The first thing I noticed about the Kindle was that, when you first open up a new book, it invariably starts you off at the first chapter of the book. It skips the cover, the copyright information, acknowledgements, quotations, dedications, maps, genealogy tables, author’s notes, etc, sometimes even prologues, conveniently allowing you to get started reading the book NOW.
Yes, there are people who prefer to bypass what they consider pointless drivel and get started on the action. There are people who do not want to read anything outside the main story, do not read the back of cereal boxes, do not RTFM.
Sure, I get that.
But what about the rest of us who appreciate the time taken by actual people who write the back of cereal boxes and want to know what they have to say? Why is there no option to default to starting a book from the cover? What of an artist’s effort in designing a cover?
I am quite offended by this feature. How can Amazon presuppose that I do not want to see all of the above-mentioned pages? A cursory Google search reveals that many readers think as I do and lament the lack of choice in the matter of a book’s starting point. Like me, many readers would always make the few screen taps (or keypresses) to move to the cover of the book and start there.
Although there is a relatively quick workaround, it is an annoyance because it happens every book. It is much the same kind of annoyance you might get with having to close a hundred ads before you can play a mobile game these days.
Reading the pages between the cover and the first chapter is not merely to satisfy a curiosity or to gather information. For me, it is a sacred ritual.
It goes back to the days of my childhood when I would get a new book and stare at the cover in eager anticipation of the joy that I would unearth within. I would let the anticipation build up as I turn each page over, ever so carefully, reading almost every word (but skimming the copyright information since they’re always about the same and not quite important).
Every page turned and read before the story starts only serves to heighten the anticipation so that, by the time you get to the first chapter, the build-up has burst out in a delightful shower, bathing you in a profound joy that makes the beginning of a read a most special occasion.
That is the delicious ritual of starting a new book. Admittedly, the effect is keener with physical books but one has to move with the times and adapt. Digital books are the future because my poor old bookshelf has long ago burst at the seams, the resulting explosion causing precious books to all but vaporise. (No, seriously, I have lost untold numbers of precious books because I’ve had to leave them around everywhere due to overpopulation in designated book receptacles.)
But rituals! Rituals can still be preserved without renouncing technology. Let us open the book from the cover so that the devastation to the romance of reading, wrought by digital evolution, is not total annihilation. Do this one little thing to keep technology from dousing the last remaining ember left in the magic of reading a book.
I hope Amazon will wake up their idea and, while at it, see if they can’t do anything about the ridiculous number of typos found in ebooks. While proof-reading remains the domain of individual publishers, Kindle is Amazon’s domain so I’m sure they can at least do something about the books sold in their format.
Yes, I am a demanding customer because I do 90% of my shopping on Amazon these days, for everything, not just books. So give me quality and my money’s worth! Give me back the magic!