A Look Inside Thomson Reuters Proview
By Dan Bennett, VP of Technology, Thomson Reuters
One of the underlying premises of ProView, Thomson Reuter’s eBook platform, is that unlike the other eReaders, we’ve designed it from the ground up for professional content. Books for professionals differ in several key ways:
- More complex mark-up: complex tables of taxation rates, many levels of indentation
- Read non-linearly: our books are reference aids, there to answer a question, with a few exceptions, not to be read cover to cover
- Much larger: books in excess of 3,000 pages are the norm
While the first two are fairly easy to demonstrate we’ve always wondered if ProView works better than the others with large books. Thanks to some great work by Thomson Reuter’s Scott Daup, we now have an answer!
Scott rolled up his sleeves and developed a prototype ProView epub converter. As a result, they are able to directly compare ProView app performance with consumer eReader software running on the same device.
We chose two of our larger titles: Westlaw’s Florida Rules of Court Volume 3 and Carswell’s Practioners Income Tax Act to compare. The titles vary greatly in composition: The court rules are generated from our Novus document repository/search engine and comprise very small documents with exceptionally clean mark-up. By contrast, PITA was generated from source SGML with more challenging mark-up and larger document sizes.
We chose two large and popular eReading iPad software applications to compare against ProView. We’ll call them Commercial eReader software I and II.
In general, software II did a much better job than C software I with the large book: the UI was far more responsive and actions complete in a reasonable amount of time. However, this comes at a cost: a rather lack luster UI and very poor search.
While we have some work to do on some aspects of UI performance, how can ProView be so much faster for some operations?
- We chose not to constrain ourselves to the ePub format. This allows us to do some server side pre-computation: the resulting maps are shipped along with the book and utilized by the app.
- We have much worse test cases to work with, and the team have done excellent work in optimizing the app.
- Our secret weapon: Novus: the teams in Eagan and Bangalore did a great job cramming a full query parser and search results logic into an iOS library. We’ve built this into the ProView app.
The Novus team are now hard at work on delivering libraries for Windows, Mac and Android that they’ll use for upcoming ProView releases on these platforms.