Amazon isn’t just depriving us of the ability to switch on all-text bolding or enjoy some other basic typographical amenities.
Jeff Bezos and friends also think we don’t need the option of vertical scrolling, which, on a tablet or cell phone, can happen when you slide your fingers up or down the screen.
Mind you, I can understand why Amazon E Ink Kindle devices lack it—the screens probably cannot refresh quickly enough, or other barriers might exist such as power consumption issues.
But it is inexcusable for Amazon not to permit vertical scrolling in iOS and Android apps that run on LCD phones. In fact, as TeleRead community member Barry Marks helpfully pointed out after the first version of this post went up, Amazon actually offered vertical scrolling on the since-discontinued Fire Phone.
“You don’t even need a finger to do it,” Barry noted. “Just tilt the phone back a bit and it scrolls. Hold it parallel to your face and it stops. Tilt it forward and it scrolls backwards.”
Try better ereading apps such as Moon+ Reader Pro and you’ll see what I mean about the glories of vertical scrolling for those who prefer it. Apple’s iBooks most definitely has vertical scrolling. Voice Dream Reader‘s developer, Winston Chen, is so enamored of it that for a while it was the only choice.
Quite logically, some Amazon customers have called for years for the option of vertical scrolling in apps. As with Amazon’s lack of an all-text bolding option for the people with contrast-sensitivity issues, the root cause of the problem could be lack of empathy either from Jeff or his corpocrats.
Amazon perhaps believes that everyone reads in the same way and prefers the paging option. Or maybe Jeff and company are just too stingy to spend the money—shouldn’t it go instead for basics like Bezo’s 10,000 year clock?
Exactly why Bezos and Amazon are wrong
Whatever the reason, Bezos and Amazon are wrong. Vertical scrolling is the standard for taking in Web pages, and many people want to read books the same way.
After all, with the vertical approach, you can focus on a certain area of the screen and increase or decrease the speed of your finger scrolling paragraph by paragraph or even line by line. It depends on the nature of the material. If certain text is more complex or if you’re simply enjoying it more, you may want to slow down.
Not everyone wants to take in a page in one gulp. Even if you’re a very speedy reader, you may find that vertical scrolling lets you read still faster and understand more. You may feel that this interface is actually less intrusive than being interrupted by page breaks.
In fairness to Amazon, may I point out that it is hardly alone in refusing to offer vertical scrolling in apps? Google Play lets you scroll vertically in comics, but not other books.
Still, I’ll focus on Amazon here because of its overwhelming dominance of the ebook scene.
Meanwhile, Amazon’s lack of an all-text bolding option and vertical scrolling capabilities remind us once again of the harm done to consumer choice by Amazon’s proprietary format and its proprietary encryption-based DRM.
Standard caveat, for newcomers: I never hesitate to sing praises of Amazon products I like, or of the company’s exemplary customer service. But, yes, as shown by the lack of vertical scrolling and of the all-text bolding option, the company at times comes across as a nest of control freaks.
Image credit: Here.