ManyÂ people are asking me “whatâ€™s next?” in my life and the answer is that there isnâ€™t a clear, cut and dry answer YET. I just left whatâ€™s arguably the worldâ€™s best company to work for after an amazing five years where I learned a ton and made proud contributions that improved peopleâ€™s lives in broadÂ ways. But Iâ€™m in a very different place than where I was five years ago. Iâ€™ve developed a strong set of skills, not just professionally but also in the physical arts. And although I was very well taken care of while working for a corporation, it meant bringing to life someone elseâ€™s dreams. Iâ€™m happy for the person Iâ€™ve become thanks to those opportunities. And now itâ€™s time to apply this new self to my own passions.
The place Iâ€™m at right now is in some ways similar to where I was the year before I started working at Google. 2010 was full of uncertainty but diligent exploration and discovery. I was at some crossroads in life and decided to take my time to be smart about what I was doing next. At the time, my plans for med school had fallen through and although I was doing astounding research in human evolution, I didnâ€™t see a solid future from it. After much introspection, reading, writing, and experimenting, I established that the â€œmindful application of technologyâ€ was core to what I cared for, and I worked my way into the then rocketing software industry.
Today Iâ€™m at the crossroads again, and itâ€™s time for another round of concentrated exploration and discovery. Itâ€™s a lot different this time around though. Instead of looking to break into something new, Iâ€™m doubling down in areas where Iâ€™ve found great passion, like the physical arts Â and especially skating. Thereâ€™s a handful of recent trends that I find particularly noteworthy:
- Many people are into or getting into fitness and wellness.
- Technology is becoming involved in these fields and in health care too.
- The office job world has changed – more demanding with the rise of fast-paced, competitive startups, and less stable with increasing work becoming automated or replaced by machines.
Iâ€™m spending this summer doing three things: The first is to figure out some â€œpiecesâ€ that would help me make the most of potential opportunities between my passions and these trends in fitness, wellness, and tech. Like six years ago, that involves a lot of reading, writing, research, trying out things, and slowing down life so I can actually reflect. The second thing is to follow through and develop myself. While the concrete aspects of that are yet to be determined, thereâ€™s one area that stands out: becoming a face of the physical arts world as a world class roller blader. And to get myself there, Iâ€™m traveling all over the country, teaching workshops, developing my skills in different skate disciplines, and advocating the art of skating. The third thing is to get a feel for the sort of of lifestyle Iâ€™d like to live down the road. Iâ€™ve done the 9 to 5, salaried employee thing and pushed it to its limits. Iâ€™m not saying itâ€™s necessarily a bad thing, but Iâ€™m incredibly curious to know whether thereâ€™s another manner thatâ€™s a better fit for me. Being in charge of my own day-to-day and week-to-week life will give me a good sense of my entrepreneurial desire and range, and opens the possibilities of starting my own business or doing contract work for when it comes time to pay bills.
It might seem ironic, but I expect to work harder in the coming months than I have during the last five years where I had a full time job. I wouldnâ€™t have it any other way though, cause this time it’s for me and not anyone else.
It’s about time – the book publishing industry is finally going digital and the dream of carrying a library in our hands is becoming reality. Except, that there seems to be some compromises – dampening the experience of reading ebooks over dead tree books.
Don’t get me wrong; current designs already do much to make for a familiar experience. Many ebook readers, like Amazon’s Kindle, use e-ink – which allows for a display that looks like paper. Likewise, other devices, such as Apple’s iPhone and iPad, have page turning gestures and animations. Electronic reading devices also have features to improve the reading experience over dead-tree books. They allow one to change the font, text size, and even “paper” hue.
But other things are missing,Â unnecessarilyÂ so.Â Consider the different formats of the bookÂ Rework, which is geared towards tech-savvy folks likely to be ebook users. In the dead-tree version, it’s clear that a lot of effort went into the presentation. This “atmosphere” adds a lot to the experience of reading the book. And going from paper to electronic form takes away from the experience in significant ways.
For example, the dead tree version of the book is filled with many images that span to the edges of the page – as if they engulf the entire book. Contrast this to the electronic versions. Margins are added to the images. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but it does make a difference in the experience.
The dead tree version's image spans to the edges of the page.The impact is less strong in the electronic versions which create margins.
Speaking of margins, the paper version of Rework has very large margins and generous line-spacing. This was deliberate to give a relaxed, open feel (honestly, it’s something difficult to put into words).Â And there’s the font choice; again, more deliberate design. Text uses a serif font while headings use a sans-serif font.
The dead tree version has a distinctive heading - size, boldness, and font are all carefully selected.Also note the large margins and generous spacing.
There’s still more, the design choices in the headings next to the page numbers (although not visible in the images, the headings run on every other odd and even pages and have subtle differences in color tone). Even little things like custom chapter title artwork is lost in the electronic version (though this isn’t the case in all books).
While the content remains the same, the unique presentation is lost.
Some of these deficiencies are tradeoffs in design choices. An e-ink display may simply be incapable of displaying images well. Or a display may not be large enough to present everything as intended. Conversely, allowing users to change fonts and sizing would conflict the with the presentation selected by the author.
Still, many of these issues can be overcome. In the case of webpages, devices such as the iPad and Android phones already reflow text to fit the screen when you zoom in, allowing the experience to remain mostly the same while providing larger, more readable text. There’s no reason why this can’t be applied to ebooks.
What really boggles me is that this ideal electronic presentation has already existed for years. Amazon.com’s “Look Inside” feature shows a limited set of pages presented exactly as it looks in the dead-tree version. Why does this not exist for e-readers? Devices like the iPad and PCs (running Kindle software) can easily make for a fantastic experience as intended by the authors.
Why can't we have this on our iPads, Kindles, or PC readers?
I have a feeling that publishers have a role in stagnating the advancement of experience. I reply with a stern warning – they’re making the same mistake that the music industry made. They’re providing an inferior experience to the very people that support them. I love to read and I’m sure that the many others that do will resort to alternative methods, if need be, to assure a good experience. Pirated books already exist in pdf form. They maintain the presentation of physical books, yet are usable on devices like iPads, PCs, and app phones.
There is a huge opportunity here for publishers. They can engage their audience with the convenience of ebooks while offering a proper presentation as meant by the authors. After all, the experience truly does matter.
Special thanks to James for providing pics from the Kindle and iPhone