Saturday, June 11, 2011

iBooks and eReaders

You know what I want? One decent eBook reader. I have five marginal ones. They all work. They all display books adequately. But they all display different eBook formats. I want one reader to display all my documents. And display them intelligently. That doesn’t mean it should be “book like”. I don’t need page flip animations or ribbon bookmarks. These are OK, but are not conceptually central to reading a book.

I have an original Kindle. I like it. But I can’t view PDFs or ePubs or Microsoft Word documents on it. The Kindle is an agreeable device for buying and reading books from I want more.

I have the Nook, Kindle and Kobo readers on my laptop. With some searching you can discover where the Kindle keeps it’s files. New books can be added to the Kindle reader by copying their files to this secret location. This works most times. Occasionally you’ll get an error and be asked to remove the book from the reader. I deleted the Nook reader since it offers me nothing beyond what the Kindle offers. The Kobo reader was a little more reticent about it’s document storage location. Kobo seems to store it’s documents in an sqlite database making it impossible to add books unless you buy them from Barnes & Noble. Gone. I want more.

Let me describe what I want.

I was in the Apple store recently trying the iPad2 and specifically iBooks. iBooks has fancy page animations and ribbon bookmarks which left me, “Meh”. I noticed the progress indicator along the bottom had what looked like a slider “thumb”. I pressed and slid it back and forth and realized, “I can flip through the book!” eBook readers are good for reading text in a linear manner. They are good for novels. Technical books want to be read in a non-linear way. You need to be able to quickly jump around the book to discover what you need. iBooks on the iPad was the first reader to make that work. I want that.

I keep documents I want to lay my hands on easily in DropBox. These DropBox documents are available at home or in the office. DropBox is an enabler and I’m fond of it. But the only documents I can read from DropBox are PDFs. I can read my word processing documents, but only at home since the office uses a different word processor. Why can’t a eReader scan my Documents directory, and any other directory I select, and find documents it understands? When an eReader shows my “Library” I’d like it to include all of my library, not just the books it has been trained to. I want that.

My original Kindle will display definitions for words on a line I choose. When I stumble across a word I don’t know I can look it up easily. Wouldn’t it be nice it it had a Thesaurus too? I want that.

All the pieces are available. They just need to be connected. Maybe if I want that, I’ll have to build it myself.

Boston has a dull skyline, but walking along the Charles river is pleasant.

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