Have It My Way
Ned is thinking of getting a new vehicle and at dinner the other night, one of our friends talked about the new Ford Fusion dashboards. Apparently the new Ford Fusion dashboard is highly configurable, allowing four different types of displays. Users are pushing for the dashboards to be opensource so that people can customize the color and content of their dashboards such as this dashboard by Yakazi. (Ned, of course, wants a weather app).
Burger King‘s famous slogan is “Have It Your Way”. Starbucks has a promise that no matter what you want to drink, they’ll make it, even if it is not on the menu. With iPhone software update 1.1.3, users were able to customize the order icons appeared on the home screen of the phone. If everyone took a photo of their desktop and shared it, I would guess that no two desktop photos would look the same. We are all snowflakes. We all like things our own special way.
This is one area in which publishing needs to give way to the reader. It used to be that a big part of publishing was designing the look and feel of a book. Each book, in fact, would indicate what type of font was used and sometimes, it noted what type of paper was used (although I haven’t seen the latter reference in a long time). When you talk to people in the business, they might say that “Twilight” was published beautifully and this would refer to the packaging, the look and feel of the book, along with how it was marketed and sold.
In the digital book world, though, readers want to have it their way. They want to be able to choose their font, change the color of the background, font, and links. They want to dictate how big the chapter headers are in relation to text. They might even want to dictate whether the images appear on the right versus left side of the page. As digital book platforms grow and more information may be available within the book, these features should be able to be turned off and on, at the user’s preference.
One of the biggest mistakes by publishers would be failing to utilize the great panoply of features that digital platforms can offer including allowing the reader to choose the way to interface with the novel. In providing feature rich books to readers, publishers must remember that some readers will not want all the bells and whistles and that they will just want to read the text and only the text, in the way in which the reader best sees fit.
I see all the talk about enhanced books but this is like the publishing industry trying to fly before it can walk. Get basic ebooks rights by providing us with well edited, cleanly formatted files that we, the readers, can manipulate in the way that best fits us. Allow us the ability to control the way in which we interact with the text, instead of forcing your ideals upon us. Suggesting that the text is best read in Georgia, 12 point font, with the light beige background and dark grey text is perfect but don’t require that by embedding your choice of fonts and colors. Suggesting that the book is best cataloged as Author FName, Author LName in our ebook library is also perfectly fine but allow us to change that as well. Give us a baseline description including the name of the major protagonists and the setting of the book right up front, but allow us to add our own notations in the way that suits us best.
Allowing readers to have it their way is a good way of making us believe that publishers care about the reader as much as they care about the reader’s money.