Improving the reading experience using the Amazon Kinlde dictionary
published by Ben Allen
The customer experience you go through when reading a book has not changed for several hundreds of years. The physical paper based book has stood the test of time and the interface a reader has to navigate is simplicity itself. All good - right? Perhaps not - enter the e-book and the variety of e-book readers available today. Early adopters of this new medium face a new experience with new opportunities.
I've been using the Amazon Kindle for nearly a year now and I'd summarise the experience by hacking a (bad) Star Trek phrase - "It's reading Jim but not as we know it".
Why is a dictionary so exciting?
To be more specific - I've known about the dictionary on the Kindle since day 1 but recently I've found an unexpected application of this dictionary feature which I did not predict. Summarising the benefit:
The Kindle dictionary is helping me expand the number of books I'm able to read - books I could not previously read because my vocabulary was too small and I was too lazy!
Let's use an example from The Complete Sherlock Holmes - an excellent read but with old English & lots of long, intellectual sounding words.
Any idea what a "growler" or "brougham" is in this context? Kudos if you do! Let's walk through the experience at this point of potential confusion.
First, let me remind everyone of the old process of reading a book that uses words that you do not understand.
- Open book & find a word which you cannot comprehend
- Realise you need a dictionary to understand the word
- Find dictionary & lookup word
- Option 1 - old skool - look around your house for that huge book your parents/other half/kids own. A process which can take seconds if you were expecting a tough read but can take minutes or hours if you have not picked up a dictionary in ages
- Option 2 - new skool - Google search on your favourite internet connected device. A process which can take seconds if you're using a smart phone but minutes if you're booting up Windows on your old desktop :(
Note - both options depend on your ability to find & use another tool which you are not guaranteed to have. This increases the likelihood of task failure and can put your book in a negative light - "damn author using long words!". To put it another way - if you're lazy and cannot be bothered to get off your bum to look up a word you might not ever really understand the author or worse you might not go back to that book again e.g. Ben Allen circa all teenage years & beyond.
Now let me explain the Kindle dictionary look-up process. The Kindle has a built in dictionary and you can move the cursor next to any word in a page and a nice little definition teaser pops-up at the bottom of the page. An experience which takes seconds - guaranteed :)
How cool is that? I can read the book, understand the author in full, add a word to my vocabulary and project only positive feelings onto Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
I seriously doubt I would be able to enjoy the Complete Sherlock Holmes books if I were to buy them in paper form. I'd feel constantly confused and I'd find the books hard to follow. The Kindle dictionary experience has achieved an awesome thing by removing a key point of friction in my reading experience. By using the Kindle more books are accessible to me, more books which I will enjoy while expanding my own vocabulary. Long live the e-book!
Some questions for you, dear reader:
- How do you deal with books that are hard to read? How do you feel when you don't understand a word? Do you take action?
- Have you got the e-book bug? What do you think? Do you like it? Do you think it is good at some things but not others?
- Were you surprised by the functionality offered by e-book readers?
- Do you think paper books will die a death?
- What do you think libraries will look like in 50 years?
- Do you know what "growler" or "brougham" mean?