Sunday, May 16, 2010

Like the turn of a page, or a change of gear...*

Ah, technology! How do we love thee? Let me count the ways...

... later. Right now, the normally non-sweary Ministry of Type has a gripe that he needs to get off his chest.
Then we get to the real fake-Georgian pediment over the front door, the overly-shiny brassy door furniture, the PVC window frames, something that infests reading software rather than dedicated e-reader hardware (but is no less annoying for it): yes, it’s the page turn animation. Oh how these software producers love their page turn animations. They might not make a big deal about their font selection, their crappy justification algorithms or even the number of books you can buy through their store, but they will always make a great big bloody feature of their sodding page turns, even the app I pointed to above. Even if an app doesn’t have these damn things, you get the impression they’re working on adding them. In a book, an actual dead-tree book, you don’t notice turning the page because it’s just part of what a book is. That’s how you get to the next bit of text. The whole idea of pages bound like that is an artifact of a particular printing technology — it’s the nature of the delivery medium, not the message. So when we have a digital book, we’re using technology that has its own set of conventions, its own restrictions and its own freedoms, and every bit of digital technology has some means of moving through any arbitrary content: a keyboard has cursor keys, page up and page down keys, a mouse has a scroll wheel, laptops have trackpads with scroll areas, and smartphones have touchscreens, joysticks or D-pads. But no. Those aren’t good enough. They’re not booky enough. You’re going to be reading Ullysses on this thing, War and Peace, The Illiad with this thing for crying out loud! You can’t sully things like that with a scroll wheel! You’re supposed to be imagining reverentially turning the thick, musty, ancient pages in some great national library somewhere, worshipping at the altar of Knowledge! Never mind the story! Never mind leaving you free to just read! No, every 250 words, perform the gesture, watch the animation!

Just let me scroll, please? I’ve been reading stuff off the screen seriously for what, 15 years? More? Scrolling is fine, you know.

Like Aesir, I'm not interested in the state of e-readers (or whatever) themselves. Nor have I ever used an e-book reader. But I have watched the videos of those page-turning animations and thought...

... o god, why?

* From the excellent Waterboys song, Good News.

1 comment:

Roue le Jour said...

Total sympathy from me. I feel the same way about DVD player software that draws a cute little picture of a DVD player.

On the other hand, the first cars looked exactly like horse drawn carriages without the horse, so it's reasonable to suppose this is a passing phase.