Amazon’s Abysmal Update

Unless I have to, I don’t buy paper books anymore. I don’t read a lot of books (Instapaper has handily overtaken my attention) but when I do I prefer to buy them from Amazon. Well, I did until recently.

Far and away Amazon offers the most compelling electronic reading experience. Almost anywhere I can access the Internet, I can read a Kindle book. That’s huge. There’s only one problem. As pointed out by Bryan Larrick over at Daily Exhaust1 last week, Amazon recently updated the Kindle for iOS app with the following adjustment:

Improved reading experience on iPad: Smaller margins and a cleaner look help you focus on the author’s words.

Larrick goes into detail, with great illustrations, about why this update makes reading worse, but here’s the short of his take on those new margins:

What Amazon has done is create a solid mass of text that has no breathing room. It’s claustrophobic. It’s stressed. It’s like standing three feet in front of a brick wall and pretending you’re appreciating the architecture of a building.

When it comes to issues of design and typography, I try to make sure I’m not overthinking things, that I’m not just being a princess nagged by a pea. Still, I’ve given the new Kindle app a little over a week of daily use and it is absolutely abysmal. My eyes get tired more quickly and I have to look away from the screen more often. In turn it takes me longer to get through a book. And that annoys me.

Over time, iBooks has grown into my favorite reading app. The font choices are excellent and the fullscreen view fixes the app’s formerly skeuomorphic/fetishistic paper feel. Apple even gives you option to align your text left, or “ragged right” in printspeak, and toggle hyphenation on and off, which helps avoid the massive “rivers” of whitespace running down the page that plague the newest Kindle app. Even the page and notes sync between iBooks on iPad and iPhone, powered by iCloud, is far more intuitive than Amazon’s “Whispersync”2 system. So shouldn’t I just switch to iBooks?

The trouble is that I’ve been spoiled by Amazon’s ecosystem. I love that I can get a few pages in on a Mac or in a Web browser.3 If ever I need to quote a book or go back to notes, their is a total treat.

But for now, I loathe reading with these new margins on my iPad. And that makes me never want to buy a Kindle book again.

  1. Via John Gruber↩︎

  2. Whisper my ass. ↩︎

  3. What’s the holdup, Apple? Just release iBooks for Mac and be done with it. ↩︎