value to the reader.

The organization of information actually creates new information.
― Richard Saul Wurman

If you want to make your non-fiction ebook stand out from the crowd there is a lot that can be done. It’s worth talking to an expert. Why not get in touch with us!