Once again, reinvent the book

Ian Bogost writes in The Atlantic:

…Ebook devices are extremely compatible with an idea of bookiness that values holding and carrying a potentially large number of books at once; that prefers direct flow from start to finish over random access; …

“Random access”: nothing compares to opening a book on a random page and reading out a few random sentences. This can be fixed via an “open at a random location” command.

…that reads for the meaning and force of the words as text first, if not primarily; and that isn’t concerned with the use of books as stores of reader-added information or as memory palaces.

Fiction, that is, especially genre fiction – but not, say, dictionaries. I’m pretty good at looking things up in paper dictionaries and reference books. On a desktop or laptop, with the right keyboard layout, it’s almost as easy for me. A tablet is less convenient; a smartphone, even less so – but still usable. Kindle-like ebook readers are probably the least fit for purpose.

Matching a reference book to a portable ebook reader doesn’t even look possible at the moment. A different approach is needed, both from the software and the hardware side. Bogost suggests more features imitating paper books, such as two-page spreads and skimming through pages. Agreed – but taking a longer view, perhaps our ebooks still owe too much to paper books.

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