E-book example for newbies

For those who aren’t Kindle followers (and I’m not), I was just exploring a few books on the iPad’s Kindle app last night (while the Patriots were getting spanked) and discovered an interesting new feature that illustrates the kinds of things e-books could become, if resources were put into them.

For example, if the publisher bothers to encode the text, you can use Kindle’s new X-Ray feature to get summaries of the work. This screenshot shows its ability to define various terms in the book, while the bar illustrates where in the book they appear.

Example from Sherlock Holmes

Proper Nouns and where they appear in the book

If you tap on one of the terms, you get a definition and a list of the context for each occurrence.

Term in context

Term in context

Another view provides other information that might be available:

Kindle3

These examples show its potential, but they also illustrate its limitations. The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed in the above examples that much of the contextual information about the glossary terms comes from, you guessed it, Wikipedia, and another crowd-sourced reference, Shelfari. Clearly little effort has been put into adding more rigorous information. And I can’t imagine that would go over well among most academics.

If textbooks did have these features, it would be very useful for students. But since there are so many competing, incompatible formats, I’m not holding my breath.

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