Monday, July 27, 2009

New Yorker Review of the Kindle

I'm away from email and Internet for a week and a half starting the day after tomorrow. But I leave you with a fascinating, extensive, and largely negative review of the Kindle at the New Yorker. I haven't tried the Kindle yet, but am not surprised, having come from working for a book publisher in the web usability field. As the review points out, these devices have a ways to go before they've really got it yet.

I first heard about the MIT E-Ink project in 1998 or 1999, and not to be show-off-y, predicted when I first heard about it that it would take quite some time for these things to be remotely usable (witness the 10 years before even early adopters started actually using the things). Along with an excellent reflexive/auto-ethnographic in situ review of one user's experience with the device, this article includes a good history of the ebook movement as well.

Personally, I'm waiting for the invention of a book with a series of flexible Bible-page-thin pagescreens that can be loaded up with electronic ink and at least a series of which could actually be turned back over/easily referred back to like normal pages (after all, what good is a mystery, for instance, if you can't look back and try to figure out the clues?), but then loaded up with a different ebook from memory at any time as well as having a search function, etc. It could be something like 100 pages long and reload itself as necessary. Careful work would have to be done, as the author above mentions, toward making sure illustrations worked properly and the typefaces and contrasts, indices, etc. were well-designed.

And if they want to do anything with the academic--or any kind of "books-for-studying"--markets, they MUST MUST MUST work with the others (creators of Zotero, Endnote, etc.) who are creating academic reading/citation/note-taking tools and with services like Google Scholar and Google Books, which academics and students are already using a ton. And with the libraries who are working with zillions of academic databases.

Hm, well, back to my studying.

By the way, my paid creative project is now past its first writing stages and has moved on to rewriting and revising, completely on schedule. It's nice to be getting past that awful first draft stage and to feel on track to finish it before my Big Nasty Exams start. Woohoo!

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