Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Everything Book: reading in the age of Amazon

I liked the Verge's story The Everything Book: reading in the age of Amazon

"It’s in this room that Amazon learned people switch hands on a book roughly every two minutes, even though in surveys they claimed not to. (This is why the Voyage has identical page-turn buttons on both left and right.) The Voyage’s page-forward button is much bigger than page-back, because Amazon’s data showed 80 percent of all page flips are forward. As Green describes research like this, it seems likely that Amazon has spent more time studying the physical act of reading than any company before it."

I found this kind of interesting:

Instead, Amazon wants to enhance what’s on the screen with software. If there's a unifying idea to the Kindle as an app, it's in fixing the little things that once made you put down your book in frustration. A feature called X-Ray, for example, stores a books' most common characters, locations, and ideas. Just press on a character's name and a miniature bio pops up; in an epic like Game of Thrones, it’s a godsend. Amazon knows from its embedded dictionary which difficult words tend to trip us up, so on Kindle, they are defined in superscript above the text. Rather than send you to Google to look up a short passage in a foreign language, Kindle translates it for you automatically. It tells you how long it will take you to finish a chapter, based on how quickly you normally read.

I've definitely loved the popup dictionary features on my mac and iOS devices. I've used it occasionally on my Kindle but since it's not a touch screen, it's a bit more effort to use. I haven't used x-ray or these other features (I don't even know if my Kindle supports them). Still if they care so much about the reading experience, it's inexplicable to me that the typography on the Kindle sucks so much. I'd have thought that would be one of the most important things to get right.

And I'd really really love a way to legally get digital copies of physical books I own.

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