The User Comes Second
In the past, I have occasionally fulminated about the distinct advantage that is often given to the packager of whatever, as compared to the consumer of the package. Good examples, if strictly only an analogy, are those envelopes sent out by various governmental agencies: messages that require the recipient to carefully insert a knife on three sides of an envelope to get at some trite message thus revealed. Euch mach ihr’s leicht; mir macht ihr’s schwer, as Hans Sachs would have it in the Meistersinger. There is nothing surprising about that package, since basically, it shoves the work from the “producer” to the consumer. (What else is new?)
I’ve now come across an analogous example of a rarer sort. As previously mentioned, I am now reading Robert Caro’s book on Robert Moses. If ever there was such a thing, it’s a mega-book of nearly 1300 pages; big pages.
But its bulk makes it a nuisance to read. Over two inches thick and weighing maybe five pounds. It’s OK to have reference text come in big packages, since they are usually just consulted in bits and pieces, but it is not equally suitable for a book to be read through from beginning to end to be so huge. To put it bluntly, a monster book like that is a nuisance to read. The “user”—that is reader—would have been better off with two volumes, even though that would be slightly more costly (it’s only a paperback). An e-book version would have even be better, but, surprisingly, none such is available. The user is not the first considered in the book’s design.