Do e-readers inhibit reading comprehension?

To date, many engineers, designers and user-interface experts have worked hard to make reading on an e-reader or tablet as close to reading on paper as possible. E-ink resembles chemical ink and the simple layout of the Kindle’s screen looks like a page in a paperback. Likewise, Apple’s iBooks attempts to simulate the overall aesthetic of paper books, including somewhat realistic page-turning. Scientific American reports on how research suggests that devices can prevent readers from wholly absorbing longer texts.

How exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read? How reading on screens differs from reading on paper is relevant not just to the youngest among us, but to just about everyone who reads — to anyone who routinely switches between working long hours in front of a computer at the office and leisurely reading paper magazines and books at home; to people who have embraced e-readers for their convenience and portability, but admit that for some reason they still prefer reading on paper; and to those who have already vowed to forgo tree pulp entirely. As digital texts and technologies become more prevalent, we gain new and more mobile ways of reading — but are we still reading as attentively and thoroughly? How do our brains respond differently to onscreen text than to words on paper? Should we be worried about dividing our attention between pixels and ink or is the validity of such concerns paper-thin?

An emerging collection of studies emphasizes that in addition to screens possibly taxing people’s attention more than paper, people do not always bring as much mental effort to screens in the first place. Subconsciously, many people may think of reading on a computer or tablet as a less serious affair than reading on paper. Based on a detailed 2005 survey of 113 people in northern California, Ziming Liu of San Jose State University concluded that people reading on screens take a lot of shortcuts — they spend more time browsing, scanning and hunting for keywords compared with people reading on paper, and are more likely to read a document once, and only once.

More on Salon.

Mobile becoming the primary way to access Internet

Photo by Robert Scobile

Photo by Robert Scoble

Although consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices as a primary outlet to the Internet, there are substantial global challenges to market on smaller-sized screens, according to a new study from the Boston Consulting Group.

The “Through the Mobile Looking Glass: The Transformative Potential of Mobile Technologies” report breaks down mobile development into three models. The report also highlights how consumers are leading the charge with the shift to mobile-first strategies.

“The main message for marketers is that clearly the mobile devices are becoming the primary way for accessing the Internet for many consumers around the world,” said David Dean at Boston Consulting Group, Boston.


Four out of five broadband connections will be mobile this year, showing how the Internet is increasingly becoming dominated by smartphones and tablets.


The Boston Consulting Group report breaks down mobile into three models that are being integrated into the global economy – collaborative, competitive and greenfield.

Each of these models can be viewed as a stack, or a set of software and hardware that drives a smartphone or other device.

Consumers who create, consume and share content through a variety of services and applications are at the top layer of a stack.

Underneath consumers are the layers that enable the consumer to interact with their mobile device – including carriers, service providers and networks.

“I think mobile is going to become the primary source of interaction for many consumers throughout the world,” he said.

“Many talk about mobile-first in their plans, which is essentially are saying about their devices.”

More on Mobile Marketer

Social vs. Networking Categorized by Age

Social vs. Networking Categorized by Age.

This picture shows directly to us that how social & networking influences a person’s life in different periods— early/ later education years, career years & post career years.

E-books Can’t Burn

Tim Parks writes on how many still disapprove of reading on devices like the Kindle. Moving beyond the practicality of the devices and how we acquire reading material, he provides an excellent opinion on the experience of reading with the devices vs. the traditional paper book.

The e-book, by eliminating all variations in the appearance and weight of the material object we hold in our hand and by discouraging anything but our focus on where we are in the sequence of words (the page once read disappears, the page to come has yet to appear) would seem to bring us closer than the paper book to the essence of the literary experience. Certainly it offers a more austere, direct engagement with the words appearing before us and disappearing behind us than the traditional paper book offers, giving no fetishistic gratification as we cover our walls with famous names. It is as if one had been freed from everything extraneous and distracting surrounding the text to focus on the pleasure of the words themselves. In this sense the passage from paper to e-book is not unlike the moment when we passed from illustrated children’s books to the adult version of the page that is only text. This is a medium for grown-ups.
Add to that the e-book’s ease of transport, its international vocation (could the Iron Curtain have kept out e-books?), its indestructibility (you can’t burn e-books), its promise that all books will be able to remain forever in print and what is more available at reasonable prices, and it becomes harder and harder to see why the literati are not giving the phenomenon a more generous welcome.

E-books Can’t Burn

The Evolution of Music Online

PBS Off Book discusses the massive changes in music distribution and how music blogs and websites have arisen as the new arbiters of quality.

As the 90s came to a close, the business of music began to change profoundly. New technology allowed artists to record and produce their own music and music videos, and the internet became a free-for-all distribution platform for musicians to promote themselves to audiences across the world. The result was an influx of artists onto the cultural scene, and audiences were left wondering how to sort through them all.

Purported piracy costs made up out of thin air

Freakonomics writes on the current debate surrounding the proposed SOPA and PIPA bills in the US Congress. Choice quote: “Unlike stealing a car, copying a song doesn’t necessarily inflict a tangible loss on another. Estimating that loss requires counterfactual assumptions ..”

Supporters of stronger intellectual property enforcement — such as those behind the proposed new Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) bills in Congress — argue that online piracy is a huge problem, one which costs the U.S. economy between $200 and $250 billion per year, and is responsible for the loss of 750,000 American jobs.
These numbers seem truly dire: a $250 billion per year loss would be almost $800 for every man, woman, and child in America. And 750,000 jobs – that’s twice the number of those employed in the entire motion picture industry in 2010.
The good news is that the numbers are wrong

One of the most astonishing aspects of the debate is just how much political influence is wielded by a comparatively insignificant industry. You can’t even escape this US lobbying groups reach as a foreign citizen living in a foreign country.
How Much Do Music and Movie Piracy Really Hurt the U.S. Economy?

On Blogs and Blogging

Writing about my blog or blogging in general feels too ‘meta’ to me, it’s best to leave that up to the Adsense cash cows, but Om Malik’s reflections on his experience is an interesting read and has some valuable insight worth sharing.

Today we differentiate between blogging on blogging platforms and sharing on social platforms, but that is just semantics. The essence of blogging is not defined by a platform but by what I learned from Dave and his blogging platform — that media now is raw, collaborative and instantaneous.

Unlike Om Malik I can’t write a detailed history. I have had a personal site or blog for over 14 years now – at first it was an experiment, an exercise to learn something new, then it evolved into short twitter style entries detailing my life overseas. All this was done by hand as the exhausting amount of platforms didn’t exist then. I posted my resume and a portfolio of my work, I read the handful of blogs that existed in the beginning to learn, and tried to do the same by sharing links and insights I found. For a while I had an early and fun project sharing street photographs of life in Asia, which though I’m not a skilled photographer is probably one of my most enjoyable personal projects. I’ve tried all kinds of fun online experiments and some not so fun, like the largely unknown first internal corporate blogging venture at a ‘big company’ I worked for. I would be hired again much later to try and reinstate that culture of sharing. Then with new interests came the experiment I called Popwuping, a half dozen other blogs, twitter and increasingly more time on a site I have mixed feelings about called Facebook. Sharing, or curating as the more hip and skilled would call it, is very much a part of my personal and professional practice. Writing, especially in the long form, not always so much so.
I don’t post regularly, one of Om Malik’s lessons I’m about to share, and perhaps I should apologize for that but I seldom assume people notice. Here are a few of his lessons that I feel strongly about during my experience:

Write everything as if your mom is reading your work, a good way to maintain civility and keep your work comprehensible.
Blogging is not about opinion but it is about viewing the world in a certain way and sharing it with others how you look at things. I share the things I see as interesting and shared my view of the world.
Being authentic in your thoughts and voice is the only way to survive the test of time.

… and forget the SEO nonsense.
Om Malik: My 10 years of blogging: Reflections, Lessons & Some Stats Too

How the iPod has changed our lives.

How the iPod has changed our lives.
In this widely linked article Daniel Levitin writes for the New York times on how the iPod, which recently celebrated it’s 10th Birthday, has changed our lives and the way we listen. Here are some choice excerpts in my order:
iPods change the way we “share” music. For one thing, we don’t listen together. So?

Music listening used to be an activity that we did with great ceremony. We’d invite friends over and sit down, pass the album cover around, study the artwork. And when the record started, we’d listen intently together and do nothing else. In short: music listening was deeply social. The iPod has turned music listening into a mostly solitary experience.

Has the iPod brought more music — more rhythm — into our lives?

Yes. The average 12-year-old can hold in her hand more songs than my great-grandfather would have heard in his entire lifetime. Also, digital music is a great democratizing force for musicians. They no longer have to go through the narrow turnstile of record companies.

iPod owners tend to download singles instead of albums. What is the effect of that?

An obvious loss: the album. For decades, artists assembled and sequenced songs to make a larger musical statement, the height of which resulted in concept albums, from Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” to Green Day’s “American Idiot.” Breaking an album up into singles disrupts the artists’ original intention for the work. Also, we tend to lose the opportunity to discover songs that don’t jump out at first.

The album died long before the iPod came along. Musical artists stopped becoming artists and became a business commodity — non-popular music non-withstanding. Half of what was released on many albums wasn’t worth listening to.
The article has interesting thoughts on the lack of, or change in sociability, of listening to music today but the article has less to do with the iPod than it does with his acute understanding of the science of music and the state of popular musical artistry today.
Though far too short, I enjoy reading his ideas, the article is interesting nonetheless.
NYT: Happy Birthday iPod!

American smartphone customers are consuming lots of media

A new study indicates there’s a dramatic shift to “smartphone culture,” where people are using social networks and downloading media such as games on their phones, according to Magid Media Futures: Mobile 2011. Among the findings, smartphone users spend more on virtual goods in games than social networking users do.

For years, American cell phone usage lagged behind that of Europeans and the Japanese, but that seems to be changing at long last.
About 45 percent of smartphone users play games on their phones. Smartphone owners are three to five times more likely to play games, use social networks, and access the internet from their phones, in comparison to traditional feature phone owners.
Magid found that among those who play games on their phones, the majority use the phone as their primary gaming device. Of those who do not play smartphone games, 55 percent said they may start playing in the next 12 months. One third of smartphone gamers who have not spent money on smartphone games say they may start in the next 12 months.

VentureBeat: American smartphone customers are consuming lots of media

How kids consume media

tv consumption

Kids are leading the world’s transition to digital media.
This is in part because kids aren’t afraid of technology, and in part because kids haven’t spent years getting use to anything else.
So if you want to get a sense of where the world’s media habits are headed, it makes sense to watch what kids are doing.
The Kaiser Family Foundation did just that in a comprehensive survey released last year. Kaiser surveyed more than 2,000 families, and turned up all sorts of interesting information about the media habits of 8-18 year olds.

Yes, data like this has a passing professional interest but I find articles like these astounding as they illustrate just how different our lives appear to be from many others. How does anyone find the time to watch four hours of television a day? Or even find fours of television worth watching in a week. And children? My kids don’t have the time either. TV in the bedroom – impossible. The bedroom is for sleeping, reading and other activities.
Perhaps this media consumption is an indication more of passive consumption vs. being engaged. The TV is always on, a sort of soother for adults and children, but it isn’t actually being payed attention to. I can’t do that anymore – I don’t even turn on a radio if I need to focus on something; like talking to my children or reading a book.
I’m not trying to be smug but am amazed how you can develop completely different attitudes towards media consumption when you live between cultures (expats in a foreign country) and are not subject to pressures from your peers.
The Amazing Media Habits Of 8-18 Year Olds

Information Overload, Then and Now

Information Overload, Then and Now
It’s important to remember that information overload is not unique to our time, lest we fall into doomsaying. At the same time, we need to proceed carefully in the transition to electronic media, lest we lose crucial methods of working that rely on and foster thoughtful decision making. Ann Blair, in support of her book Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information Before the Modern Age, offers some critical perspective on one of the oft discussed problems of the information age.

Feeling overwhelmed by too much information? What else is new? The amount of digital data available on the Web every day reaches records of mind-boggling proportions–now more than a zettabyte (1021 bytes) and presumably accumulating at an ever-increasing rate, estimated at 30-percent growth per year from 1999 to 2002.
But such figures–often presented as evidence of unprecedented and stress-inducing overload–don’t mean much. After all, it takes only one or two pages of Google hits to overwhelm the average reader. Does it really matter whether there are hundreds or thousands more pages after those?
More important, information overload was experienced long before the appearance of today’s digital gadgets. Complaints about “too many books” echo across the centuries, from when books were papyrus rolls, parchment manuscripts, or hand printed. The complaint is also common in other cultural traditions, like the Chinese, built on textual accumulation around a canon of classics.

Information Overload, Then and Now