November 8, 2008

The Guardian - eBooks, a user’s view

I saw recently this article on eBooks from the UK newspaper "The Guardian".

I quote: "Curling up with a good ebook: It has long been predicted that traditional books are about to be replaced by little machines on which you can download any novel you fancy. But the technology has never really been up to the job - until now. Here Andrew Marr , who treasures his smelly, beautiful library of real books, spends a month with one of the new gadgets"

This “book maniac” was very reluctant at the start, but gradually found some ways in which an eBook can complement (not replace, heaven forbid!) his paper books in a number of ways. He highlights a number of advantages that have come-up elsewhere, such as:-

  • Great for taking a lot of books in a small space & weight when traveling. Especially when you are an avid reader and either read many books at the same time, or can get through a heap of books during a holiday. This feedback also appeared in Focus Group feedback from HP Labs Bristol’s own user testing.
  • It can help reduce the pile-up, and later junking, of a lot of paper for “time sensitive” reading that is never gotten too. This person being a journalist gets a constant stream of stuff to read (in paper format), a lot of which expires after a few days and never gets read. He appreciates how an eBook could allow him to handle the physical mess of papers, and also avoid the paper waste produced.
  • Likes the note taking and annotating feature. He seems to be an avid scribbler, writing a lot on types books that many of us would never write on.
  • He was able to “get beyond the device” and get emerged in the content and forget he was reading a gadget. This is a must aspect of the reading experience that needs to be pushed on.

Things he finds lacking:-

  • The collection aspect. He has a large collection of books going back to childhood, and these physical artifacts evoke memories every time they are seen, touched, smelled etc. Many of them with extensive notes on them.
  • Smell and touch of a real book that is part of the book-owning, book-managing and reading experience. This also came up in HP Labs Focus Group feedback. I quite like his suggestion of a cloth-bound cover that will acquire (or come preloaded with?) a dank, musty, old-book look and feel and smell. (WYSIWYG = What you smell is what you get?)
  • Page turning is still too slow. Yep, eInk and others have got this message a long time ago and the whole industry is working on this aspect of eInk and similar displays.

No comments: