It seems to me e-readers don’t fully exploit the affordances digital publishing provides. Specifically when it comes to non-linear reading of non-fiction.
My Nova2 at least allow me to see both the table of contents alongside my current page, as well as my notes. This makes flipping back and forth easier. Kindle doesn’t.

But other things that would be possible are missing. With a paper book you have an immediate sense of both the size of the document and your current point within it. My e-reader can show me I am at 12% or position 123 of 456, but not a visual cue that doesn’t require interpretation.

More importantly my e-readers don’t manipulate a book like they should be able to given it is digital. Why can’t I collapse a document in various ways? E.g. show me the first and last paragraph of each chapter. Now add in all subheadings. Now add in all first and last sentences of a sub header and show all images. Etc. More advanced things would be e.g. highlighting referenced books also in my library and being able to jump between them. Or am I overlooking functionalities in my e-readers?

Also welcome: more publishers that sell a combination of a the physical and digital book.

How do you read non-linearly in e-books? What are your practices?

6 reactions on “E-Readers and Non-Linear Reading

  1. @ton was just chatting about this with friends around the topic of the Remarkable tablet. While not for me as it is, what it helped expose is how linear platforms and formats make reading. Personally, for the non-Kindle bits, Muse has become a fav. Between the annotations and excerpts, it’s lovely. Liquid Text also helped to break up document formats to something a bit less linear. As a whole though, reading non-linear, as natural as it is, is opposite of the platforms and formats of our age… for now.

  2. I definitely know what you mean here, as even when I am reading a non fiction title, I do read linearly. When I come across hyperlinked footnotes I get quite anxious before I ‘click’ it on my Kindle, in case I cannot easily get back to my previous place. Reading on a Kindle feels quite ‘delicate’.

  3. great ideas in this post. it would require software developers to write these sorts of solutions and for authors (or editors) to be able to mark up headings and paragraphs that the solutions recognize (they already do of course but they would have to change their workflow so for example collapse levels, headings and paragraphs are visible in epub and mobi, am i right?)

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