11 August 2013


On a recent trip to a wedding on the South coast, I left the house going over the usual checklist as I left: spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch, with added suit over my shoulder and Kindle in my pocket. All set for a train journey of 90 odd minutes, plenty of time to put some percentage of Claudius The God behind me.

And that is the problem: Why does Kindle insist on giving you a progress at the bottom of the page? Why is it a percentage? On the iPhone, iBooks gives a page of page count, which is a bit more intuitive, when you’re reading a real book, you know by glancing down to the corner what page you’re on, and you (if like me) can flick to the end and learn how many pages the book is, and then roughly work out whereabouts in the story you are. But the hard fact of 48% glaring at you from the bottom of the page is cold.

I’ve not looked into it, to be honest, maybe you can turn it off or change it to page count or even turn it off completely. Not sure I’d like that. I’ve a complete collection of Jules Verne and reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea could get a bit disheartening; no matter how many pages I put away, I still had only read 1%, the whole book was a total of 6%, I had no gauge of where I was in the story, when the ending would be. On the other side of the coin, I’ve just read a couple of thrillers: The Istanbul Puzzle and The Jerusalem Puzzle by Laurence O’Bryan; now, they zip along, building up to the denouement, which is going to be around 95% if they follow the patterns of other books. However, in both of those books there is a chapter at the end, which is a travelogue; suggestions of places to see or stay in Jerusalem or Istanbul, they both have a free chapter of the other story and one of them has a question and answer session with the author. All of which means that the finale is a little earlier than 95%, so catching me off guard, which it is meant to do, I suppose, but that should be the author’s plotting not Amazon’s digital countdown.

Counting up as a percentage affects the way I read. A slow book once past 50% speeds up as if I’ve struggled up a hill and then once past the peak I’m running down the other side. Conversely, a story I get lost in will eat up 60-70% before I know it and my enjoyment of the rest of the book is tainted by the fact that I’ve already read two-thirds and I’ve only a third to go and I’m already thinking of the next book to read as I don’t won’t to get caught on the underground network without a book to read.

I know I shouldn’t complain, if I’m going to read books as ‘0s’ and ‘1s’ and be dependent on clicks to get from page to page I have to expect a digital solution to an analogue problem, live by the sword, die by the html coding.

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