The design of the book

I’ve stopped using my Kindle.  Sure, there were some convenient features that I’ll miss.  For example, I enjoyed not carrying around three books on vacation and downloading books was a bit addictive.  However, there were a few things that drove me crazy.  Despite an impressive battery life, there were times when my uncharged Kindle stopped me from reading.  Also, Amazon can modify the book you are reading, which really bothers me.  It almost happened to me while reading Neal Stephenson’s Reamde.

Picture by Avi Solomon of The Strand Bookstore in NYC.  I do enjoying reading while Kindle owners put away their "hazardous" electronic devices.
Picture by Avi Solomon of The Strand Bookstore in NYC. I do enjoying reading while Kindle owners put away their “hazardous” electronic devices.

The lending system on DRM’d Kindle books is also broken.  Considering that the median amount of books read by American readers was only six in 2012, I doubt most people are finishing a book in two weeks.  In this sense, I agree with the Free Software Foundation’s Amazon Swindle campaign.  Generally, it’s in your best interest to buy DRM-free books if you do like eBooks.  Even better is to buy your eBook as part of a Humble eBook Bundle and name your own price!

But the biggest reason I stopped using my Kindle is that the book is a much better designed piece of technology.  You can actually feel your progress in the book.  With computer science books especially, I can hold the book and flip through it to get a sense of whether it’s a fat, big book with loads of pictures and not much technical meat or a thin book that is packed with details (but honestly, could benefit from a diagram or two).  None of that with eBooks.  Not surprisingly, Bret Victor favors the design of the good old-fashioned book as well.

I still think the book won’t die.  So does the New Yorker, although they are a little more vested in the idea.  😉

Seeing that picture of the Strand makes me really, really, miss my favorite corner in NYC (and NYC in general).


5 thoughts on “The design of the book

  1. “The book is a much better designed piece of technology” is such a good way to put it. I’ve had a similar conversation about textbooks many times. I’ve been surprised how many people agree that the position on the page, the weight of the book, whether it’s near the beginning or at the end are all things that get associated with a piece of information and help you remember. Depending on the book the texture and smell affect me too.

    1. I was originally though that textbooks would be a great use of eBooks; instead of lugging books to and from school it would be much nicer just to carry an eReader. But now, I’m not so sure for the reasons that you pointed out.

      However, e-textbooks do have one killer feature: search. Personally, I’d like to have the textbook but then have some way to search the textbook online.

      On Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 7:11 AM, fortune datko

      1. Yeah, that’s a good point (although I love browsing paper books and finding things I’d never have known about otherwise). I hate lugging around textbooks so I never bought any, just read them in the library. I work with databases now and I’m realizing how much information is lost or inaccessible if you don’t have really good search tools.

  2. I think the tactile feedback of feeling how many pages are left cuts both ways. In some cases I do want to know how much of the book is left (mostly reading non-fiction). And it is really gratifying to finish a big, heavy book!

    However, there’s info leakage that negatively impacts fiction, particularly thrillers. I remember reading fiction as a kid and knowing that at exciting points early in the book, the main character was going to be ok because there was so much book left. I think the ability to hide/show this info isn’t a bug of e-readers, it’s a feature.

    Also, great pic choice!

    1. Assuming of course, you don’t display the electronic progress bar 😉 That interesting because that’s one of the reasons I dislike reading on e-readers. Maybe it’s like watching a movie that’s three hours, but you thought it was only 90 minutes. I think I would get impatient with the movie. But I can appreciate the choice to not know your progress or not.

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