Since I’ve been doing so much raving about the Amazon Kindle lately, I think it’s only fair to discuss the negative points as well. As of this morning my only minor complaint (mostly on behalf of my bilingual friends) is its lack of support for unicode character encoding, which means that text written in languages other than English will not display properly (no accented characters or picture-based characters, like most Asian languages.) This isn’t such a problem for me since I can only read English (and really, really basic introductory French) but it’s a deal breaker for some of my closest friends. This is sad for me since I want to recommend the product to them but cannot get past this point.
Secondly, I have now come across a fairly problematic issue dealing with images. I began reading I Am America (And So Can You) by Stephen Colbert this morning and was a bit disheartened to see the above image as an example within the text. This book is full of images, a good percentage of which were clearly not optimized for the Kindle’s display. This is a photo of a handwritten letter which he references in the text, but due to its poor resolution, is totally unreadable. The letter is not transcribed either, which means I miss out entirely on what it actually says. Given the content of the book I seriously doubt I am missing something important, but it bothers me that there is some content I cannot experience due to a technical limitation. That isn’t to say that it’s the Kindle’s fault, however, since there are plenty of images it displays which have been optimized for 4-colors that look stunning, as proven by this image of Jules Verne from its screensaver.
Although I am grateful that publishers are now selling their books on this platform, I think it is pretty unfair for them to charge upwards of $10 for a digital book which contains content unreadable on its intended device. It is unquestionably the responsibility of the publisher to provide a version which includes imagery that will not cause information to be lost. If this is not possible, it would be some relief to at least have a transcription available so the reader doesn’t have to wonder what they are missing out on, especially in a graphically-heavy book such as Colbert’s.