Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What I Want From My eReader: (A Wishlist)

The Kindle is about to be born again, and plenty of people have thoughts for it. I can't blame them. Newspapers are falling apart, book reviews are scarcely published in print, and magazines are investigating the future of eInk, debuting sex columns, and jabbing on another with their covers.

All right, Sony, Amazon, and whoever else is working. Here is what I, your future consumer, desire from the product you are trying to create:

1) Access to the OED, Wikipedia, Google, JStor, and YouTube.

I want to be able to touch a word and bring up articles related to it. But this feature has to be turn-off-able. Sometimes you want to read to connect to people - that's when you read on the internet - and sometimes you want to read to disconnect from everything else - that's when you open a book on the subway. The eReader will have to make both a possibility.

2) Pages you can "turn."

I want to be able to click a corner at the top or bottom of the page to flip forward or flip back.

3) Color, but still those lovely "paper" screens.

Your eyes shouldn't hurt as you read; Amazon got this right. But if you're making a device that allows us on the internet, we have to be able to view the internet for real. Think iPhone.

4) Marginalia.

We should be able to write in the margins of our books, and save the notes. We should also be able to dog-ear pages. I'd love to have a Wikipedia-ish setting where I could access a dialogue within AND outside the text (debating the alternate endings of Great Expectations with other readers). Or view some YouTube interpretations of great books as created by high school students. When I got sick of my honors reading list senior year, I would Google it for a while just to laugh about it. Nothing lights up Beloved like a silent reenactment by some kid's Sims. And nothing makes Benito Cereno quite like Legos. Again, I don't want this feature on ALL the time, but it would be fun to turn on during an all-nighter.

4) Annotated margin notes for an academic setting.

Ideally, I'd like to be able to "log in" to a textbook and read my professor and classmates' notes in the margins. This way professors can assign postings in the margins or on a message board, so students will be able to fully engage with their class as they read.

5) Waterproof pages and an elastic band.

I'm thinking Moleskin 2.0. What if it were pocket-sized, waterproof, and stayed closed with that black elastic band? It would appeal to literate people everywhere, and would gain respect from an older audience. People would see it and get huge technology crushes instantly. It's an aesthetically perfect volume, and connects to a literary history. And when it's closed, it's sealed and safe.

There could be a second one available in the large, slim size for textbooks.

6) Audio technology. Who wouldn't want to hear David Sedaris read his book?

7) Adjustable font size.

8) Paper color that's adjustable. In the mood for papyrus? Water-marked granite? Whatever suits your fancy.

9) Please break away from the prefix "e." Be yourself. Don't be defined by this Appleish internety techno-jargon.

10) This is why I love the idea of eBooks: What if you could purchase short stories for $.99? Literary journals would become more relevant than they have ever been. Just link to short stories by authors next to the authors' names in each search. That way before you buy a book, you can read a short piece to get a sense of tone. When you buy an album on iTunes, you usually buy a single track first. This would be the perfect opportunity to make short stories marketable and relevant.

Okay, Amazon. Please create this device, and maybe by the time you do, I will have a salary to purchase such a device. Thank you! Xoxo, Your Future Consumer

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