User Experience + Interaction Design + Strategy
Thoughts / The Future of Reading (according to me) / 14 October, 2009
The future of digital reading will be marked by the convenience of having books when and where you need them. These three scenarios might help you get an idea of it:
Paul wakes up early in the morning, given that his commuting trip to Manhattan is rather long, about an hour and twenty minutes. Groomed and dressed, he goes for a quick stop at the corner cafe, where he gets his usual cappuccino and the book he’s reading currently: On The Road by Jack Kerouac.
The book is a simple digital-ink book from the DBook service, pages made of that plastic resine that feels like papyrus in your hand. Cover is monotone with the book title delicately composed, giving it that dignifying air of an old book On The Road deserves after all these years. Coffe and book in hand, he waits for the train, and while en route, enjoys chapter 12 and the smooth java cup.
After one chapter and a half, two changes and finally the arrival at his subway station, he crosses and locates the DBook vending machine, where he deposits it, so as not to have to carry it around in the day. Later in the evening he’ll pick up another copy of the same book to entertain him on his trip back home, leaving it at the supermarket DBook box just in time for getting some exquisite pret-a-porter gourmet lamb chops for a simple and succulent dinner.
Paul is subscribed to DBooks by the month, allowing him to exchange as many DBooks as he wants and keeping up to six of them per month for his library.
Since his operation, Björn spends large amounts of time at his home in the outskirts of Reykjavyk, mostly alone with Perro, his black labrador. Thankfully he’s an avid reader, so he gives his mail subscription to DBook all the use he can. Reading a book in three or four days and mailing it back to receive the next one in his online list has become his favourite pastime.
He has long thought of buying the DBook Typesetter, that little device which will allow him to connect any DBook and download new book’s content to it (which adapts to the number of pages by modifying the layout, spacing and font while keeping the style of the book’s design), thus reducing the waiting time to a minimum, but Björn is so affectionate to receiving the short but passionately waited book in the mail, he is subscribed to 2 books at a time, and just can’t wait to check his mailbox every morning a book should be arriving!
He also enjoys the casual exchange of a book with the regular friend and odd faculty colleague that comes now and then to check on him and see how well he’s doing. Knowing he does not have to read the whole book, or even read it gives him an openness to try literature casually, a behaviour that has opened him many unknown doors to pieces and authors he wouldn’t have wondered into before. Now he feels he finally can try all the books in the world, “as long as they’re the good ones, of course!” he says, wittily.
Akio lives a fast paced life since he was relocated to his company’s Paris office. In order to catch up with the local culture and manners, he has subscribed to the pay-per-keep version of the DBook service. Now he can order any book he wants, have it ready the next minute downstairs in his favourite café and pick it up just after that stroll around Saint Germaine he longs to do every Saturday morning.
Just after arriving home, and with a hurried feeling, he settles in his comfortable sofa and attacks vehemently his new ‘possible’ acquisition; after a couple of chapters (even paragraphs in some cases) he knows if the book’s a keeper, but being anew to french literature and French language itself, those two chapters/paragraphs can take the best hours of that bucolic Saturday afternoon, so he has become very selective with the books he finish, and keeps, as his father taught him how to carefully groom a decent and beloved personal library. The ones that capture his fancy he’ll read, finish and archive in his bookshelves, letting the DBook service to know he’s keeping by sweeping the book in the buying scanner that is attached to the shelf, after what his account is deducted of the book’s price.
Knowing he can return any book he does not want to keep makes the all discovering experience the most pleasing, just like when he used to take out books form his local Public Library in Tokio. After all, French and his french tenure are no small task for him, but DBook helps in making it a joyous, relaxed experience.
As you can see, I envision the future of digital reading as a simple, flexible, social, ubiquitous service that will allow books to become more and more part of our lives, no matter at what pace we stroll or bolt around it, while letting the reading to adapt to our lives, conveniently and convincingly, bringing the joy of discovering new worlds in the books we read into anyone’s life.