IT’S A RAINY SUNDAY AFTERNOON and I’m sitting in a cafe in central Tokyo, desperately trying to enjoy a book on my iPad. Distractions abound: sloppy typography, misspelt words, confusing page breaks, widows, orphans, broken tables. These and more pull me from the narrative spell. In that moment I realize, although I’ve had this substantial object of glass and metal for a few weeks, I haven’t managed more than ten pages of anything.
What, then, is the problem?
It’s not the screen — I’ve happily read several novels on my iPhone.
It’s not the weight — it feels fine when resting on a table or my knee.
The problem is much simpler: iBooks and Kindle.app are incompetent e-readers. They get in the way of the reading experience and treat digital books like poorly typeset PDFs.
We can do better. (We have to do better.)
Did the Internet community peak at bookmarks? Asked in a different and perhaps more complete way: just as technologies like RSS and email in their purest forms are hard to beat even as technology marches forward, what better technology exists to keep track of information on the ever-expanding Internet than bookmarks? Taken a step further, what better way to share the bookmarked information than a site of your own? As such, I‘ve been reading, which is why I write now.
Working in and having a passion for libraries, I am struck by the fact that the way bookmarks work in the physical world is not directly analogous to bookmarks in the digital world. Bookmarks in the digital world are instead like dog-eared pages or highlighted passages; if you think of the Internet as a single tome, that is. In any case, anything that moves you to deface a book should probably be shared or become immortalized in some other way than just a reference for a future version of yourself.