Update: Props to Amazon for finally listening and adding vertical scrolling to the Kindle iOS app. A start! – D.R.
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.
Interestingly, Amazon has spent the money to implement vertical scrolling. I bought the Fire Phone when they were selling them out and it’s Kindle app, much nicer than the Kindle apps in other devices, allows vertical scrolling. Not only that you don’t even need a finger to do it. 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.
When I read on the Fire Phone (I don’t use it much) I really enjoy this feature. On my Android phone I read with Moon+ and use my finger to scroll. The scrolling on the Fire Phone is about as good.
This is a feature I’d really like to see. It might not be practical on e-ink but I’m not really sure of that either. I’ve never heard of anyone at an ereader maker saying it’s not practical and there have been articles and videos showing modified e-ink devices that can play videos. More likely it would be a power draw problem.
@Barry: Big thanks for calling my attention to the presence of vertical scrolling on the Fire Phone. I’ll tweak the post to include that. All the stranger why vertical scrolling isn’t available on other platforms. David
Vertical scrolling is the web and browsers come free of charge.
@Mac2net: Of course. Now it’s time for Amazon to stop punishing the people who are BUYING its books! Kudos to Apple for getting this one right!
I can certainly scroll with my Kobe eReader if for some reason I need to use its web browser.
Scrolling would not be high on my wish list, except…
I was recently reading a book on my Kindle PW at the beach (yeah, just like in the ads), and reached a point where the Kindle refused to show me a rather critical line of dialog. It was below the bottom of one page, with just one line of dots barely showing, and above the top of the next page.
I kept dragging my finger up and down the screen, just like I do to scroll in Moon+ (which, to be fair to Amazon, exhibits the same partial-line glitch fairly often) and, of course, it did absolutely nothing on the Kindle.
I was eventually able to proceed by changing the font from Bookerly to Caecilia. The reformatted pages happened to move the offending line to the middle of a page.
Some software programs are loaded down with features. Every feature that every user has ever asked for is built into the software. Somewhere. It doesn’t matter what you want to do, there is a way to do it. If only you can find the right place to click on a button or adjust a slider on one of the 500 pages listing settings and options.
Other software programs are designed with a very limited number of options that only cover the most basic functions. These programs are simple to use, and satisfy the 70 or 80 percent of customers that are happy to use the program as-is, with the default settings, exactly as it was set up automatically when it was first installed.
It is not the case that one of these options is “right” and that the other is “wrong”. Instead, the two approaches are different, and each has some advantages and some disadvantages.
It seems clear to me that Amazon has chosen the second of the two strategies listed above. They appear to want to design, build, and sell eReaders and eBook software (apps) that are simple and easy to use and that do not offer a lot of settings and options. This is a business decision that they seem to have made, and it is their right to so decide.
I respectfully suggest that if you dislike Kindle readers and Kindle apps so much you should switch to buying ePub eBooks from a different retailer; and that you should read them using a software app that provides the features you claim to want. As a customer, it is your right to change suppliers if you are dissatisfied.
@Gary: We’re talking about a basic option, which would make help make Kindles more usable for many people without inconveniencing others.
Furthermore, keep there in mind that Kindle owners want to be able to fully enjoy already-bought books, as opposed to having to re-create their entire libraries in ePub or another format. Conversion of DRMed Kindle books would be a violation of the law because of the anti-circumvention language.
Here’s the bottom line. Especially because Amazon dominates such a high percentage of the ebook market, it needs to be more responsive to reader needs. Alas, many people are so accustomed to dumbed-down reading software that they don’t even know what they’re missing. You might say Amazon is a little like Donald Trump. It’s lowered the national IQ a few points, at least in terms of e-reading. As with politicians, the choices are suboptimal.
Once again, I think we will just have to disagree.
Amazon seems to want to supply only the most basic features with their Kindle devices and apps. Certainly they seem to ignore any and all requests to add more features.
Except as required by law, such as by The Americans With Disabilities Act, it is entirely up to Amazon what features they build into their software.
Amazon’s market dominance does not compel them to add vertical scrolling, just because you think it is a “basic option” or that people “need” it.
Now, this might be a stupid business decision, and it might lose Amazon some customers, but that is a different question. Certainly the lack of the features you have repeatedly asked for doesn’t seem to have affected their business so far.
Finally, I will say that I think that Amazon does listen to its customers, and will add any feature that a large number of customers want. That is, your lone voice, crying out in the wilderness, will achieve nothing. You will need a petition with tens of thousands of signatures, or a letter writing campaign of a similar size, to convince Amazon that enough customers really want these features to make it worth their while to put them in.
@Gary: As Barry noted, Amazon saw fit to offer the vertical scrolling option in the app for the now-discontinued Fire phone. So it’s clear that the company already has developed the capability. As for whether people would use it, my belief is that enough would if Amazon promoted its existence. They can’t say “No” unless they try.
As for the access issue, this isn’t as urgent as the addition of all-text bold. But, yes, it is one—since certain people with attention deficit issues might find that vertical scrolling allows them to focus on a small area of the screen, while controlling the scrolling speed, sentence by sentence.
The fact is, Bezos doesn’t give a crap around what users want. He cares about his vision and what he wants to see. That’s the problem with ego-maniacal megalomaniacs. And it’s what sinks them in the end. From military to politics to business. They all end up crushed.
If you want more capable software features, forget about Amazon because they’ve forgotten about you.
Everybody wants something different but everything can’t be on the menu. David wants an all bold option, some one else wants vertical scrolling, and I want to eliminate forced ragged right and forced extra wide margins. I’m sure there are other options wanted by other people. What’s Amazon going to do? As said above in the comments, the Kindle would become more complex if everybody got their personal options added.
What can I do when there is a book I wanted to read with forced ragged right or forced wide margins?
A) read something else
B) go with the bad formatting
C) convert illegally
D) complain on Teleread
E) complain to Amazon
There is always the possibility there some of this options are available, but hidden. The first generation Kindle had a secret key press that turned justified text into ragged right but not vice versa. It went alway with the K2. So who knows what lurks on our Kindles.
Why does ragged right matter to you?
Were it possible to move a purchased eBook to any and all eReaders (a goal of EPUB), vendors might actually compete to provide the most reader friendly eReader. DRM and siloing preclude that.
For example, we might see eReaders that adapt to readers instead of demanding that the reader adapt to it. An adaptive eReader could be very basic and simple to use for the readers who prefer that but also be powerful and feature rich for the reader who prefers or needs something special.
David and Gary et al, you’re all correct. Add the features everyone wants and the Kindle becomes more complex and some people will be scared away. Don’t do it and it becomes too simple. There’s only one real answer and that’s more models; a lot more models.
I think the problem isn’t with Amazon or any other manufacturer. They want to sell books so they’re making cheap ereader devices that let’s us read. They’re making feature limited apps that don’t cost much to develop or support. They don’t really care all that much about devices and apps. They care about books.
What we need is a new system where the book sellers don’t provide the only devices that can read the books. Let the device makers compete and they’ll give us an incredible array of choices just like the phone makers do.
Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen and it’s sad. The saving grace is that the current situation is still a pretty good one. We don’t have the slection of devices we’d like but what we have is excellent.
It’s also true that the Kindle offers far more text options than a paperback, which is what most of us grew up reading. It’s a big step in the right direction.
I am very disappointed in the lack of vertical scrolling in the kindle app on my new Fire 10. One reason I’ll probably switch back to an iPad later this year
Here’s why vertical scrolling is helpful to me. 1) vertical scrolling makes it easier to highlight text that would normally span pages. 2) I use a case for my iPad Mini from Zero Chroma that has a removable screen cover. At night, I can remove the cover and cover part of the screen. This cuts down on the overall brightness and so is beneficial to me. This technique works great when you have vertical scrolling, but when you don’t it’s impractical.
As a software developer, I try very hard to listen to my customers and give them the features they desire. Sometimes features only one or a few people have requested become popular. People don’t always know what they need until they see it and use it. Because of this, you can’t decide that a feature is not useful or might not be wanted by a large group just because it hasn’t been requested by large number of people. You also have to remember that many people are never going to request features because they assume, often quite correctly, that these big corporations don’t care so making a request is simply a waste of their time.
Here’s hoping that one day they’ll hear our cries!! Vertical scrolling please!!!
Thank you for writing this! I’ve emailed/called and raved asking that they add this feature. I’ve since switched to iBooks.
Here is a partial workaround I discovered for Kindle app. If I am using a device with a keyboard permanently attached to it, such as a laptop, then is is easy to notice the current location I am in, such as ‘location 2510 of 30100’, and then change the location by a little bit by pressing [Ctrl-g] and entering the number for the new location. Entering a number that is by 5 or 10 larger than the current location number, e.g. in my above example by entering 2515 or 2520 will ‘scroll down’ my page by a little bit, say by 2-3 lines or a paragraph. That number will depend of course on your screen size, font size etc., but a little bit of experimenting will be enough to figure out what works for you. You can even go as fine-scale intervention as changing one single location at a time – why not?
Now, as I mentioned, this will work well only for devices with permanently or at least ‘reliably’ attached keyboards, where [Ctrl-g] will immediately activate the little ‘Go-to’ pop-up window, and the whole procedure will take only a few seconds.
If, on the other hand, you are using a small tablet or a phone with no keyboard attached, it will take you a couple of more gestures to bring up the ‘Go-to’ pop-up window (and a virtual keyboard view), probably involving a change in look from a ‘single-page view’ to ‘your page along with the parts of the previous and the next pages hanging in the air’ view. All of that will not only slow you down, but also disrupt the seamless scrolling illusion too much, to the point of maybe even nullifying the beneficial effects of this strategy. But, either way, the possibility is there.
100% spot on. Amazon the world’s most customer centric company must listen to customers and allow vertical scrolling.
You can read so much better with vertical scrolling.
Agreed. I actually read fewer books now because of this. My brain is trained to read web pages now.
I find this lack of virtical scrolling annoying too!!!
Guys, it’s not a one or the other, just provide both. I personally would pay for a scroll option
I had variable-speed, hands-free auto-scrolling on my old Palm Pilot, and I really miss it.
I just bought a kindle voyage from an eBay sale. Been waiting a couple years for the price to drop and excitedly snatched it up.
After using it for a day I can fully attest to the irritation of not having veryicle scrolling. I used to use an app that had auto scroll on my iPhone and really enjoyed it. I do as you say and look at a specific line on the page. When reading from top to bottom I get a creak in my neck (been a welder a long time and from craning my neck to do over head has taken its toll). So I am sadly going to sell this guy and get an iPad again. I understand it’s prob a limitation of the e-ink but I don’t buy an e-reader device to irritate my neck.
David, you were making a valid point till you interjected your opinion on politics. Nobody cares what your opinion is on that matter.
I don’t know what the fuss is over vertical scrolling on Kindles or any other device. You read your Kindle just as if you would a book, and that was the point. The only reason I got a Kindle was because many of the books I read were too heavy to hold with one hand, and these days they are making paperback sizes far too large (I strongly dislike the so-called standard size now for fiction of 6 x 9–there is no way you can comfortably hold it; thus, my Kindle). If you feel you must scroll as in a web page, then stick to reading web pages and not books. If your eyes can’t follow a page, perhaps you should see an eye doctor, or maybe–and I’m being serious here–you should do exercises to make your brain more nimble. It will pay off in many other areas as well. I’m not being sarcastic here, I just feel that if you are so addicted to web pages and scrolling, you need a change. Reading the Kindle as a book is minor but a start.