Steve interviewed in Digital Book World

I was interviewed for an article in Digital Book World. Anne Kostick and I spoke about the Reading Ahead project and what has or hasn’t changed since then. The whole article is online but here’s an excerpt:

We discussed what’s happened in the months since the project ended more than a year ago. Although the study gathered great feedback from individuals and professionals, he still doesn’t see a lot of people trying to really rethink what it means for “analog activity to become digital activity.”

Still, the primary goal of digital-book development should be creating good user experiences: creating things people can use that don’t disappoint on some social, physical, or conceptual level that the designers and manufacturers hadn’t known about or taken into account.

There exist, of course, basic principles, but Portigal notes that “we’re at that inflection point where we bring our analog expectations to digital. It’s hard to adopt new technology if it’s not done really well, and we don’t have a model for a digital reading experience.

“New behaviors are emerging as a result of digital experience,” he explained. We can handle operations that change-for example, that have preference settings-and there are actions that are moot now (for example, removing the jacket from a hardcover book before reading). But there’s so much potential for new functions and innovations; are readers ready for that? They lose something from not having the physical book, but don’t yet know how much they may have to gain.

Portigal suggests we tease and challenge the reader to learn more about what a digital reading experience can offer, and then let us know how they like or dislike a feature. Maybe readers will be able to navigate content based on reading expectations: What kinds of books do people read in bed? before sleeping? In transit? Readers may want to choose their content based on feeling, word length, density of prose, device and platform, for different situations and activities.


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