First: from Teleread, a Kindle 2/DX Hack to improve the font. I recently used two Amazon gift cards and a refurb discount to order a Kindle II, and it’s charging in the wall unit behind me. I’m not sure if it’ll replace the Sony 505 or 700 as the device I like best, but I want to try to use it again because, until the Sony wireless device comes out and until I can try the Touch or the Pocket edition, I’ve said many times, as have Jane and Angie, that the Kindle ease of use has everyone else beat. I like the shopping options with the Sony, not to mention the fact that I can borrow digital books from the library, but I also know it is could to take almost an hour to go through the steps to load a book should I buy it.
This past week, Angie James, Jane Litte, Kassia Krozser, Malle Vallik and I presented at the O’Reilly online web conference Ebook Strategy and Innovation. Our panel was titled “What Do Readers Want?” and the point Kassia, Malle, Angie and I made last year at the 2009 Tools of Change in Publishing is still valid: in most discussions of digital reading from the book itself to the devices you read it on to the place from which you buy that book, the reader is left out of the discussion and, in our collective opinion, there’s a lot of mystery, myth and flat out confusion about who the digital book reader is, and what she wants.
The web setup itself for the conference was so cool. The phone line I called in from and the computer I was using were linked by the web software so that I could chat with the participants and speakers in a small chat room while everyone was also listening to the presentations and watching the slides from the presenters. Even though Kassia had horrific phone problems, we’d prepared a sequence of questions and topics so even without a coxswain, we managed to get the shell moving. And mostly moving in a straight line.
Our panel talked about ebook pricing, DRM, access, DRM, format confusion, purchasing difficulties, and meta data – which is the information about the book that comes with the book itself, like the title, cover copy, hero or heroine name, whether the book is part of a series, and what subgenre the book is from. One of the participants suggested that we needed to come up with a better name for “meta data,” which I agree with because ‘meta data’ doesn’t make much sense if you don’t know what it is. “Custom Data,” “My Data,” and “Book Notes” were suggested but I think the naming rights for that one are still available.
My section was all about the Test Drive and that, across the board, the Test Drivers had to jump one, two, or a dozen hurdles to get their devices working, whether it was getting the device and the computer to talk to one another, or loading a book onto the device itself. The initial setup and the purchasing process are so littered with hurdles that require the user to recertify herself as a legitimate reader that it’s a wonder those tentative on the digital book issue even try it at all. The bottom line of my section of the presentation: do not get between a reader and her book. Get out of the way. On that issue, sadly, the Kindle and the paper book are head and shoulders above the rest of the options.
There’s a very, very awesome recap of our presentation online at Required Field if you’d like to take a look.
I’m looking forward to the Tools of Change in Publishing 2010 conference in February. We’re“media partners” which means I’ll be writing about and tweeting from the conference and will be able to offer a discount on registration later this year if you’re interested in attending. Unlike last year, where I stumbled around intimidated and confused as to where the women were (most of the conferences I attend are romance industry oriented and, ergo, much more populated with women, who, frankly, are TOO MUCH FUN in the bar), I’ll be able to find the key presentations that apply to curious fiction readers (I hope) and write up more of the conference sessions and the demo area where new products are displayed.
But as for Kindle II: Matzoh Edition, it’s back in my house, and Passover isn’t for another six months. Jane made this point during the online panel last week, and I’ve said the same – if anyone asks me what digital reader I think they ought to buy, the tech-savvy-level of the user almost always means that the Kindle is the best option. As Malle said during our panel, the reader doesn’t care what format or what device, she just wants the book so she can read it. I am going to try to hack the font set as TeleRead details, and see how it looks. One reason I am SO into digital reading, aside from the gleeful greed of having a few hundred books with me all the time, is the ability to crank up the font size. I have terrible eyesight (I’m crosseyed, nearsighted in one eye, farsighted in the other, wear bifocals and have astigmatism and possible early signs of glaucoma, plus a partridge in a pear tree) and what Malle calls “comfort reading” is the major reason I adore reading on a digital device.
I honestly feel kind of conflicted about the Kindle vs. the Sony. On one hand, I love the Sony for the reasons I mentioned above. On the other hand, Kindle does some things so very, very well. Reminds me of house shopping. I remember when Hubby and I were house shopping, a friend gave me a piece of advice: “there is more than one perfect house.” At the time, the housing market was a competitive, awful endeavor to contemplate, and it was comforting to know that if we weren’t able to buy one house we wanted, there would be another we liked as much. I wonder if that’s true of the digital readers – there may not be one perfect device, with clear screen and great contrast, wireless access and ease of use, customizable menus and book organization options, onboard light and outstanding battery life. It may be that the ideal book reader is going to be a different animal for every reader. Which leads me to the aspect of the conference that I’ve been pondering most:
What seems to be missing most of all in the creation of book devices is an examination of How Women Read. I don’t mean whether or not you identify with the hero or whether you skip the sex scenes. What do you do with your books? Do you reorganize them? Do you like to have them near you at a moment’s notice? Do you sort and resort them, shelve them by subgenre or organize them by author or date of publication? What’s your ideal library, whether it’s digital or paper? I think, and I may be overstating it, that our relationships with our books are somewhat unique as a readership, and I’m curious whether your relationship with your books is one reason why you may or may not be curious about digital reading.