In today's digital age, it sometimes feels like hardware has gone in the background to the software that drives devices. Button of the month is a monthly look at what some of those buttons and switches are on old and new devices, and it is aimed to appreciate how we handle our devices on a physical, tactile level.
How do you make a tablet feel like a book?
Amazon has been working on this question for years with its Kindle set-up, which aims to provide a reading experience that is just as good if not better than old-fashioned paper and ink.
The best of Amazon's modern Kindle hardware is the Oasis: not just because of the high resolution screen or the slim design, but because it only has physical page button buttons for going through an e-book.
Those buttons are a crucial part of what makes a good e-reader work, because nothing will ever replicate a book when it comes to physical form. The best e-readers (especially Amazon & # 39; s Kindles) are most successful if they do not directly copy the book experience, but adapt it to the strengths of the tablet form. Although the Kindle display is never quite the same as reading a paper book, it offers benefits that paper cannot have, such as a backlight and customizable text.
That brings us to the buttons. Turning a page is probably the most important interaction that people have with books. It is the way we advance in what we read or turn to check a card at the beginning or an index at the end. Nothing will ever really repeat that: the movement of the paper, the susurrus of the pages and the friction when turning the page are all impossible to achieve digitally.
Some have tried. Apple & # 39; s Books app, for example, emulates paper at a skeuomorphic level by animating a digital page cover when you tap, but it is a hollow experience.
Amazon is not trying to copy that directly. For the first several generations of Kindles, the company used buttons built into the edges of its readers, but they were difficult to control and (like any moving button) a point of potential failure. So the company largely threw in the towel and switched to interfaces, starting with the Kindle Touch in 2011, which were boring but functional.
Except for the Oasis, the best Kindle from Amazon. The Oasis has physical buttons for turning the page, a pair of elongated capsules on the thick edge of the device, which are placed perfectly under your thumb. Just like a real book, the buttons turn a page into a physical action. You must intentionally move your hand to continue or go back. It is the ritual of turning over a new leaf, adapted to the strengths of the unique form factor and the design of the Kindle.
Amazon distilled page button buttons to the limit of simplicity: the top button of the Oasis (regardless of how you hold it) moves you one page forward, while the bottom button brings you back. The buttons are not capacitive (like the flat touch panels on the Kindle Voyage), nor are they particularly remarkable from a physical point of view. There are no swipe tricks or even functions for pressing and holding or double-clicking. But unlike the original Kindle, there is no awkwardness of placement here; they rest under your hand, ready for a simple flex of your thumb to turn the page.
The buttons add a physical pause between pages. To be honest, it is a shame that Amazon does not put them on the cheaper Kindle models, because at least for me the buttons make the difference between clicking through a book as if it were a long blog post and reading a book.