Who is Smik?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Reading more with e-readers?

It is probably a little early to consider the impact of e-readers on reading habits but already US sources are claiming a surge in reading with the new devices.

A recent survey from Marketing and Research Resources found that 40 percent of those questioned now read more on their Kindles and iPads than they did with print books, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A study of 1,200 e-reader owners by Marketing and Research Resources Inc. found that 40% said they now read more than they did with print books. Of those surveyed, 58% said they read about the same as before while 2% said they read less than before. And 55% of the respondents in the May study, paid for by e-reader maker Sony Corp., thought they'd use the device to read even more books in the future. The study looked at owners of three devices: Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle, Apple Inc.'s iPad and the Sony Reader.

The Wall Street Journal article continues... because e-book gadgets are portable, people report they're reading more and at times when a book isn't normally an option: on a smartphone in the doctor's waiting room; through a Ziploc-bag-clad Kindle in a hot tub, or on a treadmill with a Sony Reader's fonts set to jumbo. Among commuters, e-readers are starting to catch up with BlackBerrys as the preferred companions on trains and buses.

Committed readers are also saying that their e-reader won't totally replace paper books in their hands but the following characteristics of e-readers are without doubt contributing to their growth in popularity:

  • the portability of the devices. Earlier attempts at e-readers were not successful because they were basically software on a computer. Until recently computers were not very portable and so the user was tethered to the desk, using a back-lit screen.
    • for me this is where those who claim that netbooks or laptops with e-reader software are a satisfactory substitute are still missing the point.  The clue lies in the instant availability, lightness, portability, and dedicated nature of the device.
  • the ability to acquire a new book in a moment, on a whim - Amazon for example are saying that sales of e-books has spiralled upwards - "its customers buy 3.3 times as many books after buying a Kindle" - but is that just because they are now able to track the book purchases more readily?
    Certainly if my own behaviour is anything to go by, I see a book advertised and think I wonder if Amazon has it for Kindle
  • the ability to scale a font larger or smaller to suit your eyesight. I hadn't realised how important that was becoming to me until I struck a paper book where the font is just a little small for me. A friend recently revealed that she can't read a 550 page book in bed, not because it is heavy, but because the print is too small.
    There's another point to the font issue: there is some evidence that now suggests that a child with reading difficulties may find the lines of larger font easier to follow, and even be completing books, a new experience for them. See more
  • There's a suggestion that the voice synthesisers available on e-readers and iPad apps may help the reader bridge the text/meaning gap by appealing to visual and auditory sense simultaneously. A case in point might be an iPad app that allows child to touch a story and have it read to them, similar to the "bouncing ball" technique we used to use in computer prohgrams to teach reading.
  • if you are travelling, or studying, then an e-reader can replace the several books you would carry about with you.
  • Many of us were surprised when the recent Jacob Nielsen survey claimed that we read more slowly with e-readers. Anecdotal evidence was suggesting to me that we are actually reading faster with an e-reader. When I checked on what text Nielsen used in the survey, I wasn't actually surprised. I still think an e-reader encourages you to read faster.
  • And here's an article that suggests that e-readers allow us to read in non-linear ways that actually enhance the reading experience
  • availability of free books - again from the Wall Street Journal - E-reader users also say that 52% of their e-books were ones they purchased, while 48% of their e-books were free because they were sample giveaways or out-of-copyright.

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