“There’s 550 years of technological development in the book, and it’s all designed to work with the four to five inches from the front of the eye to the part of the brain that does the processing [of the symbols on the page],” says Hill, a boisterous man who wears a kilt to a seafood restaurant in Seattle where he stages an impromptu lecture on his theory. “This is a high-resolution scanning machine,” he says, pointing to the front of his head. “It scans five targets a second, and moves between targets in only 20 milliseconds. And it does this repeatedly for hours and hours and hours.” He outlines the centuries-long process of optimizing the book to accommodate this physiological marvel: the form factor, leading, fonts, justification … “We have to take the same care for the screen as we’ve taken for print.”
Hill insists—not surprisingly, considering his employer—that the ideal reading technology is not necessarily a dedicated e-reading device, but the screens we currently use, optimized for that function. (He’s read six volumes of Gibbon’s “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” on a Dell Pocket PC.) “The Internet Explorer is not a browser—it’s a reader,” he says. “People spend about 20 percent of the time browsing for information and 80 percent reading or consuming it. The transition has already happened. And we haven’t noticed.”
Newsweek looks at Amazon’s bid to change reading. It’s the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen and it comes with obligatory DRM. No more loans, no more copies.
I’m all about moving to a fully digital age (friends thought I was crazy for ditching CDs around 2001 in favor of these new MP3 things) but this is not the way to do it.