Friday, April 16, 2010

Living with an eBook reader

For people who have used Kindle or other eBook reader my notes might not be very interesting, but I have to confess that I haven’t used an eBook reader before. Thanks to our local public library, I have been able to try BeBook reader for a week. For quite some time I have wanted to get a reader, but paying hundreds of euros for test hasn’t felt like a good idea.

First impression from BeBook is that you don’t need a manual to read a traditional book.

Next challenge was to find something to read. Reader can show pdf-files but screen isn’t good in handling graphics, lines are broken and page breaks jump to strange places. Line breaks are also a problem for a plain text file downloaded from reader homepage, text becomes like an artsy poem.

I’m afraid eBooks will remain geeky toys as long as book discovery, downloading and reading cannot be done using the same device. For a short test it is doable to browse content with desktop, connect cable and copy files to an external drive. However, I wouldn’t do that any longer, especially if I would read newspapers or else often updated material. Remember how mobile applications were geeky until Apple productized discovery and installation to a consumer solution.

Just by reading about eBook I haven’t understood how an ePaper display really feels. At least I assume it is because of display’s nature that page slowly flickers from white to black and back to white before new page is readable. Not nice.

After the one week test I still think that eBook is a nice idea (having a whole library in a small device, as marketing department puts it, you know) but needs user experience design. Put the engineers to vacation and design the service ecosystem so that it works as nicely as iTunes, for example. Too much effort is wasted on thinking what device could do, but I’d like an eReader that does the primary thing well, from end to end.

After all, blank paper sheet is the ultimate open platform for endless opportunities but printing makes the book. Pile of blank paper is not the best book (“you can write your own story”), nor is supports-everything-‘cos-we-can’t-decide reader the best reader (“you can customize the reading experience as you like”).

Next thing would be to test Kindle, but it's unclear if it works wirelessly in Finland and I will not pay $500 to check that.