When eBooks first came out, I was hesitant. I like having the physical copy. Over time I’ve come around. I love having any book I want to read with me at any time. I love being able to skim my highlights. It’s great to be able to pick up where I left off and keep reading on my phone, computer, iPad or Kindle.
I also love how e-readers force you to focus on one page at a time. With thicker books, I’d often find myself flipping through what I had remaining to see how much I had left in a chapter or what was coming up next. But with the Kindle, I just read a page, push a button, read the next page, push the button. Before I know it, the book is gone. After reading Good Calories, Bad Calories a year and a half ago, I was shocked to pick it up in the store and see how thick it was. If I had purchased the hard copy, I might have never gotten around to reading it due to sheer intimidation.
So I’m sold. That said, after using eBooks for a while, here are a few features I’d like to see.
Quickly skim and scan
When you read fiction, this isn’t a problem. But when I’m reading business or leadership books (or non-fiction books in general), I’m generally taking notes or highlighting things I want to refer to later. And often I’ll flip through to remind myself of the general thoughts or refer to them in context. That’s REALLY hard to do with eBooks. You’re forced to view one. page. at. a. time. Flipping through is laborious.
Why not give me a view option like this:
It might not work on the actual Kindle, but on the iPad and computer devices, it would be perfect. You could quickly swipe through pages, skimming chapters, headings, and highlighted text. I can flip through a book. Let me flip through an eBook.
Better sharing – let family members share books with separate bookmarks
If I buy a book my wife wants to read, she can pick it up, read it when I’m not, and set it down when she’s done. She can even put her own bookmark in it to save her place. But if I buy an eBook, she has no way to read it unless she uses my Kindle (or other device) or signs in under my Amazon account. Then, when she does start reading, it abandons where I was in the book and saves her new location. And it bounces back and forth between my spot and her’s.
Why not allow families to share books across accounts? You can already share an Amazon Prime account within a household. Let me share Kindle book rights. You could even have places within books saved by the account so each person could progress through the book with their own bookmarks. Notes and highlights could be individual for the account or, better yet, could be seen by each user. Similar to the popular highlights, dad could see what mom and daughter found interesting in the book they’ve all picked up.
Better sharing – let me loan something to a friend for a while
I’ve purchased books on my Kindle, loved them and recommended them to friends. The problem is what comes next. In the past, I’ve been able to hand someone a book for a few weeks so they could look through it. Sometimes they’d end up purchasing it themselves, sometimes they wouldn’t. But I can’t do that with my eBooks. It’s almost like I don’t fully own them. I’ve actually found myself purchasing hard copies of books I want to share with others. Something’s wrong with that picture.
Why not allow me to loan a book to another Amazon user for a period of time? To keep the rights clear, you could even disable it on my account while they have it. When the times up, it’s removed from their account and reappears in mine. It could be replaced in their view by a link to purchase the full book. If they liked it, you have a new purchase. If they didn’t, nothing is lost.
Now, this is already an option through Amazon, but it’s hidden in the Kindle settings online, and I can’t find a single book I’ve purchased that allows the feature.
These are all simple, but they’re important. New technology should be better, not worse. I love that we’re moving toward a paradigm shift in what “books” are. But if we’re moving backwards in some areas – particularly the “spreadability” of ideas, books are moving in the wrong direction. I want to use my books in a way that lets me share them with friends. Allow that, and you’re moving closer to extinguishing the need for books on paper.