What page are you on?

A lot of people with whom I regularly trade ideas are reading Walter Isaacson’s page-turning biography of Steve Jobs.

And so for the first time I find myself frustrated with all the limitations on sharing capabilities in e-Readers (I’m using the Kindle app on an iPad).  I can’t even email text to someone with comments.

Functionality that would be great:

  1. Copy/paste functionality of any sort
  2. The ability to highlight a section of text and drop it straight into an email
  3. Knowing which of your friends (in your address book; Facebook friends; etc.) is reading the book and what page they’re on
  4. Highlighting and commenting on text that can be seen by your friends who are reading the same book (I’d want the comments to appear in the app, not to appear as a Facebook update)
  5. Export all of your highlights, as well as your comments, into a shareable file
  6. The ability to opt in/out of making your comments available to some sort of online discussion forum…
  7. ….and, similarly, to view comments from that forum while you read, if you want.

And some things I wouldn’t want:

  1. Lots of embedded video – I still want reading to be reading and not to involve any headphones
  2. Any instant messaging-type functionality within the app
  3. Anything with notifications that pop up without me asking for them
  4. Anything at all that makes turning off EVERYTHING (others’ comments, etc) in the least bit difficult
  5. Whatever else would turn my book-reading experience into something more akin to web browsing.  I want (and we all need) the ability to give something sustained attention without distraction

Basically what I’d want is a one way door that I can fully control, that I can choose to open to go deeper into conversation with those with whom I’d like to converse about a book.  I don’t want the book to be any less book-like, I want the option of creating a shared experience and peer dialogue by leveraging existing, simple functionality in a way that amplifies the experience without distracting.

5 thoughts on “What page are you on?

  1. Hi Sasha,
    This is exactly the problem that the app Readmill (readmill.com) is trying to solve. They are a really cool Berlin based startup whose mission is to make reading books digitally a social experience. The main bottleneck to better ereading software is the closed file format from stores like amazon and Barnes and Noble. Buying books in the epub format makes sharing much easier. Hope that Readmill answers many of your points.

  2. Jeffrey, thanks for this. I’ve got an older Kindle and it can do none of these things. I guess competitively it will/would make sense for Amazon to make the newer Kindle more of a direct competitor to the iPad and to limit the Kindle for iPad functionality (echoes of Microsoft Office becoming increasingly useless on the Mac). So far I’ve been lazy and loved being completely device agnostic (Kindle, iPad, iPhone) by using the Kindle store. The idea that I’d have to think hard about which platform I buy my ebook on is so exhausting (remember having to choose which IM platform to be on)?

    Thanks for reading.

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