E-readers at a crossroads

I’ve been intrigued by the user experience challenge that electronic readers make on physical books. Beyond issues like e-ink and screen sizes, it’s the versatility of the physical books that sets them apart. Book lovers are used to riffling pages, recycling books to their friends, or dropping them on the floor!

E-reader design is at a crossroads. I think the aim should be to harness the flexibility and connectivity of technology rather than to mimic paper. Here are some ideas:

  • Flexible rights agreements that allow copies of books to be sent peer-to-peer
  • Enable the swapping of quotes – make it easy to crop off excerpts and send them as email or text
  • Merge audio and text experiences into one ‘copy’ – read Chapter One on the Tube, listen to Chapter Two while driving
  • Allow easy annotations and make it easy to share them
  • Connect the text seamlessly to other material e.g. the glossary to the language used in Sea of Poppies
  • Facilitate interactive book clubs – e.g. allow fans to meta-tag their favourite books

This could be the way to persuade readers to love e-readers as much as they currently love books.

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