Take look at your bookcase. The one with paper books in it. And then look at your Library in iBooks, Kobo or Kindle. The first difference you’ll notice is the orientation of your books. Can you imagine the bookcase in your home with only five or six books on each shelf facing you with its cover? How many books would fit in a single bookcase? 25? 30? You would need a mansion with lots of rooms, filled with bookcases, to simply house the books you now can fit into a single bookcase.
Take another look at your bookcase. If you are like most people, your books are probably not ordered by recently viewed, title, author, type, or thickness. Imagine a bookcase where you always add the next book next to the last book you bought, slowly filling up shelf after shelf. I once ordered all my poetry books (about 4 meters of it) by author and then by date. It was a lot of work. Most of my bookcases are an ordered mess. Books are more or less grouped together, but there are a lot of strangers that ended up in those groups, because of some unfathomable logic, because the book was too big, or too small for another shelf, or because I needed a place for it and the other shelf was already full. Over time my bookshelves have become a lovely mess. I know exactly where all books are and I respect the messiness of it. It was meant to be like this. Also, strolling along my bookcase is a form of brainstorming where I skip from subject to subject, from memory to memory, from literature, to non-fiction, to science and philosophy and more. My bookcases are an abstraction of my inner life.
These differences between my paper and my ebook libraries may be trivial to some, but to me they’re not and one of the reasons why ebooks have not been accepted by the masses has to do, in my opinion, with these differences. I like the reading experience in reading software, but I myself am a bit disgruntled about my electronic libraries. I feel they are lacking in experience. I feel locked into a very dispassionate library. A library behind glass, where I am not allowed to reorder the books as I would like to reorder them. Only in iBooks one is allowed to reorder the ebooks to ones own liking.
Now take another look at your bookcase. How many whitepapers, scientific papers and reports do you have lying around in your bookcase? This really is becoming an issue with me. I’ve become accustomed to downloading and reading everything I can find on the internet as an ePub file if I can find it. To me ePub is for ebooks, but also for all kinds of other documents. And now all these documents are bundled together in this one library in iBooks. A specification of a new markup language sits next to the latest novel I’m reading. It is possible to sort ebooks by type in iBooks and Kindle, but categories in ebooks are a complete mess and there is no way to change categories or types. The only thing one can do is make collections, but on every platform these collections feel second rate. When you open the software you start with the latest book you were reading, or you go to the entire library and from there you can dig down to your collections.
It is hard to love my ebook library. I love the ebooks. I love reading my ebooks. I love the reading experience of my ebooks. I just don’t love the ebook libraries. They suck. There, I said it.
So, to conclude this post, I would like to make an appeal on e-reading app makers, come up with something better! It’s about time. Thanks!