eBooks Are Much Worse Than They Should Be

June 22, 2013

I’m a pretty avid reader. I mainline genre fiction (science fiction and fantasy mostly), but adore all sorts of words. I read a lot on line and have so for years. Definitely way too much blogs and comments and mailing lists for my own happiness, but I’m no stranger to reading on a screen. I read novels on my phone and recently have been reading stuff on a new iPad Mini. The Mini really is perfect for my eBook reading needs. I usually read inside or in the shade. The size is right. It’s light and can be selfproping. (My arthritic hands often have trouble with physical books.) I find it easy to read. Strangely, my favorite visual experience is the skeumorphic iBooks from Apple with a slight sepia tone. It’s really comfortable and satisfying. In horizontal mode, it simply crushes the Kindle app for my eyes. I love a fine book and even like the feel of many crappy books, but I’m not mourning the rise of eBooks like I thought I would. However, wow, do they suck far more than they should:

  1. Typos, typos, typos. Yeah, I’m one to complain, but there are a ton of typos in most eBooks. This wouldn’t bother me so much if they would just let me correct them. Why they hell not, oh eBook reader software developers? Why the HELL not? You could just leave it in as an overlay without changing the underlying file. We can put notes, we can highlight, we can zip and zap, but we can’t change the OCRed “!’ll” to “I’ll”.
  2. Organization. Maybe I’m missing something, but all I get from my eBook readers is big flat lists, sometimes arranged in horribly space wasting ways. Frankly, I’m not sure how to delete books from Kindle or iBooks. It sorta sucks that this is hard to figure out. Where are the sweet affordances? (How about time of day or location? Show me the pile of work related reading while I’m at work!)
  3. Purchasing. Holy hell in a handbasket, but all the eBook stores are terrible. Let me pick on Amazon. There is simply no sensible browsing in Amazon and the search rather sucks. Every Amazon page is a monstrosity of chrome and doodads which makes paging through a list of books exceedingly slow and painful. The recommendations are freaking childish (often, for me, “Well, you just browsed this!”). The entry points are ridiculously bad. Yes yes, here are the top 10 or top 100 which you show me every time. If I didn’t buy them the first ten times I came here, what makes you think I’ll buy them now? Where’s the “I never want to see this again on any list you generate for me. I’m not going to buy it. I’m never going to buy it. You are wasting your time with this.” In a bookstore, the front part is usually covered with top sellers (though they cycle out with new stuff much quicker), but I can get past that in secondsOn Amazon, I’m stuck there.
    For that matter, you know the order of books in a series and you know which ones I’ve bought…why not indicate what the next book is in the series? Why not make it obvious which ones I’ve already got? I spend an inordinate amount of time jumping around to web to figure this stuff out.

I have similar problems with iTunes et al. I know people find stuff and spend lots of time in these places, but my experience is a huge turn off. (Why on earth do I have to wade through the foreign translations of books you know I’ve bought to find out that the book I want by that author isn’t available? Screw you!) There are so many simple small things that could be easy, low effort wins that it really makes me sad.

One Response to “eBooks Are Much Worse Than They Should Be”


  1. My experience with libraries is pretty horrible too (that is, checking out eBooks or audio books from public libraries).


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