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Stating the obvious: the book you can read with one hand.

Just a little obvious aside, this – but something that only struck me this morning as I was heading to the studio. I mentioned it to Webb, and he said “write it down” so here we are.

It’s been said that 2009 is the year that e-books go mainstream, with the industrial and service design of Amazon’s Kindle and Stanza on the iPhone doing the same for the format as the iPod and iTunes did for MP3/digital music.

Maybe – but 2009 could be said to be the year that one-handed reading became enjoyable for the first time since we invented the form-factor of the book when the codex arrived about 2000 years ago.

Since then, we’ve made all sorts of gizmos and gadgets to enable one-handed reading.


And machines too!

Look at this handsome fella for digitising entire volumes quickly:


It features SureTurn Advanced Page Turning Technology!

I guess that’s no-handed reading, but… anyway…

We’ve invented technologies to deal with the form-factor of the book and change our bodies’ relationship to it, but now we’ve separated the wine from the bottle, we’re free to try different ways of reading.

As I say, it’s stating the bloomin’ obvious, but the freedom to read in short bursts and constrained situations that the UI of Stanza gives is transformative.

Reading on trains, tubes, buses, queues becomes not only possible, but a pleasure.

"...hard-earned experience rendered obsolete by deflationary time"

That’s perhaps the thing I’m trying to get to.

We just did something it took 2000 years to figure out. Amongst all the talk of disrupting business systems, revolutionising access to knowledge etc, ergonomic innovation is being overlooked in the discussion of the e-book future.

What’s next?

4 Comments and Trackbacks

  • 1. Christopher Pugh said on 8 July 2009...

    What’s next is, probably, the rediscovery of pagination, which will no doubt be better than it was before.

    The smaller x/y axes footprint of codices over earlier scrolls is both a step towards convenience and also makes it a lot easier for your mind to wander (I did have a reference to monks discussing this, but it’ll take days to dig back out). With page numbers, not only can you can come back from your flight of fancy, but it’s also a lot easier to show your starting point to someone else.

    It’s a wine/bottle problem, but the infrastructure around pointing to a particularly good sip of the stuff by it physically was has matured considerably, with relatively stable galleys between printings. Once we all accept that we’re reading marked-up electronic text, where a sentence element is both wine AND bottle (like a line in a poem is), we should be able to get an even better form of cross-referenceing and dog-eared-pages-blogging.

    Until then, most serendipitous off-the-page mind-wanders are probably going to have to be uploaded to Flickr (which may be just as well, since half their joy is *where* they happen).

  • 2. Matt Jones said on 8 July 2009...

    Good point Christopher – I was thinking that it would be great to have a ‘dog-earing’ button on a kindle/e-book in order to emulate/automate the sort of analysis Mike MIgurski and others have been doing on their blogs, e.g.“blog+all+dog-eared+pages”

  • 3. James Bridle said on 8 July 2009...

    In true “Simpsons Did It” style: XKCD:

    Also @Matt’s second point: that’s want I want bkkeepr to be, e.g.: (there’d be a bkkeepr scrobbler plugin for the Kindle if such a thing were possible).

  • Trackback: Stop Press for July 8th | 9 July 2009

    […] Pulse Laser: Stating the obvious: the book you can read with one hand. Yeah, that#039;s quite a good point (although XKCD got there first). […]

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