Nicholas Carr writes of a study that shows students still prefer printed texts:
What’s most revealing about this study is that, like earlier research, it suggests that students’ preference for printed textbooks reflects the real pedagogical advantages they experience in using the format: fewer distractions, deeper engagement, better comprehension and retention, and greater flexibility to accommodating idiosyncratic study habits.
Or, put another way, it shows that students who were taught to read through printed texts still have a bias toward that medium as they grow older. Humans are highly adaptable creatures and I’d bet the preference these students have is more a result of pedagogy than the inherent values of digital texts.
I think we won’t truly see the effects of digital books until these studies focus on students who learned to read on digital devices. In other words, people who don’t look at an iPad or Kindle as an e-book but, rather, just as how you read.
The Library as a Map. Great interview with the two people behind a very interesting library in San Francisco. I’ve really been enjoying the recent articles from Contents.
Earlier today I started Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I’m already half-way through reading it. A fantastic read with the right mix of tech, books, and intrigue.
I strongly believe digital books benefit from public endpoints. The current generation of readers (human, not electronic) have formed expectations about sharing text, and if you obstruct their ability to share — to touch — digital text, then your content is as good as non-existent. Or, in the least, it’s less likely to be engaged.
Word. Art Space Tokyo is a gorgeous site and I bet will drive a lot of digital sales, in addition to readers.
Tap Left Margin -> Next Page; my favorite feature of the iPad. This means I can comfortably read while drinking tea and not worry about which hand holds my iPad.
The majority of the time I’m reading a book I just want to go forward. It always felt clumsy to swipe with my left thumb. Advancing with just a tap means the device never breaks my flow.
If digital covers as we know them are so ‘dead,’ why do we hold them so gingerly? Treat them like print covers? We can’t hurt them. They’re dead. So let’s start hacking. Pull them apart, cut them into bits and see what we come up with.
This is an essay for book lovers and designers curious about where the cover has been, where it’s going, and what the ethos of covers means for digital book design. It’s for those of us dissatisfied with thoughtlessly transferring print assets to digital and closing our eyes.
The cover as we know it really is — gasp — ‘dead.’ But it’s dead because the way we touch digital books is different than the way we touch physical books. And once you acknowledge that, useful corollaries emerge.
Craig Mod — Hack the Cover.
If your book is 600 pages long, you are demanding more of my time than I feel free to give. And if I could accomplish the same change in my view of the world by reading a 60-page version of your argument, why didn’t you just publish a book this length instead?
The honest answer to this last question should disappoint everyone: Publishers can’t charge enough money for 60-page books to survive; thus, writers can’t make a living by writing them. But readers are beginning to feel that this shouldn’t be their problem. Worse, many readers believe that they can just jump on YouTube and watch the author speak at a conference, or skim his blog, and they will have absorbed most of what he has to say on a given subject. In some cases this is true and suggests an enduring problem for the business of publishing. In other cases it clearly isn’t true and suggests an enduring problem for our intellectual life.
Sam Harris — The Future of the Book.
Text lasts. It’s not platform-dependant, you don’t just get it from one source, read it in one place, understand it in one way. It is not dependent on technology: it is what we make technology out of. Code is text, it is the fundamental nature of technology. We’ve been trying for decades, since the advent of hypertext fiction, of media-rich CD-ROMs, to enhance the experience of literature with multimedia. And it has failed, every time.
Yet we are terrified that in the digital age, people are constantly distracted. That they’re shallower, lazier, more dazzled. If they are, then the text is not speaking clearly enough. We are not speaking clearly enough. Like over-stuffed attendees at a dull banquet, the mind wanders. We are terrified that people are dumbing down, and so we provide them with ever dumber entertainment. We sell them ever greater distractions, hoping to dazzle them further.
James Bridle — The New Value of Text.
The current surface forms for digital books are far from perfect, but they work and are getting better with each device and software iteration. So, in my opinion, many of the critical future questions digital books designers will have to address don’t directly involve pure content layout. Future-book design is not merely about font sizes and leading. Instead, our hardest (and possibly most rewarding) problems will involve the intermingling of content and data.
Craig Mod — The shape of our future book.
So, even if they now seem natural, the lengths and formats of books are but cultural accidents.
Sam Leith — Is this the end for books?