If you’ve been upset that it’s not as easy to flip around in a Kindle book as it is in a paper version, Amazon has a new feature on the way that might be just for you. Intended for use by non-fiction readers, who are more apt to need to flip around to different places within a book while not losing their original place, this new feature called “Page Flip” will be delivered to Kindle apps, as well as the Fire and Kindle e-readers via an over-the-air update.
It doesn’t seem to be available on any of my devices yet, and there’s no new firmware update for my Paperwhite since the version I’m on, so I’m guessing it hasn’t been rolled out to everyone just yet. But when the feature is available, it will allow users to set a special kind of bookmark by tapping in the corner of their screen to thumbnail the page they’re on, then they can flip through the book either from page to page, or through a “zoomed-out” series of page thumbnails. The thumbnails are “pixel-accurate,” Amazon proclaims—they adjust automatically when you change font size and margin settings. TechCrunch quotes Kindle VP Chuck Moore as saying it was inspired by watching how people read print editions of books.
As with many new features, Amazon has a cute commercial demonstrating the feature, in which a pair of readers—a teen and an older woman, perhaps ostensibly his grandmother?—show off the nifty flip features of their respective paper and e-books to each other. The teen is the one with the paper book, which might just be a nod to the way many teenagers seem to prefer to read in paper these days.
The piece about the new feature in The Verge makes the interesting point that Amazon is actually reluctant to add new features to its app because it doesn’t want to overcomplicate things beyond the traditional words-on-a-page interface that readers prefer. It doesn’t want to seem too much like a web site or a document viewer—it wants to remain as book-like as possible.
Since it’s not available for any of my devices yet, I can’t field-test it to say exactly how well it works. (Though I do plan to when it rolls out to me!) Engadget’s Chris Velazco did get a chance to play with it and thought it worked pretty well, and could also be an attractive option to offer to people to preview a book before buying it. In any event, this could indeed be useful to people who need to read books in a different way than the simple one-page-after-the-other common to fiction.