Microsoft Reader

February 9, 2007

I wrote about Adobe’s Digital Editions, its Adobe Reader-lite for ebook fans, a while back, but until today I hadn’t tried out Microsoft Reader – and what a pig it is.

Admittedly, it’s designed primarily for PDAs (hence the Cleartype technology), but for the flagship eReader product from the largest software company on the planet, you have to be disappointed – and understand why so many people’s first experience of ebooks is such a turn-off that it colours their whole appreciation of the technology.

From the blocky icon to the blurred logotype to the bland interface, the whole experience says ‘cheap’, which can no longer be tolerated in applications just because they’re free. MS Reader is short on features (bookmarks, annotations, highlights) and the ‘settings’ consists of five available type sizes – ‘smallest’ to ‘largest’ – and the chance to go fullscreen. Despite this, Microsoft Reader-formatted books are amongst the most available and downloaded out there, along with MobiPocket and Adobe, so it’s no wonder people have such low expectations.

The excuse that ebooks are primarily for PDAs doesn’t wash – this is the future format of all books, not just the ones you want to read on the bus. Hardware is currently doing the job of transforming people’s perceptions of ebooks with the elegant Sony Reader, the recently-announced Readius and concepts such as the Turnover, but they need software to match, software that both replicates the experience of reading that most people are comfortable with (clear type, intuitive pagination or smooth scrolling, bookmarking and annotation) and expands on this to provide new features which can only exist in the new technology (glossaries, hyperlinks, personal indexing, to name but a few).

Comments are closed. Feel free to email if you have something to say, or leave a trackback from your own site.