Digital reading and comprehension

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.

Plat­form­ing Books:

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.

My favorite iPad feature

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.

Hack the Cover

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.

The Future of the Book

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.

The New Value of Text

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 shape of our future book

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.