Over the past couple of months, I’ve had the good fortune to help develop a new e-reading app. I’ve been a fan of e-readers since the day I got my very first Kindle. Currently I read on a Kindle Paperwhite, a Kindle Fire, an iPad, and an iPhone. I also use a variety of apps to read. I’ve tried the Kindle app, iBooks, Marvin, and Bluefire. I read five or more books a week and, despite searching, have yet to find the perfect e-reader.
For me, the perfect e-reader would work across platforms and devices. It would allow me to begin a book on my Paperwhite, read a few chapters on my iPad, or on my phone, all while synchronizing where I am in the book and any notes or highlights I’ve made.
The interface would be easy to understand and would work smoothly. The screen would show me where I am in the book, how long the book is, the author and title of the book, and would have easy to access controls for font size, screen brightness, screen orientation, highlighting, and note–taking. It would be clear where to tap to pull up more information about the book, my library, and other resources such as Wikipedia, Internet browser, and social media.
The program would work quickly and intuitively. I should be able to easily move back and forth within my book and find and define text.
These features are basic to any quality e-reading program. But what if an e-reader could do more?
I’d like to be able to click on a word or phrase and easily have the option, within the app, to search for more information about that word or phrase. For example, if I’m reading a historical romance that refers to the Corn Laws, I’d like to be able to select Corn Laws and have the option to learn more about them from any number of sources. If, while reading a contemporary romance in which the heroine makes Raku pottery, I’d like to be able to select Raku and be able to find and see a picture of Raku pottery. And if I were reading a fantasy novel in which the characters wore Mystic Goth nail polish, I’d like to be able to click on Mystic Goth and find a link to a site where I could purchase it. To me, the possibilities are endless.
I believe interactive, enhanced e-books are inevitable. Whether having inserted video, music, art, or all sorts of links, within the next few years e-books will become—if you want them to and, I suspect, even if you don’t—far more than just text on a screen. The Apple store already sells many enhanced books (my favorite: Moo Baa La La La) ranging from the sophisticated Alice in Wonderland to the less so Scooby-Doo and the Creepy Chef.
There will always be regular e-books just as there is still a wealth of print. But for those who want more, e-readers and e-books will offer other diverse choices. What would you like to see? What would you avoid at all costs? Is there an app or an interactive book you love?
The future of reading excites me. I’ll always love my tattered copy of The Voice That Is Great Within Us: American Poetry of the Twentieth Century. But the ability to share the magic of A Charlie Brown’s Christmas on my iPad? That strikes me as pretty damn cool.