Everything Science Knows About Reading On Screens

10 July 2015

From FastCompany:

Thanks to technology, we’re reading more than ever—our brains process thousands of words via text messages, email, games, social media, and web stories. According to one report, the amount people that read tripled from 1980 to the late 2000s, and it’s probably safe to say that trend continues today. But as we jam more and more words into our heads, how we read those words has changed in a fundamental way: we’ve moved from paper to screens. It’s left many wondering what we’ve lost (or gained) in the shift, and a handful of scientists are trying to figure out the answer.

. . . .

[M]any researchers say that reading onscreen encourages a particular style of reading called “nonlinear” reading—basically, skimming. In a 2005 study out of San Jose University, Ziming Liu looked at how reading behavior changed over the past decade, and found exactly this pattern. “The screen-based reading behavior is characterized by more time spent on browsing and scanning, keyword spotting, one-time reading, non-linear reading, and reading more selectively,” Liu wrote. In the face of endless information, links, videos, and images demanding our attention, we’ve adapted our reading to fit our screens.

But this style of reading may come at a cost—Liu noted in his study that sustained attention seems to decline when people read onscreen rather than on paper, and that people also spend less time on in-depth reading. “In digital, we can link in different media, images, sound, and other text, and people can get overwhelmed,” explains Andrew Dillon, a professor at the School of Information at the University of Texas, Austin, “These are disruptive activities that can carry a cost in terms of attention.” Another study by Rakefet Ackerman Technion-Israel Institute of Technology also supports the idea that paper is sometimes less distracting than our computers. The researchers found that when people read short nonfiction onscreen, their understanding of the text suffered because people managed their time poorly compared with when they used paper (although paper’s advantage disappeared when people were given a fixed amount of time to read the text). Other studies have also found costs when people multi-task online in both efficiency and the quality of work they create (like a written report) based on their understanding of what they read.

Nonlinear reading might especially hurt what researchers call “deep-reading”—our in-depth reading of text that requires intense focus to fully understand it, like the works of James Joyce or Virginia Woolf. “Skimming is fine for our emails, but it’s not fine for some of the important forms of reading,” says Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf. “If you word-spot James Joyce, you’ll miss the entire experience.” Wolf says that since humans didn’t evolve to read, we have very plastic brain circuits for this particular skill and our brains easily adapt to whatever medium we read. If we habitually browse and word-spot, Wolf explains, our brains will favor that type of reading even when we crack open Ulysses.

Link to the rest at FastCompany and thanks to Dave for the tip.

PG is a pretty digital guy, but he still proofreads documents where every word has to be right on paper.

However, he reads both fiction and nonfiction books exclusively on an ereader or tablet.

Half of UK households now own a tablet

28 May 2015

From Broadband Choices:

The popularity of portable slates has surged since 2011, when just 2% of UK adults owned one. Now, 54% of the population regularly use a tablet and that figure is set to increase to 63% by 2016 – driven by the success of devices including the Apple iPad, Google Nexus and Amazon Fire.

Tablets are the most popular amongst 35 to 54 year olds where take up now stands at 64%. Comparatively, 60% of young adults aged between 16 and 34 use one, and only 37% of over 55s do. Kids are also increasingly tech savvy as 71% of them have now had access to a tablet with a third owning one of their own.

Link to the rest at Broadband Choices

Someone gave my 5-year-old a Kindle

12 January 2015

From The Washington Post:

I was at a loss.

As I sat there eyeing the small gift box, tastefully wrapped in blue paper with a matching ribbon, I had no idea what to do. The accompanying receipt told me what was inside: a brand-new Kindle Fire – for my 5-year-old daughter.

When my husband came home from work, we stared at the gift together, unsure how to proceed. We agreed that the present, sent by a close family member, was incredibly generous. We also agreed that our daughter would love it – after all, she always asked to play on Papa’s iPad whenever he visited, and she was fascinated by her cousin’s tablet. But she’d never had one of her own, and frankly, the idea of getting her one hadn’t crossed our minds.

. . . .

Suddenly, we were faced with the prospect of our kindergartner owning a tablet, on which she could play games, practice reading, or surf the Internet. On the one hand, it sounded innocent enough. After all, we want her to be comfortable with technology and keep up with her peers. There are plenty of educational apps for young kids – not to mention opportunities for her to keep busy during long road trips or stints at the doctor’s office. Plus, it was a gift from a family member, who wanted to share something special with her during the holidays. We couldn’t object to that.

And yet we had some serious reservations. Talking it over, we came up with a list of reasons we were uncomfortable letting our daughter keep this gift.

There’s a world beyond the screen. I’ve seen too many kids who’ve lost the art of eye contact, their attention perpetually focused on their fingertips. Who am I kidding? You can add me to that group. While I try to resist, I get sucked in way more often than I should. I know how easy it is to center your life on a screen, and lose sight of everything around you.

. . . .

It sets us up for a constant battle. While we allow our daughter to watch television, we do try to limit her TV time to some extent. Yet even those efforts bring on complaints and aggravated eye rolls. I can only imagine the battles we’d have trying to disconnect her from that device – whether for dinner, or homework, or just a chat about her day. Yes, we could set limits on her screen time. But do we really need something new to argue over?

What’s she looking at, anyway? My daughter has (thankfully) outgrown Dora, and is always looking for new shows to watch. Fortunately, with the TV in the living room, I can sit down and watch with her. I can decide which shows are appropriate, and provide context for anything confusing she may see (like how real girls, unlike the Winx fairies, need to wear actual clothing). Handheld devices offer less opportunity for such oversight. I know there are parental controls, but I’m still uncomfortable with a screen I can’t easily see—especially one that’s connected to the Internet.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Sandra for the tip.

PG says this mother should look more closely at Amazon’s parental controls.

In this respect, the Kindle Fire is way ahead of other tablets. Parents can tightly control what children can and can not access. If a parent wants a child to only see specific items that the parent chooses, the parents can select those and block everything else. Customized viewing profiles for individual children can be created.

Some of the younger members of the PG Clan enjoy the Kindle Fire, but, from the start, their mother put strict limits on how many minutes per day each of them can use it.

Barnes & Noble’s Galaxy Tab 4 Nook Tablets Were a Holiday Flop

11 January 2015

From Android Headlines:

When it comes to a good story, the path of the Barnes & Noble e-reader, the Nook, has not been a happy one…though somewhat interesting.  The holiday season was not exactly a merry one as sales plummeted 55.4-percent compared to 2013’s holiday shopping period.  Hardware, accessories and digital content were all down for the season – device and accessories sales were down by 67.9-percent and digital content were down 25-percent.

It has been a real struggle for Barnes & Noble when it comes to Amazon’s Kindle e-readers, not to mention the Apple, Samsung and Google’s Nexus tablets on which anybody can read a book by downloading an app.

. . . .

Why Barnes & Noble’s sales were down could be due to a number of things – did the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook make it too easy for purchasers to read books via other readers on the same tablet.  Were the sales of Android tablets down overall this holiday season?  Without exact sales figures for their entire line, it might be that the Galaxy Tab 4 Nook sold the expected amount, but their other e-ink reader, the Nook Glowlight – with no update during 2014 – could not hold off the upgraded and lower priced line of Amazon’s Kindles.

Link to the rest at Android Headlines

E-readers ‘damage sleep and health,’ doctors warn

23 December 2014

From the BBC:

A team from Harvard Medical School compared reading paper books and light-emitting e-readers before sleep.

They found it took longer to nod off with an e-reader, which led to poorer quality sleep and being more tired the next morning.

Experts said people should minimise light-exposure in the evening.

. . . .

Our bodies are kept in tune with the rhythm of day and night by an internal body clock, which uses light to tell the time.

But blue light, the wavelength common in smartphones, tablets and LED lighting, is able to disrupt the body clock.

Blue light in the evening can slow or prevent the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.

. . . .

Lead researcher Prof Charles Czeisler told the BBC News website: “The light emitted by most e-readers is shining directly into the eyes of the reader, whereas from a printed book or the original Kindle, the reader is only exposed to reflected light from the pages of the book.”

Link to the rest at the BBC

What device are you reading on?

16 December 2014

From TeleRead:

Our friends at Book Riot have been on fire in the last week or so, posting a ton of great stuff. One of my favourite posts of the week was this participation-required roundup called ‘What Are You Reading On?’

At the time I myself took the poll, 49% of respondents had listed an e-ink Kindle amongst their stable of devices, which surprised me. I was anticipating that more people than not would have abandoned their Kindles for the world of the tablet. So…why haven’t they? Why are e-ink devices still holding their share in the marketplace?

I think that for many serious readers (and Book Riot caters more to that market than to the casual one or two book a year crowd) there is still a desire to have a separate device for reading. e-Ink Kindles have some software features that have not made it into the app version yet (such as the Vocabulary Builder and WordWise features). Others in the comments also cited the more eye-friendly screens, the smaller form factor and the longer battery charge as factors.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

PG uses his tablet for lots of things, but still prefers his e-ink Kindle for long-form reading.

Amazon claims Black Friday e-reader and Fire tablet sales boom

2 December 2014

From VB News:

Amazon has announced something of a Black Friday sales boom for its flagship Kindle e-reader and Fire tablet.

Though the e-commerce giant didn’t divulge specific figures (it never does), it did reveal that it shifted four times as many Kindles and three times as many Fire tablets as on Black Friday 2013.

Link to the rest at VB News and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

Library Ebook Growth Slowing but Still Substantial

4 November 2014

From The Digital Shift:

Ninety-five percent of public libraries currently offer ebooks to patrons, up from 72 percent in 2010, and 89 percent in both 2012 and 2013. However, money remains the biggest impediment for libraries looking to add ebooks or expand collections, according to Library Journal’s fifth annual Ebook Usage in U.S. Public Librariesreport, sponsored by Freading.

The growth in demand for ebooks has cooled during the past four years, although as the report notes, this “is only because [ebooks] have become less of a novelty and more mainstream.” Survey respondents said they expected to see their library’s ebook circulation grow by 25 percent this fiscal year, compared with 108 percent growth in 2011, 67 percent in 2012, and 39 percent in 2013.

Collections have grown substantially during the past four years as well, and increased options and availability for patrons likely played a role in slowing the growth in demand. In 2010, the median number of ebooks offered by libraries was only 813, compared with a median of 10,484 titles in 2014—an increase of nearly 1,200 percent.

. . . .

Survey respondents reported that their ebook collections are 74 percent fiction and 26 percent nonfiction, while print book collections were split at 57 percent fiction and 43 percent nonfiction. The top five fiction ebook categories reported by respondents are bestsellers, mystery/suspense, romance, general adult fiction, and YA fiction, while the top five nonfiction categories are bestsellers, biographies/memoirs, history, self-help, and cooking.

. . . .

For the first time this year, tablets overtook dedicated e-readers as the device of choice for ebook readers. Eighty-four percent of respondents said that their library’s patrons were using tablets such as iPads, Kindle Fires, or Google Nexus tablets to check out ebooks, while 78 percent said that patrons were using dedicated e-reader devices such as NOOKs or Kindle Paperwhites. This compares to 66 percent who said patrons were using tablets for ebooks in 2012, and 90 percent who said patrons were using dedicated e-readers.

“Tablets will likely continue to take over, as they can access a wider variety of content, from ebooks to streaming video, to music, to audiobooks, to the Internet in general,” the report notes. “The killer app for the earliest dedicated ereaders like the Kindle was the reflective display which was ‘as easy to read as paper.’ Well, these days, people are more used to reading on screens than on paper, and backlit screens have improved so that older eyes can read even smartphone screens with minimal squinting.”

Link to the rest at The Digital Shift

Samsung and Amazon Tied for Second Place in Tablet Market as Apple’s Shares Fall

15 October 2014

From MarketWatch:

In advance of Apple’s event this week, Parks Associates announced new research today showing Amazon and Samsung are locked in a tight race for second place behind Apple in the tablet market, which overall shows signs of cooling even as adoption remains high.

. . . .

“Over 60% of U.S. broadband households now have a tablet, and 52% own both a smartphone and a tablet, up from 25% in 2011,” said Tejas Mehta, research analyst, Parks Associates. “Tablet sales in recent quarters have been hampered by a longer replacement cycle compared to smartphones’, a lack of new features, and the popularity of phablets, which negatively affects sales of smaller-sized tablets.”

Parks Associates analysts noted that these findings point to more price-based competition and potentially less revenue in the tablet market if tablet brands fail to innovate.

Link to the rest at MarketWatch

Are Tablets the Solution for Latin American Education?

28 August 2014

From Publishing Perspectives:

The past few years have seen global surge in tablet adoption not only among professionals but also in schools throughout the world, particularly in Latin America. The surge has been considerable in underdeveloped countries, driven by rising incomes, high-speed internet connections, digital content consumption and the efforts of education NGOs (one of the most popular example being the One Laptop per Child program), plus some specific government initiatives in markets such as Brazil and Colombia.

. . . .

In Latin America, statistics about internet usage reveal growing interest in online content. According to ComScore’s 2013 Latin America Future in Focus report, the region has the fastest-growing Internet user population in the world. Social media consumption is extremely popular (5 of the top 10 most engaged markets with social content worldwide are Latin American) and online advertising is on the rise, with phones and tablets accounting for a considerable percentage of digital traffic.

. . . .

This growing presence in Latin America is not limited to the professional market. According to a report by Ambient Insight, the rate of growth in the mobile device usage is likely to increase over the next four years. The report argues that apart from rising individual purchases, the surge in spending in mobile devices will be driven by major digitization efforts rolled out across the region by public education systems.

In the meantime, research centers are raising public awareness of this growing trend and starting to analyze it in depth. The Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI) produced a report on the pros and cons of tablet education in schools, pointing out that the use of digital devices in classrooms is indeed becoming a major trend in current government policies on digital inclusion.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

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