One of the main arguments publishers make for how they add value in the book ecosystem is production values: a professionally edited and designed book will be attractive, clean, and readable. Why is it, then, that the e-reader versions of so many books from major publishers are riddled with obvious design mistakes? I have seen:
- No chapter divisions
- Non-interactive indices keyed to physical page numbers (useless in a “location”-based Kindle book)
- Drop capitals formatted inconsistently within a book
- Endnotes with no way to navigate between note number and note
- Unnecessary hyphens wherever there were line breaks in the physical book
- Typographically incorrect quotation marks
- Repeated passages
I have both an iPad and a Kindle and over the past 14 months, have read nearly a 100 books on the device. Mostly in Kindle form, but a few on the iBooks iPad app, which is by far, a superior reading experience, especially for programming language books or any text that is sprinkled with charts or images or pictures. But the lure of reading on these devices, especially the Kindle, has mightily diminished, due to not only these sorts of guffaws, but also the cost, which I believe is far too high for the medium as it exists circa 2011.
And some of these are minor in comparison to the following glitches and limitations that are particularly irksome to me:
- Endnotes with incorrect hyperlink “go back” destinations — for example, all endnotes for all chapters bring you back to chapter 1 or an entirely random chapter.
- The Laboratorium notes “unnecessary hyphens”, but more irksome is where the “editor” (or parsing algorithm) swallows up the carriage return and smashes words together. Double dire is when the book is using a “custom”, non-modifiable font setting that is justified and word spacing not even on par with the barely adequate web browser rendering.
- The bleeding of my eyes when presented with charts or images on a Kindle. Not as egregious on the iPad, but there, the pixellated text is not as pleasant as on Kindle.
- The annoying page turn flash, which has improved immensely from previous Kindle versions (and far better than other eReaders, except for the non-eInk iPad), but still is unsettling to my reading experience.
Yeah, #firstworldproblems so…
But in using these devices, I feel the same way I did with early PDA (Palm/Handspring) devices — that there was so much wondrous about the potential for such a handheld electronic gizmo, but it was frustrating in that you grasped the possibility potential, but felt limited in usage.