In 2020 I Want a Better Way to Read E-Books

My wish for a better device for reading and enjoying books

Photo: David Sacks/The Image Bank/Getty Images Plus

I read all the time and I read on everything. I read physical books. I read on my smartphone. I read on my Kindle. I read on my iPad. I read on my laptop. I’d read on my Apple Watch if that were possible. As someone who loves his gadgets a little too much, I think a lot about how tech could improve our reading experience.

I’ve already told you about my dream e-reader that folds like a book, is better than a Kindle, and is made by Apple. And while it’s fun to imagine, I doubt that Apple is coming up with a dedicated e-reader anytime soon. But lately, I’ve been thinking that I don’t want to settle with a simple e-reader anymore. I want more. I want an all-new gadget that’s dedicated to enhancing my reading experience.

Remember when Apple came up with iTunes and the iPod and it changed the music industry? I want something as big as that. I want it to be the iPod for books, even audiobooks.

I understand that among the things that make an e-reader so successful is the e-ink display. But the Kindle also works well because its a less distracting device. But even then I’ve often found myself holding my Kindle in one hand and checking my smartphone notifications in the other.

How about an iPad mini that folds? Sure, we can argue about the right size, or simply expect that whoever comes up with the device will offer us a choice of different sizes. Still, I really want this gadget to fold. There’s something so satisfying about imagining opening and closing a reading device, just like a real book. I understand it has a lot to do with my obsession with the folding tech. But surely I’m not the only one. Look at the Surface Neo, the Surface Duo, and even the latest Moto RAZR. Tech enthusiasts all over the world are excited about the scope of dual displays and folding screens. But it’s easy to understand their obsession. We all want bigger displays, or at least, a big display in a compact housing. It’s also going to come as a relief to those calling for smaller phones. A folding device means we can have it both ways.

Source: Microsoft

Instead of limiting the capabilities of the device to make it free from distractions, we can choose our own distractions, ones that will keep us engaged with the device. Imagine an iPad with a dedicated reading mode, as part of the Screen Time feature, where you could turn off all distractions, and focus on reading. Or the device could have a “Reading Mode” where you could add reading and productivity apps, or a redesigned version of Goodreads, where you could engage with the community, and celebrate reading. If you wanted to take a break from reading a book, instead of checking your Facebook or Instagram, you could read articles or update your Goodreads. So you’d still have access to distractions, just better distractions.

Also, I don’t get why we insist on making reading a dull experience? Dull experiences don’t help us focus on what we’re reading, they put us to sleep. If you’re a lifelong reader and you can easily disappear into an e-book without getting distracted, good for you! But what about a device that could transform a non-reader into a reader, to turn someone who hates reading, into someone who loves it?

I want someone to redesign Spotify as a reading app, right now. While there are a lot of reading apps that experiment with interesting design, design isn’t always the differentiating factor. I use Scribd, and it gets a lot of things right. I found it hard to go back to the Kindle store after using it for a while, so it isn’t the fact that no one is trying.

Source: Spotify, App Store

A designer could take cues from the Spotify app to change the way readers engage with e-books and the e-book store. The app could list new book releases, bestseller lists, and recommendations. The app would also feature audiobooks, as Spotify has done with podcasts and bundle audiobooks with their e-book versions for a seamless transition.

As for accessories, may I suggest a highlighter or a stylus to mark important parts in a book?

Finally, let’s talk about author profiles. I want an all-inclusive platform that not only includes authors of books but bloggers and writers for publications as well. I’d like to get the latest articles from my favorite bloggers or read articles that are trending on the internet. Or maybe we can just replicate this model inside another independent app, which can also include new writers. Imagine what it could do for the writing community, and they deserve every bit of it.

I’d also love to see booklists from our friends, and our favorite celebrities and artists. There could also be books in different languages. I can’t even imagine moving back to the Kindle store, ever, unless of course, they do all this first.

The app could also take some design cues from Netflix, specifically regarding the recommendations, the ease of use, the general usability, and overall design. Why isn’t Amazon’s Kindle app anything like this? They are trying to build the most advanced grocery stores, but they don’t seem to care about their e-book store.

Spotify and Netflix are subscription services. And the first thing that comes to my mind about subscription services, is the ongoing streaming war among Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney+ and a lot more. And here’s why it’s important.

While we already have subscription models for reading books and articles, and are listening to audiobooks, no one seems to be fighting Amazon or Apple for a share of the market. Maybe reading isn’t as big a market as music, or television, or even gaming. Or maybe the big players are not ready to look in this direction, yet. This could be about the size of the market, the potential for growth and a largely Amazon-dominated marketplace.

I’m not sure what to expect from the future — a monopoly, or an ecosystem where all the big players exist and fight for a share of the market? But I want someone to step up and upgrade and revolutionize our reading experience.

What I suggest is to start with a dedicated reading gadget. And for now, all I want is an iPod-like revolution, but for books. It should look like an iPad, fold, have Spotify for e-books and audiobooks, and the ability to switch seamlessly among them. And while I can go on with more and more ideas, I’ll wait until it’s the right time.

Words in OneZero, DeBugger, Index, and more.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store