Real book affordances translated to eBook UI

Craig Mod’s recent post on digital/print books and my recent need to refer back to a book I had just returned to the library spurred me to try and improve my ebook-reading experience. I wanted to have the book in my hands, but I didn’t want to have to go back to the library to check the book out again. So I got the ebook version, but the memory of having the physical book and knowing roughly where to skim through the book to get back to what I needed made the ebook experience so much more frustrating when it came to skimming. I decided to write to Amazon and suggest some improvements:

Dear Kindle Feedback,

I really enjoy my Kindle Voyage. However, I am frustrated that the UI does not provide the affordances that a real physical book does, even though this could easily be remedied.

An easy way would be to bring back the progress bar that existed in older versions! One affordance of a real book is that you visually know how many pages you have left by just glancing at the thickness of right half of the book. I would argue that using “[x] minutes left” increases cognitive load and isn’t as immediate as the progress bar.

I’m also frustrated that there are no eBook readers (Kindle or otherwise) that make good use of a progress bar to highlight bookmarks and notes.


Here’s a real book that someone is reading. It visually tells you how far along you are in the book. It also visually shows you where you’ve made notes and bookmarks. When you want to refer back to a bookmark, you know approximately which one you want to refer back to, because you have a spatial memory attached to the content.

Here’s Kindle’s representation of bookmarks. This gives me no immediate visual feedback, and provides no spatial feedback as to where these bookmarks are located. I just know what order they are in.

Here’s a suggestion for an improved progress bar:

The whole book is represented by the thick bar at the bottom of the screen. The darker line shows how far you’ve progressed into the book. A triangle pointing at the line shows where the current page you’re on is at. Dots are chapters. Tick marks at the bottom of the bar indicate a highlight or a note. Tick marks at the top of the bar indicate a bookmark.

If you wanted to skim through the book, you’d tap on the progress bar, then press the next/prev page buttons to skim from one marker to the next. Perhaps tapping on the progress bar makes it thicker so you can also touch the bar to navigate to the page you want.

It may look like a messy progress bar, but hey, so does the real book with the pink sticky notes. Making these UI decisions in favor of giving the user a better reading experience, means maybe not making the UI simpler. And if you implement something like this I’d definitely use the kindle way more.


Update: I found that the progress bar is still retained in Kindle’s digest viewing mode, which you see when you send articles to Kindle via Instapaper or Readability, for example. Why is this limited to digest viewing mode? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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