Tag Archives: e-books

“Jump gestures” for e-books

So in thinking about more use cases for traditional books and e-books, I came up with one that would be incredibly useful to have in e-book readers. I’ll use the Kindle App as an example, since that is where I do 97% of my e-book reading.

Let’s say you are reading, oh, I don’t know, George R. R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows. You have the physical book in your hand. Your reading a passage referring to some geographical point of interest so you flip quickly to the map and then back to the passage you were reading. Very easy to do in a physical book. Not so easy in an e-book.

In my Kindle App, there are a couple of ways I can do this:

  1. I can go to the table of contents, click the map, take a look at it, and then click the Back button a few times to get back to where I was in the text.
  2. I can bookmark the map, jump to the bookmark, look at the map, and then return to where I was in the text.

The problem is that each of these methods take at least 3 click to get to the map.

I think a very useful feature would be to be able to assign a single bookmark to a “jump gesture.” It would work like this:

  1. I bookmark the map page and assign that bookmark to my jump gesture.
  2. As I’m reading, when I want to refer to the map, I use the “gesture” (whatever that gesture might be, maybe a 3 fingered backward swipe, it really doesn’t matter) and I am instantly on the map. All I have to do is that swipe. To get back to where I was in the text: repeat the gesture.

This gesture acts as a toggle and would let me get to the reference point as quickly as I could in the traditional book. And of course, it would apply to other things than just maps. Maybe there is a passage you want to keep referring back to. Assign that bookmark to the jump gesture and you can swipe to it instantly.

I can’t imagine this would be a difficult gesture to implement. Maybe it’s just me but I would make heavy use of this feature if it was available.

15 use cases comparing e-books to traditional books: an illustrated list

I’ve now been reading e-books for more than 2-1/2 years. For the 37 years prior to that, I read paper books exclusively. For a while now, I’ve been meaning to compare the two forms of book in some reasonable and understandable way, but I was hard pressed to come up with a format for such a comparison. Then it dawned on me: use cases!

By day, I am a software developer and creating use cases is an important part of the construction and testing process. A use case is used to describe a real-world use of how the product in question might be used. So I came up with a number of use cases for e-books to see how they compare with traditional books. 10 of these use cases demonstrate (I think) how e-books are superior to traditional books. The remaining use cases demonstrate areas in which traditional books still have an edge over e-books.

My e-book reader, for the purposes of this exercise is my iPad 2, using the Kindle App for iPad. I’m sure I didn’t capture every possible use case, but these are the ones I seem to deal with most frequently.

1. Finding a book on the bookshelf

Depending on how many books you have, and how organized you are, this can be a fairly daunting task for traditional books. Here is an picture of me illustrating the use case by searching for a book on my shelves:


I used to have my books organized alphabetically by author, and then chronologically within the author. That fell by the wayside the last time I moved. While they are arranged alphabetically by author, they are completely random within a given author. That may not sound like trouble, but for someone who has several hundred Isaac Asimov books, for instance, it can make any one book tricky to find.

Continue reading 15 use cases comparing e-books to traditional books: an illustrated list

On e-book pricing (what Scalzi said)

Not long ago I posted about how it surprised me that many 1-star reviews on Amazon were entirely because the reviewer didn’t like the price of the e-book–something that the author often has very little control over.

Today, John Scalzi offers up his opinion on e-book pricing, and I completely agree with him. As he sums up at the end of his post:

The shorter version of this: Complaining about eBook prices on Big Idea threads is a) usually off-topic, b) kind of mean to the author, c) something I’m bored with at this point.

John refers to his Big Idea posts, but you could replace “Big Idea” with “Amazon reviews” and it would work just as well. I agree with all three of John’s points. It’s perfectly within someone’s right to complain about e-book pricing, but doing so in a review that is supposed to be about a book, or a post that is supposed to be about an author makes said complainer come across as a dick. I’ve made it a habit of marking such reviews I’ve come across on Amazon as “unhelpful.” I want the reviews I read to be useful and insightful, not a place for someone to complain about book pricing economics. I, too, am tired of the e-book pricing debate.

12 reasons I love e-books (and a few areas for improvement)

The long holiday weekend, during which I did plenty of reading, reminded me once again why I love e-book and why I am an e-book convert. Since obtaining my first e-reader (a Kindle) I’ve read 26 books in e-book format. I have since graduated to reading on an iPad (Kelly is now using the Kindle). Here are 12 reasons why I love e-books:

  1. Ubiquitous access. Sitting in the park yesterday, I was able to open the Kindle app on my iPhone and continue reading Stephen King’s Insomnia from where I had left off on my iPad earlier in the morning. And it took all of 5 seconds!
  2. Travel light. I can take my entire e-book library with me wherever I go and in doing so, add only 601 grams1 to my luggage, no matter how many e-books are in my library.
  3. Read in the dark. It’s nice not to require a book light to read in bed at night when the room is dark.
  4. Take notes to your heart’s content. I always hated the thought of marking up my physical books. I cringed when I saw people breaking the spines of paperbacks (mine are all unbroken) and I just couldn’t bear the thought of highlighting or writing in my books. But I have no qualms at all about marking up my e-books. I highlight passages, I jot down notes. It’s great and completely non-destructive.
  5. They lay flat. I no longer run into complications when eating and reading at the same time. You know: the book won’t lay flat. The pages flip when you set it down so that you have to find a stapler or rock or other heavy object conveniently accessible to hold the pages open. And then you have to adjust it every time you flip the page. Not so with my iPad. I just set it on the table to the left of my sandwich and it lays perfectly flat. I can eat with two hands.
  6. Sample chapters. When browsing Amazon for a book, if I am uncertain, I can download a sample for free. It appears on my iPad instantly and I can start reading and decide if I want to continue reading. No more buying the book and then deciding, nah, it wasn’t really what I was hoping for.
    Continue reading 12 reasons I love e-books (and a few areas for improvement)
  1. The weight of an iPad 2 according to Apple.

In the battle between print and e-books, it is the “work” that comes out the winner

For the longest time I denied the e-book revolution. A book was something you held in your hand; you could rifle through the pages and catch that lovely whiff of aged paper. There was some sort of psychological comfort that made me resist the switch to e-books. Then, two years ago, just before the Little Man was born, I bought a Kindle, and from the Kindle store, I purchased a Jack McDevitt novel and since then my entire outlook has changed. I still love my paper books; my office shelves are still filled with more than a thousand of them. But now, there are only very limited circumstances in which I buy a print edition:

  1. The e-book edition does not exist and I don’t want to wait for one
  2. I want to add the book to my physical collection
  3. I want to get the book signed

Having been one of those people who couldn’t imaging making the switch from paper to e-books, I now have a hard time imaging why everyone doesn’t switch. Yes, I get that you have to layout some cash to buy a reader (despite the fact that the reader usually pays for itself pretty quickly because the price of e-books are less than the price of even discounted hardcovers.) Yes, I get that there is that smell. And maybe there is something aesthetically pleasing about the way a book feels in your hand. But I have got to believe that our attachment toward paper books stems more from cultural habit than practicality of form. We have been using paper books for thousands of years, and it takes a lot to undo the need we feel to read things on paper.

Continue reading In the battle between print and e-books, it is the “work” that comes out the winner