Closing in on Interactive Chess Books?

Let's face it:  as things stand now, it's hard to read Silman on the bus.  Or in bed for that matter.  (Every time my wife turns over, she makes a mosh pit of my analysis board.)  Sure, if I have a nice diagram to start from, I can follow the main line in my head for a few moves... then there's an alternate line branching off... Ok, I can almost follow that.  Now mentally reverse back to the last move in the main line..  Um, did that Bishop just move through a pawn?...  Dammit..

Last week, in a move that threatens to put an end to all that, Amazon announced a developer's toolkit for the Kindle e-reader device.  This opens the doors to a whole new measure of interactivity between user and content, which of course has been hitherto unnecessary (and irrelevant?) on a device that 1. is primarily about allowing readers to immerse themselves in static, mostly textual, content without needing annual eye transplants, and 2. consequently has a screen-refresh rate about on par with the solar-powered calculator I used in Grade 8.

In terms of technology, it's a case of "you win some, you lose some":  The 'digital paper' or 'e-paper' used in the Kindle and other e-reader devices is incredibly legible and easy on the eyes; and once the screen has been drawn, the power required to maintain the display is negligible, making for lots of reading on a single battery charge.  The price for that dedication (i.e. to doing a truly great job of representing the printed page) is some pretty heavy limitations on the growth of the e-reader as, for instance, a gaming platform.  Forget Need for Speed; I wouldn't even want to try Tetris on one of these things.

Tony Bradley's PC World response to Amazon's move is understandably skeptical, particularly given his emphasis on a widely-held view that the new toolkit "seems like an aggressive move ... to preempt the rise of tablet PC's--like the Apple tablet PC expected to be announced by Apple next week."  His thesis is pretty simple:  Consumers don't buy e-readers to play Super Monkey Ball 2.  Heck, because devices like the Kindle are so specialized (probably key to their success), it's reasonable to assume that their owners have already met their miscellaneous app-related needs on other platforms that are better-suited to the task.  However, he does make one interesting concession:

"One reader in particular is pining for a chess app. I have to admit that a chess app certainly seems apropos for an e-reader device like the Kindle. Certainly, much more fitting than say one of the vast variety of fart noise apps available for the iPhone..."

I don't know.. Maybe it's the impending Apple announcement, but I think people are getting mired in what has been (and will continue to be) an apples/oranges comparison.  As a result, they are perhaps missing the point of what makes Amazon's toolkit so exciting.  Personally, even as a chess & tech enthusiast, I'm certainly not slavering for yet another platform on which to play against an engine (or a remote human for that matter).

On the contrary, Amazon's announcement excites me because of its potential to transform and extend its singular use-case:  the act of reading.

Take a book from Silman, for example--How to Reassess Your Chess, let's say.  Wouldn't it be fantastic if "Diagram 126" allowed me to visually step through the analysis in the text, and maybe even break out into an experimental side-line of my own?

And that's just one application...  There's lots of informative possibilities and sheer fun to be had with a slow-refreshing, largely text- and picture-based medium.  If I'm reading the paper, why shouldn't the stock information be updated in near real-time?  Even the headlines could change and the stories be updated (subject of course to my opting to refresh them).  If the paper has a daily Sudoku problem, why not actually do it on screen?  Chess problems?  Of course!!  There also seem to be interesting possibilities here for text-book publication, especially perhaps at lower grades where work-book activities could be integrated into the matrix of instructive text and diagrams.

On the purely recreational side, how about a little hypertext mystery fiction, wherein the reader herself must help solve the case..  Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books ("If you want to hit the zombie in the head with a shovel, turn to page 32.")?  Remember Zork?

As anxious as I am to see the new Apple tablet this week (and I'm going with "iPad," by the way), I'm still pretty stoked at the news from Amazon--in large part because I don't see a greater degree of user interactivity, in itself, as tantamount to an e-reader/tablet-PC convergence.  (Give us ultra-fast full-colour digital paper first, and we'll talk.)  In the meantime, when trying to guess what designers and developers will do with this toolkit, I think it's vital to think outside the App Store--and hope the developers do likewise.


  • 7 years ago


    Guys don't forget that HP is planning to release the HP Slate sometime this year and it's supposed to be running windows 7...

    Run Fritz/Chessbase/Interactive eBook and you're set.

    Once that comes out then it would be 'gg' to the iPad.

  • 7 years ago


    I prefer a plain old book, we have laptops for everything you're talking about.

  • 7 years ago


    I-s this an ipad comercial ?

    Everytime i'm amazed how good their marketing works, people follow it like a bible by people who tend to see Microsoft as pure evil magic.
    But often people forget history. Microsoft has been in mobile devices since ehm.. windows pocket PC 2000. Yup thats now 10 years ago..
    And these devices where even smaller in size (amazingly small...)

    I dont know when pocket fritz came out with anotated games (yes i forget history too). But beyond the wauw en woow about its an i-product i-wonder how often we tend to re-invent things like this. Perhaps i-nvention is more harder then o-riginality these days even in e-lectronics.

  • 7 years ago


    It is obvious that chess would be more interesting on an Ipad than kindle. I will probably pick up an ipad rather than the kindle.

  • 7 years ago


    I'm waiting to see how the iPad shakes out, and what the competition does in response.  I'm sure the iPad itself will evolve quickly, as the iPod did.  I don't think anyone really knows what is happening in book publishing these days.  I'm sure it will be changing as quickly as the music business.  Of course, interactive books in general (not just chess books) have me very excited.


  • 7 years ago


    i have that same problem, i use a small magnetic board for reading chess books, but a kendal with one built in would be awesome

  • 7 years ago


    I also have some difficulty going from 2d to 3d (computer - OTB)..

    still I'd love an interactive reader with, say, pgn viewers like we have here on site. It makes explaining so easy!

  • 7 years ago


    Apple Ipad really looks like perfect reader for chessbooks.

    Interactive ebooks are fun to use, I use Chessbase as reader.

    Too bad that Chessbase doesn't work on upcoming Apple IPad...

  • 7 years ago


    Actually, I've discovered that I'm getting much stronger board visualization and analysis skills by forcing myself to work through GM analysis without a board and pieces.  And stronger visualization + analysis skills = stronger chess skill.  My rating in various pools has increased about 75 ELO points in the past few months.  So what if it's harder, and I have to figure out if a bishop is really jumping over a pawn?  I go back and figure it out, and get a little bit stronger.

    So I'd rather work through analysis in my head than click forward on a virtual board.  But maybe there's a way to provide the click-through analysis for those who want it, and also cater to someone like me.  Now that would be a killer app!

  • 7 years ago


    Those are awesome.  I had one up until my then three-year-old discovered it on the bookcase...  We've never found 2-3 of the pieces, and I've got a baaad feeling about where they went.

    In reality, nowadays I mostly use an iPhone chess app for following along with a text.  But I thought setting up a full board in bed made a funnier image.  :)


  • 7 years ago


    You said:  "..... she makes a mosh pit of my analysis board......."  

          they do sell magnetic pocket sized flat chessboards for analyzing.


    (that was my solution).

  • 7 years ago


    Awesome, I'm one of those people pining after the chess books, I've requested about 8 in kindle format at least twice each...

  • 7 years ago


    Totaly agree about the Kindel. Got it and have the problem that you are talking about. When it is possible to read chess books with diagrams on it, it is almost impossible to follow the analysis with out a board infront of you. That makes it a little less " portable" than I would like.Kindel + Chess setFrown 

  • 7 years ago


    "Choose Your Own Adventure" has an iPhone app.

    I share your excitement about the possibilities for the Kindle.  But I believe mine is still too slow for interactive chess diagrams.  We'll see.

    I wonder if moving chess books to e-reader format will make us club players even worse at the game.  When it becomes so easy to follow along with a digital board, will we be too lazy to bother with any analysis in our heads? Also, will there be greater differences between one's analysis skills with 2D board vs with real pieces.  For masters I'm guessing that's not a problem.  But for me, I try to play with a real board as much as possible since I find I'm making stupid mistakes in my calculation OTB that I would never make staring at a 2D diagram on my computer.  

  • 7 years ago


    I'm also really excited about the Apple announcement next week, could be great for interactive chess apps. 

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