The Missing Link of User Interface

I have resisted getting an eReader but last spring I splurged and bought a Kobo.  The result, I found it a little bit clunky to get it work but generally I like it.  In particular I like the ability to change font size given that I am now on the wrong side of fifty years old.

Prior to mid-July of this year, I had read about a half dozen books on the Kobo most from my local library.  Getting a book from the library to the Kobo has become somewhat routine and I had it down to about a 3 minute effort.

Recently though, something went wrong.  I suspect that I updated something or made some seemingly innoculous change that cost me about 15 hours of my life.  I won’t go into all of the details but after loading a book from library a dozen different times in a half dozen different ways, there would either be no book transferred or the book would open with the message that I did not have the correct digital authorization.  In the end I reset the Kobo to factory settings, re-installed Adobe Digital Editions, flipped a number of switches and presto, I am back to reading on the Kobo!

What was most frustrating about the experience was that each of the three parties in the transaction indicated that, from their perspective, everything was A-O-KAY.  That is, the book download perfectly from the library.  It opened perfectly in Adobe Digital Editions and transferred successfully to the Kobo.  The Kobo gave no indication of trouble -until the moment I tried to actually open the book – when the digital rights error message would come up.  I get that digital rights are important and I am a law abiding citizen who followed the letter and spirit of the law completely.  I also was less angst as it was a ‘free’ loan from a library, but still – not being able to use something I had legitimate access to was galling.

In the end, I would suggest that the engineers who designed the Kobo and Adobe Digital Editions failed to fully consider the user experience.  Generally both work okay but the above technical problem could have been avoided and my fifeteen hours of effort saved in there was a simply little protocol like this:

  • Adobe Digital Editions (ADE): ADE transferring a file to Kobo, transfer started
  • ADE: Transfer Finished
  • Kobo: Transfer received, hold on a moment though, let me try to open the file…
  • Kobo: Oops, looks like the file cannot open, I don’t have the digital rights to the file
  • ADE: Let me tell the user about the problem and suggest actions to correct.
  • Kobo: Sounds good, in the meantime I will check from my end to see if the digital rights version I have is the same as the one you are transferring to me
  • ADE: Hey user, looks like you need to update some stuff, do you want me and the Kobo to go ahead and do it?
  • User: [presses OK]
  • Kobo: that did it, I can open the file
  • ADE: great, I will the user know he can start reading.

ADE’s job is to not transfer a file, it is to transfer a file that can be READ with the correction permissions.  Kobo’s job is not to receive a file, it is to receive a file that can be READ.

So, dear Kobo and Adobe, if you are listening, can you please implement the above bit of pseudo code in your next update?  I really want to get on reading the next book on my ereader, not trouble shooting for 15 hours!