Friday, January 13, 2012

Thoughts on Digital

In this very excellent interview at Robot 6 (via Comic Book Resources), Chris Claremont (writer of Uncanny X-Men when it was still a newsstand title) puts forth some really interesting ideas about digital publishing:

When wandering through a bookstore, you look for a good cover or an interesting genre to see what catches your eye. It’s tangible. There’s much, much less of that to me onscreen with digital books. For digital, you go to a specific place and search for a specific book and can’t see what’s proverbially standing right beside it. 

I'm not into buying digital books for exactly this reason. Don't get me wrong, I know digital is the way of the Future and I'm comfortable with that. I still like bookstores because I can see things all at once. I can 'scroll through' a shelf visually, looking for a font or an image or a title that grabs me. I haven't gone into a digital bookstore (like iTunes or Amazon) looking for books but I would think it would look something like this:

It's terribly easy to scroll through and find an album I want to listen to this way.

It seems to me this would make a great deal of sense to put books in order by author according to genre. Or at least to be able to do it while shopping. Making it an option to emulate the feel of a bookshelf in the store.

Here's how it appears on iTunes:
Not at all like a bookstore, no.

It's a storefront, not a bookshelf. Enough people are coming to the digital way of reading that I would think that there ought to be a little more organization that resembles traditional shopping. It would certainly help capture those folks who are not digital natives.  Let's see what it looks like over on Amazon, shall we?

Even more plain, in my opinion. 

So, here's the thing: for a medium that's so visually aware, why aren't these digital bookstores more dynamic-looking? You'd think they didn't really care about actually selling anything, wouldn't you?

If I can browse my album covers on my computer like I was flipping through vinyl (or even CDs) in a rack, why can't I shop for books that way? How hard could it be to set up a view like the coverflow from iTunes? Simply drop books into genre categories, alphabetize and WHAM! I've got an experience that's exactly like shopping in a brick and mortar bookstore.

Yes, there needs to be storefront display like the ones here. Absolutely. There should also be an option, once I search for a genre of book or title, that would give me the alphabetical coverflow. This isn't rocket science. All I want is a bookshelf that shows me what's on either side of a book by author. I want to be able to scroll through covers. You want me to buy digital books? Give me that.

To close, I will buy digital books. Eventually. I don't have a reader yet as I'm holding out for an iPad, but I do have Kindle on the laptop and my phone. They're just not as comfortable as a real book. I'll get there, online digital book retailers, so you have some time to get ready for me.

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