Craigmod has a fabulous article up right now about why e-books on the iPad are doing it wrong.

The problem is much simpler: iBooks and are incompetent e-readers. They get in the way of the reading experience and treat digital books like poorly typeset PDFs.

We can do better. (We have to do better.)

But there's something beyond interface and design issues nagging at me: these applications are ignoring a core characteristic unique to digital text. They're ignoring the meta-data created as we move through and mark our e-books.

The article envisions an e-book that is a distinctly personal experience that can also be social. The closest thing I've seen to what they're imagining is Publication Studio's Reading Commons, where you and other people can socialize in and around the text of a book. It's unfortunate that the whole thing is online, though. I really like Craigmod's idea of truncating a book yourself into just the parts that are relevant to you.

Show me a heat map of passages — ‘hottest’ to ‘coldest’. Which chapters in this Obama biography should I absolutely not miss?(Fig 7)

Let Stefan Sagmeister publicly share the passages he’s highlighted in the new Murakami Haruki novel. This is something I want to see. And I bet you do, too.

When I’m considering buying a book, show me how far the average reader gets. Do most readers get through the whole novel or give up halfway? How many notes do they take? How many passages do they highlight?

These can be intimate signifiers of the worth of a particular text. And signifiers that, until books became digital, were invisible — or at best, estimates. Systems should be in place to capture, aggregate and allow access to this data. And this access should be seamlessly integrated with our e-readers

It's an interesting idea, because there's nothing else to compare it to: It re-imagines the e-book as a unique experience that can't be duplicated in print. And that's what e-books should be.