Future E-reader Features

future e-reader featuresThree Features I'd Like to See in Future E-readers

Dear E-reader Manufacturers and User Interface Designers,

First, kudos for inventing e-readers, and for figuring out how to make it easy to get content for them. Independent authors like me wouldn't have nearly as viable a career without them, and as a reader, I am thrilled to be able to carry 400+ books on vacation in one little device, instead of in one large and heavy extra suitcase.

Now that I've owned Kindles for 5+ years, and have gone out of my way to pester friends with other devices to take me on little tours, I have three requests for future features on e-readers.

New E-Reader Feature #1: Blurbs!

I don't just want to see the book title and author, and maybe the cover art, I want to see the blurb for each of my books. Or at the very least, genre and a tagline. Back in the days of yore, when I used to come home with 6 or 8 paperback books after pillaging the bookstore, I'd spread them out on the table and feel contented, like a dragon with gold. Then I'd turn all the books over so I could read the blurbs, to decide what order to read them in. If I later got distracted, or brought home more gold books, I could read the blurbs any time to remind myself what the book was about and why I bought it.

The ease of buying ebooks has increased my to-be-read (TBR) pile from a couple dozen to hundreds, and I'm not exaggerating. Plenty of book titles are downright mysterious if you don't recognize the author's name or don't have the cover image – and sometimes, even when you do. Although it's a lovely book, What's In a Name? by Terry Odell is completely mysterious if all you know is the title. Did I mistakenly buy a book on what to name the baby? Nope, from the half-naked man on the cover, it looks like a contemporary romance, which I rarely buy, either. It's not until I read the blurb that I found out it's romantic suspense with a complex, breakneck plot. It's the same problem with Monkey Business by Tymber Dalton. The cover art says it's probably a romance, but the blurb tells me it's the first of a post-apocolyptic, non-paranormal erotic romance series.

To be fair, authors and publishers could do better about including genre and series names in the ebook titles, but sometimes that gets really long. If I did that with my first book, the title would be Overload Flux (A Central Galactic Concordance Novel) (Space Opera-Action-Romance). Yurgh.

Illustrated open book with quill penSIDE NOTE to Authors and Publishers: Until the e-reader makers fulfill my request, please, please include the blurb for your book in the beginning. You can still start the book on the first chapter, but give me the option to scroll back and find the blurb. It's much easier to read it in your book than to have to troll the internet or Amazon's website (assuming I have a connection) for that information.

New E-Reader Feature #2: Custom Sort!

This is applicable to the Kindle, but may well apply to the Nook, Kobo, and other readers. I want to be able to sort the titles on my e-reader in ways you can't imagine. You give me a choice of purchased/opened date, alphabetical by title, and alphabetical by author, and that's it. Hah! I've had upwards of 400+ books on my e-reader at one time. Your pitiful sort offerings mean I have to scroll through pages and pages and PAGES of entries. And that assumes I remember the exact spelling or correct title. Oh sure, you give me a search field, but again, correct spelling and title. With my paperback books, I can stack them in any order that pleases me. I can have multiple stacks. I can have groups with stacks. With paper, I'm limited to one place/stack/group per book, but in the electronic world, I should easily be able to put a book in more than one stack. And most importantly, I want to name these stacks/groups myself, the same way I could create a bookshelf for paranormal romance, and another for reference books.

New E-Reader Feature #3: Custom Notes! (a.k.a. Metadata)!

To some degree, e-readers allow users to make interior notes, with varying degrees of ease and usefulness. While we're on that subject, I want to be able to make a note on a bookmark, just like you can with a little post-it note, not just make the digital equivalent of a dog-eared page.

What I really want, though, is the ability to make notes (long or short) about the book itself, such as “Terry would like this book,” or “Beware cliffhanger ending,” or “Prequel to Wossname series,” or “Check out author's website at https://…” And specifically on Amazon, these notes should stay with the book, even when backed up to the Amazon cloud and removed from the local device. If the author/publisher issues a new version, e.g., one that fixes typos, or now has a new sample from an upcoming book, Amazon should ask me what I want to do about each one. Right now, the choice is all or nothing: either automatic book updates are ON or OFF, for everything in your digital library.


Your loyal customer,

Carol Van Natta

UPDATE 4/18: P.S. Here's another feature I'd like to see, from an idea by Melisse Aires, author of the Diaspora Worlds science fiction romance series: The e-reader should easily handle multiple ebook formats, without the need for me to use outside software to reformat the file to be readable. An when new-and-improved versions of ebook formats come out, my e-reader software should be easily updatable to handle it.

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What new features would you like to see in e-readers?