A Book, a Web Browser and a Tablet: How Bibliotheca Alexandrina's Book Viewer Framework Makes It Possible

Engy Morsy, Bibliotheca Alexandrina (The new Library of Alexandria)

A lot of institutions around the world are engaged in multiple digitization projects aiming at preserving the human knowledge present in books and availing them through multiple channels to people around the whole globe. These efforts will sure help close the digital gap particularly with the arrival of affordable e-readers, mobile phones and network coverage. However, the digital reading experience has not yet arrived to its maximum potential. Many readers miss features they like in their good old books and wish to find them in their digital counterpart. In an attempt to create a unique digital reading experience, Bibliotheca Alexandria (BA) created a flexible book viewing framework that is currently used to access its current collection of more than 300,000 digital books in five different languages which includes the largest collection of digitized Arabic books.

Using open source tools, BA used the framework to develop a modular book viewer that can be deployed in different environments and is currently at the heart of various BA projects. The Book viewer provides several features creating a more natural reading experience. As with physical books, the reader can now personalize the books he reads by adding annotations like highlights, underlines and sticky notes to capture his thoughts and ideas in addition to being able to share the book with friends on social networks. The reader can perform a search across the content of the book receiving highlighted search results within the pages of the book. More features can be further added to the book viewer through its plugin architecture.