I’m one of those odd weirdos who reads his eBooks not on a Nook, or a Kindle, or on the desktop, but on my handheld. I first started reading eBooks with my (late lamented) Tapwave Zodiac, and have subsequently read them on an HTC Universal and now on my iPhone. So I haven’t exactly kept up with what’s happening in various desktop reader software. (Carly keeps y’all updated on advances in the eBook reader device arena.)
Nice gadget, honestly; too bad it only ran Windows Mobile!
Still, when Barnes and Noble released an update for their desktop reader software, I gave it a look. And I was struck right away by two things: how much nicer the interface is, and by the fact you can no longer highlight and copy quotes.
First, a bit of background:
eReader, a Fictionwise company, has been offering eBook reader software for various platforms, including Mac and PC desktops, for years now. Recently, Fictionwise was purchased by Barnes and Noble. B&N tweaked the software a bit, and released it under their name on various platforms as well–including the PC desktop and the iPhone. The interfaces are very similar. And indeed, on the desktop, one can read one’s Fictionwise books in Barnes and Noble’s software merely by pointing the software to the correct directory on your laptop. (And vice-versa, for that matter.)
So while I don’t do a lot of reading of books on my desktop, I *do* often grab quick quotes from some of my favorites. So when my B&N software informed me that there was a new version available, I figured, why not? And I have to admit that it looks pretty slick:
It’s much nicer than the old interface, for sure. It’s more intuitive, easier to use, and it only has one window where the old interface had two. That’s all to the good. All the options that the old reader had, the new one also appears to have, save one (more on that later). But best of all, in my opinion, is a new feature that B&N also has included with their iPhone reader app: being able to highlight words or terms and look them up in Wikipedia. I’ve raved about this feature before, I know, but I just can’t tell you how much I like it, especially with authors whose vocabularies exceed mine, or in historical novels, or works that are simply older (e.g. Sherlock Holmes stories). Want to know what the heck Holmes is talking about when he asks Watson to procure them a “dog cart”? No problem: highlight the words “dog cart,” right click and select “look up in Wikipedia,” and bango, there ya go! Sweet!
But hmm; it seems like something is, I dunno, missing from that right-click menu. What is it?
I’ll tell you what it is: it’s the capability to highlight and copy out quotes.
Now, I know that both the Fictionwise folks and the B&N folks are nervous about DRM issues and copyright issues. I understand them worrying about these issues, but c’mon now! And I wouldn’t consider this a particularly nefarious thing if it wasn’t for what B&N put in the “User Guide”
They have a list of “retired features” that “may resurface in the future”, but a certain feature that is most definitely missing–and isn’t hard to implement, since it’s default behavior on the desktop–is copying text. This is not a feature that B&N didn’t have time to add to their hot new interface prior to release, like for example was probably the case with auto-scroll or customized backgrounds. No sir; this was something that they almost certainly had to remove from the code–or add to the code so that you couldn’t do it with desktop tools–and then they saw fit to not mention it.
So that’s the question for you, then: do you want to use B&N’s slick new interface, which is much cleaner, only uses one window, and has the nifty “search in Wikipedia” feature? Or do you want to pass on it because it’s missing auto-scrolling, textures, themes, hot keys, and (most sneakily of all) copying quotes? Is it an update? Or a downgrade? Or a sideways move?
I don’t know, honestly, but I do know that the lack of the “highlight and quote” ability which they pulled without even mentioning it, and which I use fairly regularly, really honks me off. What do you other eBibliophiles think?