Witness Apple’s Reality Distortion Field at Work

If you’ve been reading about Apple or their gadgets for any length of time then you’ve probably heard the term reality distortion field.

This term was coined 30 years ago to describe the effect Steve Jobs had on the people around him. It has since grown to be used as an explanation for why some bloggers accept Apple as the most original, most innovative, most perfect company which can do no wrong. It’s also part of the reason why some bloggers describe a feature which Apple has copied as being the most perfect thing ever.

Today I have an example of the RDF. The thoroughness of its effect will blow your mind.

I was over on Mashable a few minutes ago, reading a review of iBooks 3.0. According to this reviewer, it is the most wonderful thing ever. When Apple invented the continuous scroll they revolutionized ebook reading:

Apple has changed that with iBooks 3, which it announced at the iPad Mini launch Tuesday and dropped into the App Store early Wednesday morning. I’ve been reading with it for a couple of hours, and am falling head over heels for the continuous scrolling feature. It changes the game for book-reading, completely.

It’s so good, in fact — so natural and smooth — that if Amazon doesn’t introduce a similar scrolling feature for its Kindle apps and readers, I fear the company may have lost a battle in the ereader wars.

Folks, the continuous scrolling feature has been around for decades. You even have an app which can do it.

It’s called a web browser.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem reading long content in a web browser, including novels.

I also know that the continuous scroll of content in the web browser was one of the spurs which lead to the idea of page-sized bits of content in ebooks. People wanted to get away from it – not embrace it.

The perceived dislike for scrolling was also the inspiration for the various content apps to have page turns, and it also lead to Onswipe and Mobstac, 2 startups which are working to remove scrolling from webpages by offering readers an app-like experience.

And yet that Mashable blogger was blown away by an idea which Apple and pretty much everyone ran away from years ago. That blogger is so thrilled by something Apple has done that he completely forgets that the idea is old and established and that it’s so widely used that his readers will be using a continuously scrolling web browser to read his post.

This, folks, is the visible effect of the reality distortion field at work.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Eric24 October, 2012

    Tangible books went through this too, way back when they made the shift from the scroll to the codex. Returning to older demonstrably inferior forms is not progressive, by definition.

    1. Nate Hoffelder24 October, 2012

      Good point. I didn’t think of print books because I was busy trying not to have a stroke.

      I’m not sure they’re relevant, though. The switch from scroll to codex likely had more to do with the higher manufacturing and storage costs of scrolls. Codexes could be made from smaller segments which didn’t need to be as strong as a scroll of parchment.

  2. Poul Kjeldgaard24 October, 2012

    Actually, scrolling in ebooks solves a major problem in how to quickly get to a annotated text, or have a quick view of the book you just read, as you csn in a pbook. Its usefull. You are right in your point, but this is a bad example.

    1. Nate Hoffelder24 October, 2012

      As I noted in my review of iBooks 3, scrolling does have its uses, yes. That is part of the reason why PDF apps still have it after all these years.

      This guy isn’t talking about any of those uses. He’s just talking about how wonderful the feature is by itself. That is crazy talk.

      1. Tom Semple24 October, 2012

        Scrolling is useful for ePub also where there are inline images and diagrams. Paging forces these onto new pages, or can often orphan a caption. There are also scrolling reading apps that allow hands free reading (check out iScroll, for example). As long as it is optional, I’m all for it. But yes, the statements you call out in the Mashable review are ludicrous.

  3. monopole24 October, 2012

    Um, not only did Palm and the original Zaurus version of FBReader have continuous scrolling they also had autoscrolling that would automatic scrolling of the text at variable rates. In fact the FBReader still has these features in the Android incarnation.

    1. Janice in GA24 October, 2012

      This. I loved the autoscrolling feature in my Palm devices. (I originally bought a Palm device about 2 weeks after I found out you could read books on them.)

      I personally kinda hate the fake page turn in most reading apps. I just don’t see why you’d make an electronic format look like a fake book. I liked the continuous scroll for e-reading.

      OTOH, I installed the update on my iTouch 4th gen today, and I STILL don’t have continuous scroll. I have the new Cloud accsss, which I don’t need.

      I am disappoint.

      1. Nate Hoffelder24 October, 2012

        You can find the scrolling option under themes.

  4. Fred24 October, 2012

    Moon+ Reader also has continuous and auto scrolling.

  5. Smoley24 October, 2012

    Sounds like that guy would love reading an ebook using NotePad.

  6. fjtorres24 October, 2012

    The Calibre ebook viewer has always offered scrolling.
    Among a few dozen other text viewing apps over the last… I dunno… 50 years?
    VAXes had it…

  7. Mike Cane24 October, 2012

    >>>It changes the game for book-reading, completely.

    Jesus Christ. Did that guy just pop out of someone’s womb?

    Where the hell is the option to finally turn off that abomination of page curl and just slide from page to page?

    Vertical scrolling is Apple’s answer?

    Someone needs to remove their head from their ass.

    1. Mizzbee25 October, 2012

      Mr. Mike you and Mr. Nate continue to crack me up. You too should take your show on the road, I will sell tickets and take 25% of the gross. You two are a joy to read.

  8. fjtorres24 October, 2012

    Never mind animations! Turn off the faux page turns and slide shows and just pop the text in. All the fancy effects do is break immersion anyway.

    1. Mike Cane25 October, 2012


  9. Paul Salvette25 October, 2012

    Thanks, Nate. Glad you’re not a sycophant and can call em like you sees em. It’s rather embarrassing how “in the tank” some of the tech bloggers are for Apple.

  10. Xyzzy25 October, 2012

    Every time we’re sure that the ultra-fanboys can’t possibly go any further into the RDS…

    There’s an article over at Slate.com that also appears to be pretty deep into the distortion field based on the headline (along the lines of “the iPad Mini proves Apple is better than ever”), but I opted to avoid it. If you want more stroke-inducing material, though, chances are that piece has it…

  11. Thomas25 October, 2012

    That is funny. The guy is really excited about a feature that some reader apps have had for a long time but hardly anybody uses. Maybe if someone showed him FBReader and told him it was from Apple, he’d spontaneously combust.

    I do sometimes wonder if these guys own Apple stock and are trying to hype it up for that reason.

  12. Kieran19 January, 2013

    This is not rocket science. There are a LOT of iPhone/iPad etc users who have very little experience with IT/electronics prior to their adoption of Apple products.

    They don’t make the connections veterans do. You’re only as good as what’s up there in your brain. This blogger is clearly not an IT person, hence the lack of connection between mouse wheels and magical scrolling.

    Same mechanics goes on with the whole music industry, hardcore fan is amazed by pop fans blind love of a track that utilises some form of the music the hardcore fan loves.

  13. Huigh4 February, 2013

    Horses for courses. Some people want to read ebooks using automatic, continuous scrolling, for other people that is an abomination and they want a clean page-turn with a single tap others like to swipe. A well-designed ebook reader would give users the choice.
    I did a speed-reading course a long time ago which included a mechanical device that controlled your reading rate by moving a horizontal bar vertically down the page of a book at a set rate – some creative thinker had called it a Reading Rate Controller! I loved it and that’s why I want to read my ebooks with a continuous scroll that I can vary the speed of with some simple gesture.

  14. richardigp16 June, 2013

    We considered this in the first release of AZARDI in 2011. It has to be a users choice. http://apex.infogridpacific.com/df/azardi-flo.html

    Stepping aside from the linear reading experience to education content we have found the best experience is short scrolling sections. Doing a 10 question Q&A across page flipping is pretty annoying and distracting. In this context reflowable to fixed is designer and reader powered. But you have to get the content design right and that takes effort.

    There are so many different content genres, and so many works within those genres, designers have to decide – the user controls (reflowable) or I control (fixed layout), or even semi-fixed layout with a little bit of both. It was all done nearly two years ago in AZARDI. Pity nobody took any notice.

    However there are serious problems with the Apple scroll invention. Try a 200 chapter book. They have invented sad scrolling that loads really badly and handles inter-chapter hyperlinks like a I don’t give a crap drunk.

    The next problem…. has Apple patented the mediocre scroll… maybe a scroll with round corners!

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