The frictionless future

The frictionless future

E-books have removed a lot of the tiny impedimenta that used to exist for reading.

Of course, when we read p-books (paperbooks), we didn’t really think that much about things like having to keep our own place in a book, perhaps having to get reading glasses, and only practically being able to carry a couple of books with us at a time (I always had at least two, so I wouldn’t have the horror of finishing a book on an errand and not having another one to read). 😉

I think, similarly, we aren’t aware of  some of the steps which we still take today with e-books.

As a trainer working with software, I often have people point out the number of “clicks” saved by a new feature, and they expect that means instant and universal adoption.

I have to explain that clicks don’t matter.

You see, people are very good at learning a sequence…and then forgetting the individual steps.

Let’s say that somebody is doing something in ten clicks. I show them how to do it in three clicks. If I come back a month later, they’ll probably be doing it in ten again.

If I ask them why, they’ll say, “It’s how I know how to do it.”

They aren’t thinking of it as ten actions, they are thinking of it as one.

I demonstrate this by asking somebody to suddenly give me the fifth number in their phone number. They typically pause and have to think about it.

If I just said, “What’s your phone number?” they could instantly spit it out…even though that’s more digits.

It’s similar with e-reading.

Once we identify friction points, developers can think about how to get around them…and  believe me, they already are.

I always have a password on my tablets… think that’s pretty necessary if you are going to do any kind of personal business (or business business) on them. I don’t do that on my EBRs (E-Book Readers), but I probably would if they left the house. 😉

There is work being done right now to eliminate passwords.

One promising idea is that your phone can tell who you are…by your gait, by how you swipe, by your face, by your voice, by a fingerprint…a lot of possibilities.

If someone else picked it up, the phone will be able to tell…and at that point, it would require a password.

We don’t give as much data to our EBRs and tablets…we just don’t carry them around as much.

One solution would be to have your phone (or some wearable or implant) tell your EBR/tablet who you are. With biometrics (another possibility is to recognize our unique smells), a more powerful EBR/tablet could do it on its own.

Another point of friction?

Getting to the device.

I know that may sound funny, but how often are you walking back to where your device is, or digging it out of a purse/laptop case?

I think we like the form factor of a six-inch (or slightly bigger) screen too much to assume that people will read on phones or watches.

That likely means projection…although the projection may very likely be virtual.

I don’t mean specifically virtual reality, which replaces your actual environment…but augmented reality (which puts fictional objects into the real world) might work quite well. People would miss the sense of touch…but they are working on that, too.

Having to pick a new book is definitely friction, although it can be an enjoyable challenge. They’ve been working on that with videos…autoplay. I think some sort of autoplay for books is in the future…where it automatically presents you with the next book in a series, or by the same author, or on the same topic…and it will figure out which one you most likely want.

Our devices are going to become much more aware of our emotions…meaning that a book selection interface could show you some options, and determine which one you prefer just based on where and long your gaze went and was…four choices could appear on the screen, and based on where you looked, it would pull up which one you’ve silently and subconsciously indicated.

Basically, summing up, when we want to read we’ll just be able to read. 🙂

Oh, another area…turning pages. Eventually, e-books will know when we are getting to the end of a page (and separate that from just a glance).

Those are a few things that occur to me…how about you? What are your friction points in e-reading? Feel  free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

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7 Responses to “The frictionless future”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I’ve been thinking about improvements that could be made to the kindle reading experience. willI keep this to just my experiences reading mass market fiction bought from Amazon on a PW3 with the latest home page UI installed.

    I tend to read books serially — never in parallel. I also make use of cloud collections. There are 3 phases in my kindle reading experience: reading a book, inter-book activities, and buying new books to read.

    I’ll start with reading a book. The way my kindle is configured, when I select a new book to read from my FictionTBR collection, I’m taken to the first readable page of the book, and the “about this book” dialog pops up where I indicate that I am currently reading this book (this information is passed on to Goodreads).

    Here we come to my first set of inefficiencies. I do not want to be placed on the first readable page, but rather on the cover page — I like to read all the front matter before beginning the story. Sometimes this information contains maps relative to the story, copyright info, and (occasionally) dramatis personae lists. I would much prefer that Amazon add a configuration setting that lets one decide whether they want to start with the cover, or the first readable page.

    I also like to read with airplane mode on — as this can dramatically improve battery life. I’m always finding that I’m in the middle of a book, and I’ve forgotten to turn Wi-Fi off. I’d like to see another configuration setting that lets you specify that Wi-Fi should be turned off at the beginning of a book (at the same point that the “about this book” dialog appears). If while reading, you attempt to do something that requires Wi-Fi access, the kindle already pops a dialog letting you know that yo have no network connection; do you want to turn it on?

    I have become quit dependent on X-ray. Unfortunately, about half the books I buy do not support X-ray. The X-ray database is a kind of concordance. I don’t see why Amazon could not develop an automated procedure to build the X-ray database as part of the kindle store submission process. Programs that create concordances have been around for decades. Such a program along with a couple of filters should be able to create a good X-ray database.

    When I come to the end of a book, another Goodreads dialog is popped up which gives me the ability to assign a star rating. This dialog will also indicate the next title in a series, and give you the option to go to the kindle store to buy it. I will generally use this option to buy the next book. Since Wi-Fi is usually (in my case) off, I first get the dialog asking me if I want to turn Wi-Fi on, and then the purchase takes place. Based on my settings in the store this will cause the book to be downloaded onto the kindle home page.

    If you are actually on the last page (including ads & previews) in the kindle book, a notification is given to Goodreads, that you have finished the book. However, if you are not on the absolute last page, Goodreads will indicate that you are still reading the book. I think it would be better if on that Goodreads star rating dialog, there was a button that you could use to indicate positively that you are finished with the book.

    Now we come to the inter-book phase> I will go to my library to the FictionTBR collection, long press the title I have just finished reading to “add to collection”. Since cloud collections require Wi-Fi access, if Wi-Fi is off, you will be asked if you want to turn Wi_Fi on. I will then remove the title from the TBR collection, and put it in the current “Already Read” collection. My “already Read” collections never have more than 75 items in them. At one point I had a collection with over 750 titles in it. Collections actions became unbearably slow, and the kindle would frequently hang. By not putting more than 75 items in a collection, the problem is avoided.

    If there are any new books sitting on the home page, I will place these in the TBR collection. I then check my blogs collection to see if there any new posts on the 5 blogs to which I subscribe. If there are, I will read them at this point. Then I will go to the TBR collection to pick the next book to read, and the process starts all over again.

    Many probably would also at this point remove the title from the device. I don’t do so because if I’m reading a series, I may have need to refer back to a previous series title. My PW3 currently has about 120 items on it of which 100 are books.

    These last two issues are really performance issues that would be best served by faster H/W. However, if they could provide a block remove from device facility (instead of one by one), it would make keeping a kindle “lean & mean” much easier to achieve.

    Lastly, other than next in series titles (as mentioned previously) I don’t buy books on the kindle. I use Amazon’s web page on a PC, where there is much more information available, and you can see the cover in color. The web page does a pretty good job of indicating that you’ve already bought a book (unless there has been a revision — in which case the previous purchase info is lost). On the kindle itself, if you buy there, indication of a previous purchase comes at the very end of the transaction, and is not very reliable. I wish the buying from the kindle would display previous purchase activity right at the beginning of the transaction rather than at the end..

    My plan is now to edit this post slightly and send it off to the kindle feedback email address FWIW (:grin)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      While our reading styles are very different (I always am reading several books in parallel), I largely agree with your suggestions. 🙂

      I always go back to the cover…one thing I particularly like to read is the dedications, and that often gets skipped otherwise. It can be an option, certainly, but I would select it.

      Some people may use the Wikipedia look up a lot, and so they might feel that having the wireless be “on demand” might be friction for them…but I’d be absolutely fine with the wireless being off unless I requested it…even though it might take a few seconds. That, again, should be an option. I’d like another option which I’ll name “Schedule Sync”. My guess is that the vast majority of people don’t turn their EBRs (E-Book Readers…not Fires) all the way off at night. I’d love to be able to set a timer for it to sync and pull down my blogs, special offers, and such, an hour or two before I expect to wake up (or whenever you choose). So, the Wi-Fi (in my case) would be off almost all the time, and it would do it automatically.

      Past my bedtime (I stayed up for the Warriors game…I go to bed early), so I’ll add to this tomorrow. 😉

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        Oh, so what game were they at? I must admit I’d forgotten about the Warriors/Cavaliers stuff the last few days — who won?

        I think I mentioned that turning Wi-Fi off when you begin a book should be a user selectable option. Even if Wi-Fi is off, if you want to use Wikipedia, a dialog will pop up to turn Wi-Fi back on. By me with a brandy new latest & greatest router, it turns on in just a few seconds.

        One thing I meant to mention, (but here you reminded me) is the whole issue of restarts. I never restart mine — it takes too long, and it always looks to me like somethings gonna happen to brick the device (:grin).

        That said every couple of weeks my kindle will either hang, or restart all by itself out of the blue. Every time you do something that would allow you to push the “back” button causes an item to be pushed onto the stack, so that the kindle knows where to go when you hit the “back” button. Sometimes at the end of a book, I will repeatedly hit the “back” button to clear the stack. That has a problem though of setting the current book’s page number back to 1, and then Goodreads thinks you are still reading the book. (:sigh)

        There should be an item on the settings page that says: “clear the stack”, that will obviate the need for restarts and will improve stability & performance after long runs without a restart. Alternately, Amazon could figure out how to make restarts relatively instantaneous, but that would probably require H/W that would make kindles too expensive — better to just clear the stack (:grin)

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Edward!

        Not usually necessary in sports, at least the next day, but SPOILER ALERT FOR THE NBA FINALS.

        The Warriors and Cavaliers were playing game six (out of seven) of the NBA (National Basketball Association) finals…the end of the season. It takes four games to win. At one point, the Dubs (that’s what fans call the Warriors…short for “double-yous”…”Ws”) were leading 3 games to 1. The Cavs have won the last two games, tying it up at 3-3. That means they need a seventh game to determine the winner…and it will happen on Sunday in Oakland.


        I am a “fair weather” fan for the Warriors…I don’t watch a game on TV until they are in the finals. I do it in solidarity with my coworkers and my community. I expect them to be aware that a new Star Wars movie has come out, or that San Diego Comic-Con is happening, so it only seems fair. 😉 I do enjoy basketball on TV…fast moving action, relatively short games (typically under 2 1/2 hours of TV time), and while some violence happens, it is against the rules.

        I was saying to my Significant Other today that it is interesting to me that the Bay Area actually is a powerhouse in sports…I don’t think of us that way. The San Jose Sharks (our local hockey team…not something kids are going to play in school here) was in the Stanley Cup (the sport championships in the USA) this year. The San Francisco Giants (baseball) have won the World Series repeatedly…as did the Oakland As a while back. We actually do well in pretty much all the big sports…and, of course, we were a real hub for Battlebots. 😉

        However, our teams do “torture” us, as Giants fans like to say. We basically never just go into a playoffs and sweep…it’s back and forth and we could always lose. I think it’s because we at least think of our teams as doing well because they play smart. We are sometimes like the Bad News Bears: a team of misfits, winning through heart and strategy. We love our coaches as much as our players. If you simple were better physically, you would probably win the vast majority of the time…as is attributed to Damon Runyon (but I don’t think the author actually said it, “The battle is not always to the strong nor the race to the swift…but that’s the way to bet.” 😉 LeBron James, leading the Cavaliers, is incredible…even as a Dubs rooter, I admire LBJ (and yes, I still think President Johnson when I hear that). It’s not just the size, where LBJ dwarves Steph Curry, our most famous player. James has been sinking three pointers (far away shots which require accuracy), and muscling in to do these sort of trailing hand layups. Importantly, in what is considered a virtue in basketball (stats are tracked), “assists” other players in getting baskets.

        Well, that’s the most sports talk I’ve ever done in this blog…or online, probably!

        I think clearing the stack makes sense. 🙂

      • eboyhan Says:

        I haven’t been much into sports lately (save for disco roller skating whose days are sadly mostly behind us), but the WSH recently had an article about how the Warriors are revolutionizing basketball. From Chamberlain, to Jabbar, to Jordan, to (now) Curry that got me interested in this. The article is here fyi:

        Interestingly, as child into my late 20’s I always pronounced the letter “W’ as “dubbinyew”. It was only when a friend said “what are you going dubbin about? — it’s double-U idiot!” — at which point the blinders dropped from my eyes, and the world has never been the same since (:grin).

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Okay, to continue…

        I also find that the end of the book pop up comes too soon. I almost always dismiss it at that point, and sometimes have to back up in the book to finish reading (I do read all of the end notes in a book…or at least skim over them if they are just citations). Goodreads often thinks I’m reading books I’ve finished…I haven’t noticed it ever marking automatically that I’ve read a book, but perhaps it has.

        As to the next book…the current Fires now have “On Deck”, which automatically downloads videos for you…for example, it might download the next episode in a series. There are several protocols to keep that from being a problem. That would work very well with Kindle Unlimited…and they could have the “On Deck” books not count against your “ten at a time” limitation. They could also do it outside Kindle Unlimited, by either using only free books (which wouldn’t necessarily be in the same series) or by having you pre-authorizing purchases…I think I’ll write a whole post on this. 🙂

        On the revision/previous purchase thing…that should only happen if a book has a new ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number)…at that point, it’s really considered to be a new item. If a guide to Disneyland was updated it might not get a new ASIN, and the website would tell you that you had previously purchased it. If one was “Disneyland 2016” and a “Disneyland 2017” was released which was 90% the same, but published as a separate title, it wouldn’t tell you. That’s how I would expect it to work, anyway. 🙂

  2. eboyhan Says:

    If you use the “go to” button while in a book, and go to “End”, the Goodreads popup will appear. If you give it your rating, and then go to your library (not anywhere else in the book Goodreads will pick up the current position as “End”, and mark the book completed.

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