While spending the day trying to trying to navigate my new Kobo e-reader—there’s a future usability column in that story—I started making my own wish list for improvements, fixes and general upgrades to my current e-reader experience. (“How many menus, oh Lord…?”)
Then I realized I’d already crowdsourced a beginning wish list through responses to earlier columns on user experience. Best of all, this self-selected batch of comments blended those from experts and those from non-expert, but passionate, readers: those who knew what they were talking about by training and those who knew what they wanted by experience! Perfect.
Many who are disappointed with digital reading’s progress so far just say, “Call me when you’ve perfected it; until then I’ll stick to print…” leaving us to figure out how to perfect it. That’s one of the topics we’ll touch on during an upcoming webcast, “Reader Experience and Ebooks: What UX Experts Can Teach Publishers.”
So, here are responses and reflections from my accidental survey. Publishers and developers, take note.
1. It should be very much like a book, but better.
“It would have to be really different from a real book, like very lightweight, pocket-size, extremely long battery life, yet seem a whole lot like a book while reading it. And include all illustrations and diagrams!”
(I love this one—it sums up the wishes of those who want digital reading to be just like a book and those who want it to be just like the Web.)
2. Visually connect to my place in the book (through a graphic or spatial reminder).
“I want to be able to easily find what I’m looking for.”
3. Include marginal notes.
“Marginalia is the reader’s conversation with the book!”
“I love the solitude of a great read. But I’m fascinated by the possibilities of a mash-up.”
4. No, don’t include marginal notes.
“I prefer my neural net-making not to be distracted by another’s marks.”
“It’s distracting in the Kindle. Why did someone highlight that? It reminds me of Yossarian censoring the mail in Catch-22.”
“I think it’s invasive. I just want to be alone with the author. “
“I want and need some time in the intimate space where it’s just the writer’s words and me. Talking with others during that time would be like commenting while a movie or TV show you’re riveted to is going on.”
(The obvious answer to this dilemma is under #8—make it optional.)
5. Include relevant multimedia.
“Background music: an author’s suggested faves, sampled and looped, available when you scroll over a certain paragraph or click a button?”
“Add audio accompaniments and it would be a small and valuable jump to turn e-readers into multimedia museum/gallery guides.”
6. Incorporate dynamically served features, such as GPS for travel books.
7. Better graphics.
“The ability to display non-text elements, possibly as a thumbnail that expands to a more detailed scrollable view if the element is too large to display full size on my device’s screen.”
8. Make features optional.
9. Easy transfer of purchased books across platforms / easy and broad sharing.
“Almost all the [tourists] here on the beach in Costa Rica have Kindles, which makes it very hard for me to trade books with them. Bummed…”
10. Better bookmarking, navigating and clipping.
“It would be great to more easily scan back to certain passages without remembering the line count prospectively”
“A UI that will let me select what I want to read, and allow me to easily navigate within it once I have, jumping to particular spots via either a Table of Contents, Index, or user-created bookmark.”
11. Buy a book once and read it in all formats.
12. Be able to carry a library with me wherever I go.
NOTE: DBW has launched an Editorial Forum on LinkedIn, a sub-group for editors and others working in trade publishing to discuss standards, workflow, best practices, and the general Qs that most print people feel when confronted with terms like “workflow.” The Forum is moderated by Anne Kostick and David B. Schlosser. Anne’s weekly column, Digital Reading, discusses the field of User Experience and explores what it offers to trade publishers.
Anne Kostick is a partner in Foxpath IND, a digital-print-web consulting and services company specializing in the transition to and from traditional content development, management and publishing. She is also the editor in chief of Dulcinea Media, an online publisher in the educational market, and is the current president of Women’s Media Group.