Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Final Project App We Are Going to Build

Prof. Ben keeps emphasizing that CS3216 is not about hard coding, but about solving problems and making a difference.

1. What is the app that we are going to build?

We are trying to build a HTML5 reader that works on different platforms including desktop/laptop browsers, tablets (ipad,etc) and smartphones (iphone /android). I initially came up with the idea of making a HTML5 ebook reader when Hu Qiang and I discussed with an ebook retailer who are currently making a native ipad reader. We think that more people will be able to explore the app if we make it a cross-platform one despite of their physical devices limitations. We also would like to take the advantage of HTML5 and the cloud to allow content synchronization and offline reading.Yingbo enjoys reading novels on her ipod touch and she finds the idea pretty interesting. Aldrian also thinks it's a good project, then we four decide to work together and make it happen:)

2. What is the exact problem that our app is trying to solve?

Depending on situations, readers have their own preferences on the reading devices. For instance, they may love to read on their phones when they are taking a bus. But when they are at home, they may like to read on their laptops or tablets. When the reading devices changes, they would like to continue reading on the new device the same page where they left last time. Readers are also sometimes lazy to download ebooks and then import to their devices. They would prefer a ebook reader that directly get the resource from the internet and view the book on the ebook reader. Another supply-demand problem: China is said to have a mobile ebook reading market of more than 0.8 BILLION RMB/quarter year and we are build this HTML5 to meet the huge demand...

3. Are there similar apps with a similar idea?

Previously, we thought Google ebook reader is the only HTML5 ebook reader that works on different platforms. It uses epub format for its most ebooks and disables the right click button javascript to prevent copying. Later we notice there are some more html5 ebook readers including MagicScroll and BookWorm. They all use epub as their ebook format. Epub ebook is like an archived zip file that packages the xml ebook contents and the corresponding css and format information,etc. Epub is integrating HTML5(to include some important tags), but most epub ebook are in the market are still xmls.

One very new HTML5 ebook reader is the Kindle Cloud Reader by Amazon which was launched a week ago. It's very elegant. Kindle Cloud Reader allows bookmark synchronization,  offline reading, too. They assigned different tags on the html passage tag<p> to do book marking.The ebooks are mostly in epub format, too. One big disadvantage for the Cloud Reader is that it only allow kindle users to access the contents. So far, only Chrome, Safari(desktop/ipad) are supported. Another disadvantage for Amazon is that they do not open up their services in China yet due to copyright and cloud service registration issues. Whereas, our app is mainly targeted in Chinese Ebook Readers which is said to be a 0.8 BILLION dollars' annual business(We're afraid not to implement monetization on that).

A good news for us is that there is no HTML5 ebook reader found in Chinese Market yet. We are the pioneers!

4. Job Allocation.

I know Aldrian and Yingbo are very good programmers. From my knowledge on them, Yingbo is good at javascript but do not have a very good UI sense. She would love to be very clear on the product she's going to build and execute on it. Aldrian is great on database and basically every technical problems. Hu Qiang is new to me and I'm not really sure what he can do. As he said he would love to do the UI, he just do the UI loh. I have done some API implementations and social network integration on the last assignment, but they don't seem to be that important for this project. As I'm the only guy used JQuery Mobile in the last assignment, I'll do some JQuery Mobile stuff and research on the EPUB format. I've designed the database schema already, Aldrian and I may change the role a bit on the job allocation listed in the proposal. For this project, UI might be the most critical part. Previously, we thought the partner company's  UI designers may help, but they don't seem that helpful after talking with them.

I personally love Kindle Cloud  Reader and think it's not hard to build a UI like it using JQuery Mobile. But we need different layout for different screen size devices, the UI may not be suitable for all. By the end of the day, we agreed to build a prototype with the similar UI as QQ reader first for the first version.

For text display, I think it would not be nice to take the HTML file out and render it on Canvas, but as my team mates  say we would be able to standardize all the text format and layout if we render all the text on our own way instead of directly use the HTML file in EPUB. Prof. Ben suggests that Canvas would be too slow to render and not so stable. I think I'll try on both and figure out what's the best way.

5. Very good suggestions.

Prof. Ben suggests that we can allow users to provide a url for the ebooks they find interesting. This not only provides other readers with the access to the books they love to read(not in our library yet), but also prevent copy-right problems. That's a very good suggestion. We may try it out. Kok Wee also finds it a good idea to synchronize among different devices, but the big competitors seem to be very challenging for us.

If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to comment on the blog. Thanks:)
Last but not the least, we'll attract more than 10,000 users for the project, fairly big number ha.

4 comments:

  1. I think it's an awesome idea!

    You guys might want to check out booklists creation as a feature. Make reading a social activity, e.g. http://goodreads.com/, http://www.7bks.com/, as well as Amazons booklist.

    .mobi ebook format has been around for quite some time. If I'm not wrong, Amazon Kindle is built upon .mobi format.

    Check out Calibre http://calibre-ebook.com/ an awesome e-book management software. I use it to convert my e-books to various formats. It handles PDF->DOC, PDF->MOBI, MOBI-EPUB all really well. Now if your app can do these conversions on the cloud. hohoho.. It'll be awesome.

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  2. Wow, thank you Joshua, you must be a lifelong reader! We'll check these stuffs out:) Not sure whether the format conversion can be made in such a limited time, we may probably manually do it if we're unable to accomplish it.

    Let's make a difference,hoho~~

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  3. I try to read when I can. I think Prof. Ben is still the winner in terms of reading speed and reading breath. I'm always trying to play catch up. Haha.

    I will be your loyal fan when the app comes to fruition.

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  4. Haha, thank you for your support:-) We'll try to make the product out first and then solve other problems like getting more contents etc.

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