What Really Happened to E-Books Last Week
So much of the e-book talk last week was about who to blame—Amazon or the other guys—after the Department of Justice found that Apple and several publishers were in collusion on the pricing of e-books. The offending parties claim they were just doing what they had to do to ensure Amazon’s e-book-hold doesn’t go all the way monopolistic, while Amazon protested that they were being cut off at the knees. But while these two parties bickered about their rights to set pricing, along with other nuanced practices in the art of screwing over customers while pretending to give them a deal, there was a third party actually making moves to give e-book customers a better product.
This move didn’t come from the likeliest place, but it didn’t come from the unlikeliest, either. Barnes & Noble’s Nook is a solid product, by every indication, and if there’s one thing they do that the Kindle doesn’t, it’s that they display a thumbnail of the book’s cover design in color down at the bottom. The matter is a secondary, maybe even a tertiary, concern, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. (If you think the matter of book-jacket design is inconsequential to the reading experience, watch this sui generis TED Talk from Chip Kidd and get back to me.) Apple’s devices, of course, can do all the color they want to, but anyone who thinks extensive reading on a backlit screen is a neat-o idea is someone who has never actually tried it.
That’s why the Nook’s recent solution is so ingenious, and not just welcome but actually kind of necessary. Once you’ve determined that nothing backlit will be your primary e-reader, and once you’ve determined, too, that no satisfying clip-on light has been manufactured for your Kindle—or your Nook, for that matter—then the whole dilemma becomes: How the hell do you light your e-reader in a way that doesn’t require one of those heavy and awkward deals you hang off one of the top corners of the screen, obscuring the text, or one of those lightweight deals that hang evenly and unobtrusively in the center, casting a horizontal shaft of light that is nonetheless too dim to provide proper illumination?
The obvious answer is: Make the damn center-clip brighter. That answer, apparently, is too obvious for the people responsible for designing such solutions, but that’s okay, because B&N announced last week that the Nook has gone beyond the obvious and arrived at an apparently even better solution, in the form of their so-called GlowLight technology. What they’ve done is they’ve incorporated the light into the e-ink screen, not through backlighting but just by making the light available, on demand, from beneath the screen’s layer. And the light is powered by the same charged source as the reader itself, meaning there are no batteries bringing heft and requiring replacement. When I first saw a picture of the product, it looked like the light had been set into the screen’s circumference like a watch’s bezel, but that’s not it at all. The light instead emerges evenly from within the screen, with all the revelatory mystery of language itself. So in a week that saw Apple, Amazon, and the publishers squabbling amongst themselves and the Justice Department over who can plunge lowest on the pricing of e-books, Barnes & Noble was off in a corner of their own, seeing if they couldn’t create a device worth reading them on.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 First Openly Straight Figure Skater Comes Forward
- 2 Brooklyn Man Now Living Entirely Off Own Beard Garden
- 3 “Cra Cra” Now Official Diagnosis in New DSM (DSM-5)
- 4 OfficeMax Marketing Director Struggling to Make Staplers ‘Sexy’ and ‘Conversational’
- 5 Homeless Guy Woos Silicon Valley VCs with Low-Tech Crowdfunding Startup
- 6 Area Man Tailors Life To Be More Relevant To His Hulu Advertisements
- 7 Fan Banging Furiously on Glass Could Be the Difference in Hockey Playoffs
- 8 Survey: 88% of Eagles Fans Too Drunk To Spell Nnamdi Asomugha Last Season
- 9 Attorney Actually Starting to Believe Own Bullshit
- 10 Local Mom Won’t Stop Being First Person to Like Every Goddamn Thing Son Posts to Facebook