Blue Sky EBR: what would really change the game
There is no doubt that we will see some significant change in EBRs (E-Book Readers) and tablets before the end of this year. Prices will drop, new models will be introduced, and the devices will become better integrated into our lives.
I thought I’d take a minute here to speculate about some future developments…ones I’m not saying we’ll get this year, but that would really make a difference. I’ve talked about some of this before, but I think they could happen at some point.
Touchless page turning
The lack of a simple way to set autoturning has baffled me since the Kindle 1. Yes, the K1 had a slideshow mode, but it was too fast. You can turn down the volume on many Kindles and use TTS (text-to-speech), but then you can’t really control the speed.
It seems like it wouldn’t be at all hard to allow us to set an automatic page turn. That would be useful on the treadmill or knitting, of course. On touch screens, it would also reduce fingerprints.
In fact, I’d like to see a gestural, non-contact interface for touchscreens. Again, this is blue sky stuff, but wouldn’t it be nice to pinch and spread to zoom without touching the screen? It always seems a bit primitive to carry around cloths or other wiping devices for these high tech devices.
An option for page turns would be eye-tracking. The device could tell where you are by where you were looking, and “turn the page” when it was the right time. I think it wouldn’t be hard to learn to “long blink” for clicking, among other things.
TTS should be available on every book, every time, with more options (including more languages). Not just on books, but on websites. I expect it will get better. I don’t really need it to have emotions (although I like that the voice rises in pitch at the end of a question). It could show emphasis, of course, reflecting the use of bolds or italics. However, I know some folks would like it to be more like an actor (and it could sound like a specific person), and that could happen eventually. Whether it’s through text-to-speech or not, I also think we’ll see increased translation capability. That has started, but I expect we’ll see it much more in the future.
Quite simply, this is needed, and I know it can be done. I’m saying “archives” here, but the key element is that different devices need to have access to different books on the same account. Some people want this desperately. Parents/legal guardians want to share some books with kids on the account…but not even show them that others are in the archives. This would also allow us to have book groupings (Collections) in the archives. I’ve been thinking we would get this for years, but I think the pressure is mounting.
The physical structure of our devices really limits us currently. Sometimes you want a three inch screen. Sometimes you want a ten inch screen. Sometimes you want a sixty inch. At some point, our content will escape from this morphological dependence. It could be through screens that fold up, devices that project, mirroring (having that movie on your three inch screen appear effortlessly on your big screen), or something like Google Glasses. Oh, and we should also be able to switch between what we now have with a reflective screen and what we have with a backlit. Reflective screens will eventually give us both full rich color and animation. Frontlighting may replace backlighting…but the bottom line is it would be great to walk from a darkroom into the bright sunshine and still be able to read (yes, I read while I’m walking).
Keeping your friends close
Social integration, not just when reading, but when selecting a book to read, seems unavoidable. Right now, we know people are manipulating reviews on Amazon…having a definable group (or many definable groups) of friends and seeing just their ratings/reviews will be one of the best strategies to deal with information overload. They could be people you know…but maybe you could pay to be a non-posting part of a famous science fiction authors circle. The same thing could be true with highlights, notes, recommendations, and so on.
There are a lot of other possibilities. Globalization of content distribution is a big one…eventually, it will be commonplace that a book which is available in one country is available in most countries. Format should also not be a barrier…that should work more like MP3s eventually. I also still want a magic digitizing machine that will legally convert my old paperbooks to e-books…without destroying or damaging the original.
Those are some of my ideas (not ones I think we’ll necessarily see in the next iteration)…what are yours?
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.