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30/07/08

Packing it in.

I’m packing for holiday, off for two weeks, debating my reading plans, and how ambitious they are.

So far, I’ve packed:

  • Personal Days by Ed Park, Jonathan Cape
  • Rogue Male, Geoffrey Household, Penguin, very secondhand
  • Americana, Don DeLillo (Vintage) – have given up on this one before, despite being a big DD and advertising fan.

I kind of think that’s just about right for the novels.

But, nagging me from the side of the bed are worky books, heavy with illustration, and good intention: The Pirate’s Dilemma (great, from what I’ve read so far), Webdesign for ROI (I know, the title scares me too, but is very full of sense) and Web Analytics, An Hour a Day.

Frankly, given the fact that I’m nowhere near an internet connection (and why can’t I buy a roaming dongle on pay as you go?), and everywhere near a beach and insanely good food and drink, I’m unlikely to open these books. So maybe I’ll leave them at home. They’re big, and you know, heavy. (Unwittingly, I’ve become one of those people, talking about seeing the benefits of electronic reading in terms of luggage. Forgive me.)

Still, the fact is, that this year, for the first time ever, the idea of taking a digital device with me, and sharing the load and ambition, is actually plausible. I have an iTouch enabled for ebooks. No extra weight. Perhaps I get these books digitally – or supplement them with those I can? Can I carry them with me to every beach, and avoid reading them electronically?

And for just one moment I had a glimpse into the future.

I googled “The Pirate’s Dilemma” and found that Matt Mason’s site allowed a free download
(actually, it’s an honesty box model, but seeing as I bought the book, I figured I could get away with a freebie on that); the other two are print-only.

And what a revelation. Instant.

I downloaded it to my laptop, googled for how to get it to sync with one of my iTouch applications – stanza and ereader – and went for it.

OK. I had to update Stanza. But I was away. And full of excitement.

Until I saw the way it looks in the application. No line breaks, no page breaks, no typographical sensitivity at all. In short – a fairly intimidating experience:

The Pirate’s Dilemma, Viewed in Stanza

I thought perhaps this was a feature of the book itself, so tried again, this time with Sara Lloyd’s Digital Manifesto. Not so much:

Sara Lloyd’s Digital Manifesto Viewed in Stanza

(I can’t take a screengrab from my iTouch, but if you can imagine just one of these columns, that’s pretty much it.)

Of course, these are out-of-the-box PDFs rather than more native formats such as ePub. But they are still being displayed with standard structural formatting rather than that of the document (hence why Sara’s document title is “Microsoft Word” and the author “Michael Bashkar”). So I don’t want to be too unfair.

But even the ePub versions of the books I have are a little cold in their typographical attentions – focused more on getting content onto a page,rather than off it, and into the mind of the reader.

I’m very excited by this though, particularly the serendipity of the first book I looked for digitally being available, and the crystallisation of how persuasive that could be for all books. All I want to do is make it look a lot nicer.

Read them I will – or try to, I’m on holiday – but what this exercise says to me is that these are very early days, and wonderful as they are, there are some opportunities for some very great design leaps (in terms of experience and interface) to be made very quickly.

Posted by Peter Collingridge in Future of the book, Personal, Publishing.

Apt’s links for July 29th // On Vampires

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