Amazon's Kindle

brampitoyo's picture

Though I generally shy away from any article that involve phrases like "Reinventing the Book", I’m still mighty curious about Amazon's font selection for its Monday-launched e-book device, Kindle. I mean, for starters, out of all typeface in the world, why Caecilia?

However, I think that Amazon might have gotten it right this time, because the device was:

  • Birthed with a culturally-centered principles, and
  • Built by sociologists and ethnographers

As quoted from the article:

...he [Jeff Bezos] ticks off a number of attributes that a book-reading device...must have. First, it must project an aura of bookishness; it should be less of a whizzy gizmo than an austere vessel of culture.

Compare this with Sony Reader's:

  • Feature and benefit-centered principle, and
  • Clunky reading interface that attempted to mirror exactly the appearance of a physical book or a PDF file (that looked like it was designed by a programmer instead of a sociologist). Look, dudes, with every new medium must come a new presentation model that is specifically suited to that medium, even if the contents themselves are old and dusty.

As quoted from their website copy:

The Sony® Reader provides a new way to experience reading. It boasts an impressive display, utilizing breakthrough technology that’s almost paper-like. In addition, the text can be magnified for sight-impaired readers. Daylight readable, high contrast, high resolution, near 180º viewing angle.

I think that if any revolution is to take place, it has to take the human spirit into account. From what I’ve read so far, Amazon seemed to do just that; but it remains to be seen whether those words were true to principle or just extremely empathic/clever PR.

Your thoughts?

Note: this article is a repost of what I’ve written in my blog, because I think that the content is relevant to our community.

Stephen Coles's picture

PMN Caecilia is one of my favorite typefaces, and very readable, so I applaud their choice, but it doesn't look very good in the photos of Kindle that I've seen. I hope it's better in person.

The biggest problem with the type on Kindle is that paragraphs are full-justified and the layouts are not designed, just plain text.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Birthed with a culturally-centered principles

Yeah, like charging the user for opening a PDF!

brampitoyo's picture

Unfortunately you're right, Ricardo. Seems that all these talks about staying true to the spirit of the physical book might only be true conceptually and not practically. Their intent and principle may be noble, but their design and implementation, not so much.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I'm quite happy with books the way they are now. :-)

David Rault's picture

... though I always take a look on kindle-like devices for it might be handy sometimes to wrap a dozen of books on the go in a pocket. I've used the sony reader some time ago, and the electronic paper display is amazing. I'm wondering why the development of this kind of things is so freakin slow.

but I would never buy a digital book over a printed one, that's for sure... Huh, wait, I was saying the same thing about my vinyl records?


aluminum's picture

The killer app for digital books is documentation. A repair man could have repair manuals for thousands of appliances, the mechanic could have user guides for a bunch of makes of cars, I could have my O'Reilly tech books.

For reading on the bus/by the fire, I think you'll see paper for a LONG time to come, but there are definitely areas where not wasting trees and having a large access to a lot of texts will be useful.

That said, the whole DRM aspect of Amazon's product is absurd.

Which is incredibly ironic given that they've done such a great job with their DRM-free MP3 service.

blank's picture

The killer app for digital books is documentation.

I have to disagree, but not entirely. When I want quick, up-to-date documentation I don’t want to mess around with an ebook, I want something like the Adobe help system. Sifting through a PDF or ebook is better than paper, but having it all cross-linked and organized hierarchically in a help app is much more efficient.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

though I always take a look on kindle-like devices for it might be handy sometimes to wrap a dozen of books on the go in a pocket

Oh, I take an interest in this stuff, too, David. I'm no machine-smashing luddite.


Ricardo (owns a large CD collection; refuses to part with his vinyl records and casette tapes)

Si_Daniels's picture

The Kindle was birthed by ex-Apple folks, according to this... and they're hiring!

Love this quote on the design - "The Pontiac Aztek of e-readers"

aluminum's picture

"but having it all cross-linked and organized hierarchically in a help app is much more efficient."

Well, help != documentation/manuals IMHO. They are both useful, but both different.

Granted, both should be able to co-exist on an eBook reader.

brampitoyo's picture

With all these talks, then, why would you ever want to read on an ebook device over a regular book? I’m mighty curious, because our community is pretty steeped in tradition.

For me, it’s a question of habit. I’m used to reading one storybook at one time before finishing it and moving on to another book. Had I have a habit of reading, say, 3 novels at a time, or doing a comparative study of some sorts, then I might use Kindle to save some space on my bag. That’s the only reason for using that I can think of.

Again, the question of the day is “why would you ever want to read on an ebook device over a regular book?” I’d love to know all of your opinions.

I also think that if a multifunction device like Kindle is to succeed, it’s got to offer something more than just convenience. After the iPod, everything also has to be elegant. And I’m not just talking about it in the physical sense, but also in the user interaction and mental sense.

Watching its instructional video almost made me wish for an iPhone-like interface. Everyone in lazyeye88’s post would agree, no ;^) ?

David Rault's picture

examples of use:

- you are a freelancer and need to go to other countries for 1 week, 1 month, 5 month, where you wont be able to get books in a language you understand. though, you dont want to carry 20 kg of books with you.

- you travel very often and you dont want to carry heavy and big books or magazines with you.

- you enjoy to read magazines but you always throw them away after use, and you dont want to hurt the forests too much.

- you own 2000 books and suddenly you decide to go and live in another country for 3 or 4 years, then going back. its not worth the cargo shipping, but you miss your books.

- you are a kid going to school and you are tired of the 15kg bags which destroy your back.

- you are in starbucks coffee and you wish to read a nice book, novel or magazine, right here, right now. if the ebook reader has wifi, it'd be great to download articles on the go.

etc etc etc.


basicframework's picture

I'm surprised no one has commented on the Kindle's horrible full-justified type with no hyphenation. I mean, is programming hyphenation THAT hard? As you can see in the Kindle demo video, the no-hyphenation result is some very gappy text.

Si_Daniels's picture

>I mean, is programming hyphenation THAT hard?

No, but you have to have hyphenation dictionaries for every language and that can get spendy.

Cheers, Si

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