Exact Editions uses a pragmatic assumption that magazines (books) can be flicked through 16 pp at a time, or browsed 2 pp at a time, or when you want to read an article you devote the whole screen to the page. Having 3 levels of resolution is reasonably straightforward and allows us to build a generic platform. But the pages of magazines and books come in all shapes and sizes, and the monitors or screens through which users see the pages are equally diverse.

There are clear elements of compromise in the solution we have developed, and subscribers sometimes ask for an additional level of magnification, or for a user-controllable zoom option. We had such a request yesterday and Tim Bruce, our Technical Director, produced a reply which may be of broader interest:

Q: Is there a Controllable Zoom In/Zoom Out button on the Site.

A: Short answer: no.

Longer answer: To resize the page images reliably we’d currently need to use Flash or a similar plugin. We don’t want to do that, as we’d prefer to deliver pages quickly which “just work” wherever you are – from an older browser through to the iPhone. That means keeping Flash use to an absolute minimum (currently just in our clipper tool).

The iPhone illustrates a growing support in browsers for full-page zooming, where the user can zoom everything on the page – text and images – to whatever size they like. This feature is currently supported on the iPhone, Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 3 (still in beta), Opera and it should be in the next release of Safari. I’d expect it to be in general use this year.

So much talk of the iPhone. I think I am going to have to get one soon!