The information architecture of Kindle 2.0

by on March 16, 2009 at 3:00 pm in Books, Web/Tech | Permalink

Chris F. Masse alerts me to this very interesting article.  Excerpt:

Letting customers read a book's initial pages for free is a great
Kindle innovation and makes good use of the digital medium's ability to
dissolve the print requirement to bundle chapters. (Thus, this is a better-than-reality
feature.) The innovation will no doubt sell more books – particularly
for fiction, where people will want to see what happens next once
they're gripped by a story. In fact, for mystery novels, Amazon could
probably give away the first 90% for free and charge the entire fee
just for the last chapter.

The article is interesting throughout on a variety of Kindle-related topics.  The author agrees with my basic claim that the Kindle favors plot-driven fiction over complex non-fiction or for that matter postmodern fiction.  Referring back and forth across sections is a no-no, so goodbye Pale Fire.

1 JP March 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Just to be clear, getting a free sample is not new to the Kindle 2.0. It’s been a feature from the beginning. (It’s also something that, when I read about it, I didn’t think I would have much use for, but now I use it all the time.)

2 Chris Masse March 16, 2009 at 4:45 pm

“you could just look up who done it on Wikipedia.”

Yes, but the name of “who did it” is not just what the reader would be interested in.

3 Andy March 16, 2009 at 4:53 pm

For some types of referring back and forth across sections, I actually find the Kindle easier. It is more difficult to flip through a lot of pages to find something that way or to go back and forth frequently (although you could set a bookmark), but I often search for a name or a phrase to remind myself who or what something is while reading postmodern fiction (especially when they may have just been briefly mentioned before). That is a feature that I really wished I had a number of times while reading 2666.

4 Jim March 16, 2009 at 5:19 pm

I’m finding cross-referencing across sections quite easy and convenient on my Kindle. I’ve taken to reading law journal articles, complete with the usual volume of footnotes, by downloading them from Westlaw and then emailing them to the Kindle. It has become my preferred method for reading this stuff.

5 Thomas March 16, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Perhaps we need an updated version of Pale Fire explaining why you should buy two Kindles.

6 lt.milo March 16, 2009 at 9:04 pm

I actually read Pale Fire on my Kindle. I just downloaded two copies of the book so that i could switch between them instead of trying to flip through pages to get to the lines referred to in the text.

It still wasn’t easy, but it can be done.

7 ed March 17, 2009 at 12:50 am

Is there a way to search on the Kindle WITHIN THE CURRENT DOCUMENT? I’ve tried searching on my wife’s Kindle, but it searches the whole library and is slow.

This is actually one of the main reasons I haven’t bought a Kindle for myself. Am I missing something?

8 JP March 17, 2009 at 9:27 am

ed — Not on Kindle 1.0, and AFAIK not on Kindle 2.0. The ability to search within a single book is the one improvement I would most want Amazon to make.

Shariq — Just to avoid any misapprehension, the Kindle samples are well more than a few pages. It’s up to the publisher to decide how much of a sample to make available, but in most cases it’s at least the entire first chapter. In some cases, it’s almost 20% of the book. And you can keep the sample indefinitely.

9 JP March 17, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Andy — I think you’ve just persuaded me that I need to upgrade to version 2.0. (Why haven’t they publicized this new feature more???)

10 JP March 18, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Mr Bean — As a Kindle lover, non-fiction reader, and former book hoarder, I’d like to address your concerns.

I’ve had my Kindle for about 10 months. As time has gone by, I’ve become more and more comfortable getting rid of 90% of the thousands of books that fill my house. To me, the advantages are (1) more space, (2) ease of use (I can read faster and longer), and (3) portability. The downside is that I might want to refer to the book in future and it won’t be available on Kindle (or Kindle won’t even exist anymore). I’m willing to take that risk in view of the upside.

In addition, the Kindle allows you to mark passages. The Kindle allows you to search books. (Most books have awful indexes there days anyway. That’s a lost art.) Kindle editions of classics, including classic non-fiction, are dirt cheap. Kindle allows you to insert bookmarks.

As for cross-referencing, I’ve worked out my own system of taking written notes separately. Does that mean the Kindle is not worth it, because I’m still not paperless? In my view, no, because I’d be taking notes even if I were reading a dead-tree book.

My recommendation is to try it, if you have a friend with one. If you’ve ever lugged around a 600-page biography or tried to read Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall” while lying in bed, you will quickly become a convert.

11 JP March 19, 2009 at 9:24 am

Chris — Reading on a Kindle is nothing like reading on a computer screen. Unlike a computer screen, the Kindle screen is not backlit. You read it with the reflected light from your surroundings, exactly as you read something printed on paper. I actually find that I can read on the Kindle with *less* strain than reading a traditional book — I think it’s because the Kindle is lighter than most books, and all the type is in a single plane rather than curving in and out of the binding.

12 Bart March 23, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Chris, I’m not sure why you think that words displayed on a Kindle are worth less than words printed on paper. Words are symbolic representations of ideas. Does printing those words on paper somehow make the ideas real? You must be referreing to coloring books. In terms of coloring books, the Kindle would be worse than words on paper. But for those of us who do not need pretty pictures to understand a story, Kindle works fine.

Your intelligence makes me sad. I’d trust your reasoning like I’d trust a Polish doctor. You’ve done for thinking what AIDs has done for Africa. You suffer mentally what people with erectile dysfunction suffer physically. You have trouble getting and maintaining a thought. If your brain was a popsicle flavor, it would be waterhead-mellon. If your comment was a planet, it would be Stupider. Its sixth moon would be Europollock. If you were an element, you would be platinumbskull.

13 TylerBowen February 11, 2011 at 4:54 pm

The opinion you have here is quite right about certain things, but you have to take one thing in consideration. Lots of websites today use spyware in order to get to their clients and the Kindle example is one easy step we just took to another more complex virtualization of our lives. But in the future, a spyware remover will be something very common.

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