Kindle or Nook? Nook or Kindle? I was pondering a gift for an aunt, looking at ebook readers and tablets and reading apps and I noticed something odd. The Kindle, unlike the Nook and Google reader, doesn’t let you change the text justification of your ebook. Amazon apparently leaves it up to the publisher of the ebook to set justification, but doesn’t let the user change it. Like the Nook and Google readers, Kindle lets you change the font, font size, line spacing, and color scheme. I guess we’ve come a long way where we even think that we might be able to change such things on our media.
What’s the big deal, you ask, almost all paper books and publications use full justification, don’t they – why wouldn’t all ebook readers do the same, and why would any user want to change it to left justification? Some people are rabid defenders of one kind of layout or another, but I’m more of a “right tool for the job” guy. To illustrate my point, I’ve set this post to full (flush right) justification, while I generally use left justification (ragged right) online and on paper. Full justification is popular in print, but I don’t think the technology for online has really caught up. Print depends a lot on hyphenation to make full justification feel natural, keeping the word spacing reasonably consistent but also giving the nice solid feel of a flush right margin. Online, and this gets worse as the line width gets smaller, the lack of hyphenation means that word spacing can get very irregular to keep the right margin aligned.
So back to my gift for my aunt. I was thinking that Barnes & Noble was a brand she’d trust more than Amazon, and one that was more aligned [sic] with the needs of the reader. The price difference might tilt me toward the Kindle, but this small but significant oversight in meeting readers’ needs also makes me think again. So what do you say, Amazon, maybe make it just a bit easier for readers to tune their ebooks for maximum enjoyment?