E-books and justification

If:book has a really cool article on something that I hadn’t yet noticed (not having a kindle, a sony reader, or an iphone): all of the text on these devices is fully justified.

if a computer is going to hyphenate something, it needs to know what language the text is in. This is a job for metadata: electronic books could have an indicator of what language they’re in, and the reader application could hyphenate automatically. But that won’t always help: in the text on the Kindle screen, for example, der Depperte isn’t English and wouldn’t be recognized as such. A human compositor could catch that; a computer wouldn’t guess, and would have to default to not breaking it. The same problem will happen with proper names.

I can see why this is the case. It’s a difficult problem to solve, so, in that great tradition of computer programming, a solution becomes the solution because the problem-solvers aren’t end users themselves. I don’t think these e-book readers will take off until someone seriously studies the problems of reading on these things and takes the time and effort to offer some thoughtful solutions.

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