Thomas E. Weber, editor of SmartMoney.com, has an excellent essay at paidContent.org today about his experience of reading on an Amazon Kindle. His key argument, one that publishers need to take heed of, is that the ability to focus on a book when reading on the Kindle is the device’s greatest strength. He calls it “unitasking,” which is a consequence of the multi-tasking we are told is essential in the information age. I’d just say that with a book, concentration is rewarding. It gives wings to ideas, lets your mind escape your world into the minds of others.
As publishers seek to capitalize on these devices and the devices evolve to provide color and video features, though, Weber cautions that books could be over-designed to their detriment. Simple, straightforward presentation of text (even when it is enhanced with social features, video or graphics, and interactive annotation) is the hallmark of good book design, even with e-books.