WHAT BOOKS FEEL LIKE

Friday, September 13, 2002

At Seybold yesterday I stumbled across E-Book Systems and spoke with the president, Sengbeng Ho, for a little while at the end of the show (is the end of a show when more senior people are around? I never noticed before). Sengbeng has a doctorate in something like cognitive science/usability and E-Book has created a neat application that really does simulate the feeling of flipping pages. It was high performance and had good tactile feedback – you could see the contents of the pages as they turned and, maybe even more importantly you can see where you are in the book, how much more there is to go, etc. We talked a but about this style which on the face of it would seem unnecessary and inefficient, hell, just plain old-fashioned, (vs scrollbars) but in actuality just seems to make sense once you see it in action. I have always thought that when portables have better battery life, and more importantly, wake from a non-power consuming state almost instantly, and most importantly are really much tougher, we will start to see the move to E-Books. What I hadn’t realized was that the UI was not right either.

Just later the same day I was in the SF MOMA around the corner and saw an E-Book with Lewis Carroll’s photographs (in addition to the photos themselves, which were surprisingly uninteresting, actually). The (hypercard based, I think) piece was done in the style that the photographer used to like to present his photos in an album, one per page. The reason I bring this up is that there was a page flipping thing here too, but just that little less tactile feedback (no visibility of the images on the turning pages, no sense of where you were in the book, no ability to turn more than one page at the same time). It was just enough less ‘real’ and felt phony and computery.

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