eBook quoting and highlighting

This may be old news, but I was surprised to discover when reading an ebook yesterday that there was no simple way to copy a snippet (and, say, paste it into a twitter app). Selecting the text in either the Kindle or iBooks app on an iPhone or iPad doesn’t give you the usual option to copy it (see image below).

I assume this is due to a concern over copyright violation, but that seems a bit extreme as it makes it difficult to copy even small snippets for note-taking or other writing tasks (and I’m all in favor of reasonable copyright protection). It’s absurd that it’s easier for me to tweet a sentence from a paper book to an iDevice than it is to tweet from an ebook on that same device.

The second thing I noticed was that highlighting a passage — a feature all the e-readers advertise — has a huge usability issue. You can’t highlight a passage that goes over a page boundary. In the situation pictured above I tried all the gestures I could think of to move the marker onto the next page while still highlighting, but nothing worked. I then tried decreasing the text size to make everything fit on one page. That still left a page break, but after a number of increase/decrease text operations the pagination magically shifted so that I got the passage I wanted onto one pagein order to highlight.

I’m surprised that this problem wasn’t uncovered and fixed before release — any usability test of the highlighting feature would likely have found it. I was using the Kindle app but I found the same problem in iBooks, on both the iPhone and iPad.

(The book is Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior, by Tom DeMarco and others, and it’s a good read.)

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