The Features I Want in an Electronic Reader (eReader)

I will preface my remarks by saying that I own a first generation Kindle.  It was given to me by a friend who quickly purchased the second generation.  The Kindle is a very good device for pure reading.  It is possible to forget you are using a device rather than reading a book.  If you are a purely recreational reader, this device is all you need.  It will especially shine for the purposes of travel.  You will have all the books you want and none of the strain on your carry-on bag.

For me, unfortunately, this is not enough.

I need the following features added to my electronic reader:

  1. An option to view a books pages just as they are in the actual book.  As an academic and commentator, I need to be able to demonstrate exactly where I got a fact or idea.  That means I need to be able to refer to a page number, not some electronic location.  This problem could be conquered either by making books available as pdfs with a screen large enough to comfortably display them or the software could insert pagination throughout the text the same way Lexis-Nexis does.  Either would work.
  2. The ability to mark and highlight the text.  The Kindle lets me highlight portions of a text and even to view them as a group.  However, I cannot easily track the page number from which the highlights came.  And I cannot do anything other than highlighting.  I need to be able to write in margins, bracket, underline, etc.  Call it marginalia.  I need to be able to do that.  It would be even better if I could then access all the markings I did and have ready access to the page numbers from which they came.  A good stylus would be necessary.  I can’t do it all with fingerpainting.
  3. I’m getting greedy now.  But how great would it be if I could choose portions of a text to email to a friend or to post to a blog?
  4. A notepad that could be used like evernote or microsoft note where I could write outlines or other notes in parallel to the books and articles I am reading.

Here are the features I don’t need:

  1. Wi-fi is a plus, but not essential.  I could prepare all my tasks and then connect to a computer to do the things that require a connection.
  2. I do not need color e-ink.  The black and gray works pretty well.  If color e-ink costs me any features from above, then I don’t want it.  And really, I’d rather just have black and white rather than black and gray.  Color is not necessarily a big add for people who work with documents.

I very much hope some of the manufacturers and designers will read this post and consider coming up with a version that can do these things.  There is a big market among academics, graduate students, college students, and authors for the device that works in this way.  For me, the iPad goes far astray of what I’m seeking.  Kindle is closer, but not close enough.


2 thoughts on “The Features I Want in an Electronic Reader (eReader)

  1. A good list. The one big change that I think needs to happen for e-readers is an expanded focus on representation of images, improved typography, and a focus on equipping students with everything they need to buy their entire textbook library with a few clicks.

    Imagine never having to lug a bag around campus ever again. We’re nearly there, we just need some movement on the part of textbook makers to make their products available, and on the part of e-reader makers to refine the product a bit more.

  2. I agree with Hunter’s list and Ben’s addenda. I am sorry to say that iPad does some new good things with ebooks, but it is surprisingly, and very disappointingly, devoid of handwriting recognition with stylus. I’m really surprised that either the technology is not here yet to make it work well or that Apple doesn’t think people want that. Perhaps it is because iPad is really just a couch computer and not something Apple wants to use to capture the scholarly/student market. sigh.

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