Presentation on theme: "Digital Literacy, Digital Books. the once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age John Siracusa “‘[P]eople don't get e-books.’ This is as true."— Presentation transcript:
the once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age John Siracusa “‘[P]eople don't get e-books.’ This is as true today as it was ten years ago. Venture capitalists didn't get it then, nor did the series of owners that killed Peanut Press, nor do many of the players in the e-book market today. And then there are the consumers, their own notions about e-books left to solidify in the absence of any clear vision from the industry.” In your experience, is this true? Do you have an e-book, or know anyone who does?
the once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age John Siracusa “Part of the problem is right there in the name: e- book. In the print world, the word ‘book’ is used to refer to both the content and the medium. In the digital realm, ‘e-book’ refers to the content only—or rather, that's the intention. Unfortunately, the conflation of these two concepts in the nomenclature of print naturally carries over to the digital terminology, much to the confusion of all.” Siracusa is pointing out a confusion between the medium and the message: “book” is both form and content. When we say “e-book,” what are we talking about?
the once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age John Siracusa Complaints about E-books –the screen: "I can't read an entire novel off a screen!" "I'll stick to paper with its vastly superior contrast ratio." "Eye strain! Eye strain!” –the reading device: "It's too big." "It's too small." "I can't roll it up." "I'm afraid of breaking it." "The battery never runs out on a real book.” Why Books are Better –"Books will never go away." –"Books have advantages over e-books that will never be overcome." –"Books provide sensory/sentimental/sensual experiences that e- books can't match."
the once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age John Siracusa Advantages of e-books –Convenience: anytime, anywhere; more likely to be with you –Power: instant searches, annotate w/o degradation, create links –Potential: consume, share, remix Are there places you *wouldn’t* be able to read an e-book?
the once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age John Siracusa Advantage: Better Publishing Model –Print: “Bookstores pay for the books they order, but they are able to return any unsold books for a full refund (though they usually have to pay shipping)…. This means that if a publisher ships 100 copies of a book to a bookstore and only 50 sell, the remaining books are shipped back and the bookseller is given credit for them.” –E-book: “The publisher hands over a file. Then, every month, a check arrives from the e-book seller. There is no additional cost to the publisher per unit sold. There are no printing costs, no warehousing, no trucks or planes to deliver merchandise. There's no forecast of demand, with the accompanying dire consequences of unsold inventory or unrealized income if the predictions are wrong one direction or the other. There's no tracking of and accounting for unsold books, no retailers cutting the covers off of paperbacks and shipping them back to the publisher as proof of their destruction.”
the once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age John Siracusa Q: So, how did publishers actually respond to content requests from e-book vendors? A: Publishers effectively sabotaged the e-book market from day one. –"You will not get our content unless you protect it with DRM!" [Digital Rights Management: access control technologies used by publishers, copyright holders, and hardware manufacturers to limit usage of digital media or devices. (Wikipedia)] –Most publishers dictated list prices for e-books that were based on the prices of the printed versions. –The digital text supplied to e-book vendors was often rife with typos. And the kicker: e-book vendors were not allowed to correct these typos. This fell under the contract clause that forbade all modifications to the text.
the once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age John Siracusa Dark Times for the E-book Market “In 2003, Apple started selling music for the iPod through its iTunes music store. Apple sold audio books as well, through a partnership with Audible. Perhaps unknowingly, Apple had just positioned itself perfectly for e-book domination.” The device: mass-market reading device, met the minimum threshold for screen size and legibility Rapidly gaining market penetration: millions of customers who'd proven their willingness to buy things from an online store Digital distribution channel: accessed via a desktop application used by every iPod owner. Deals with content owners: not just the independent labels or the scraps from the big table, but all the top record labels, and for their most popular content. “Apple never took it….No one moved. The entire e-book market was stalled.”
the once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age John Siracusa Dark Times for….Reading “[Steve Jobs] had a wide range of observations on the industry, including the Amazon Kindle book reader, which he said would go nowhere largely because Americans have stopped reading.” "It doesn't matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don't read anymore," he said. "Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don't read anymore."
the once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age John Siracusa Modern Times The current e-book market is like a "re-imagining" of the old e- book market. Some things have changed drastically… –With iTunes as the number one music retailer in the US, the viability of digital media sales is no longer in question. –Content owners are starting to show some signs of cluefulness when it comes to DRM. …but it's still basically the same story. –Dedicated e-readers: Amazon Kindle is the new Rocketbook (And now the Kindle 2) –Popular attitudes towards e-books haven't changed much. –“There's still a big piece of the puzzle missing, however: a trusted online store with a loyal, established customer base of millions through which to sell the actual e-books.”
the once and future e-book: on reading in the digital age John Siracusa Modern Times The Reader… –"You know what we call people who finally try e-books after they've sworn they could never read on a handheld device? 'Customers.'” Have you tried an e-reading device? What are your reading habits?
Does a new literacy call for a new book model? David Meerman Scott The New Digital Literacy “When I wrote The New Rules of Marketing & PR, I added the URLs of Web sites, blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos and other links at the bottom of the each page in case readers wanted to go to the sites I was discussing in the book.” Zak Nelson: “People are becoming more literate in reading websites, and that neural reconfiguration may well be affecting how traditional books are read and sold (or, unsold as the case may be).”
Does a new literacy call for a new book model? David Meerman Scott “So what if a book read more like a website? What if it looked more like those Choose Your Own Adventure books, with links to other chapters, pages, and even other resources in the marginalia? What if there were paid advertising on the page, but not traditional ads but rather something more akin to Google AdWords, where the placement is determined online in a bidding process coupled with consumer-driven inputs? What if on the printed page, instead of single photos or illustrations with captions, books adapted the concept of the embedded YouTube video, and used a storyboard format--i.e., a comics format--to depict a scene, when sequential visuals are required?"
Does a new literacy call for a new book model? David Meerman Scott
This kind of reading might be called “radial reading,” a kind of reading where readers seek out more context for the work. For example, when reading a critical edition of a poet like Wordsworth, you might not read it cover to cover in a linear fashion. You might jump from the poem, to the explanatory note, to the appendix, and even to other books. In other words, “radial reading” is not new - but what does this proposed layout do that conventional print layouts don’t?
People of the Screen Christine Rosen Digital Literacy “The screen mediates everything from our most private communications to our enjoyment of writing, drama, and games….and it requires navigation skills different from those that helped us master print literacy.”
People of the Screen Christine Rosen Advocates of Digital Literacy …see this as an advance for humanity: “The book is evolving, progressing, improving, they argue, and every improvement demands an uneasy period of adjustment. Sophisticated forms of collaborative “information foraging” will replace solitary deep reading; the connected screen will replace the disconnected book.” …speak of replacing, rather than supplementing, print literacy. …ask us to consider: “What is ‘reading’ anyway in a multimedia world like ours?” “We are increasingly distractible, impatient, and convenience obsessed—and the paper book just can’t keep up. Shouldn’t we simply acknowledge that we are becoming people of the screen, not people of the book?”
People of the Screen Christine Rosen The evolution of reading… Styles of reading have evolved (from aloud to silent) Reasons for reading have changed Amount of time spent reading has changed …or the decline? Nearly half of Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure Americans ages 15 to 24 spend only between 7 and 10 minutes per day reading voluntarily two thirds of college freshmen read for pleasure for less than an hour per week or not at all (2007 NEA report)
People of the Screen Christine Rosen What are the effects of reading? NEA “regular reading is strongly correlated with civic engagement, patronage of the arts, and charity work. People who read regularly for pleasure are more likely to be employed, and more likely to vote, exercise, visit museums, and volunteer in their communities; in short, they are more engaged citizens.” Harold Bloom “One of the uses of reading is to prepare ourselves for change, and the final change alas is universal.” “You cannot directly improve anyone else’s life by reading better or more deeply. I remain skeptical of the traditional social hope that care for others may be stimulated by the growth of individual imagination, and I am wary of any arguments whatsoever that connect the pleasures of solitary reading to the public good.”
People of the Screen Christine Rosen Paper vs. Screen Internet users used to be avid readers… In the 1990s, the heaviest readers were also the heaviest users of the Internet (2005 study) …but now web readers aren’t good students. “The Web is now the primary source of reading material for low- income high school students in Detroit. And yet…‘only reading novels on a regular basis outside of school is shown to have a positive relationship to academic achievement.’” (2008 study)
People of the Screen Christine Rosen Q: Why does this matter? A: Because literacy determines our being! It tells us who we are as humans and how we relate to the world! “For centuries, print literacy has been one of the building blocks in the formation of the modern sense of self.” “By contrast, screen reading, a historically recent arrival, encourages a different kind of self-conception, one based on interaction and dependent on the feedback of others. It rewards participation and performance, not contemplation. It is…a kind of literacy more comfortable for the “outer-directed” personality who takes his cues from others and constantly reinvents himself than for the “inner- directed” personality whose values are less flexible but also less susceptible to outside pressures.” How does a culture of digitally literate, outer-directed personalities “read”? (Rosen: “Not very well.”)
People of the Screen Christine Rosen Scenes of Reading: People of the Screen Historian reading a scholarly book in digital format: “I scroll back and forth, search for keywords, and interrupt myself even more often than usual to refill my coffee cup, check my e-mail, check the news, rearrange files in my desk drawer. Eventually I get through the book, and am glad to have done so. But a week later I find it remarkably hard to remember what I have read.”
People of the Screen Christine Rosen Scenes of Reading: People of the Screen “People of the screen:” “exhibit a bouncing/flicking behavior, which sees them searching horizontally rather than vertically....Users are promiscuous, diverse, and volatile.’” “It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense, indeed there are signs that new forms of ‛reading’ are emerging as users ‛power browse’ horizontally through titles, contents pages, and abstracts going for quick wins.” “It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.” (2008 British Library report)
People of the Screen Christine Rosen Scenes of Reading: People of the Screen “Rather than reading deliberately, when we scan the screen in search of content our eyes follow an F- shaped pattern, quickly darting across text in search of the central nugget of information we seek.” “‛Reading’ is not even the right word” to describe this activity, [Jakob] Nielsen pointedly says.” Does this disruptive, erratic, strategic mode of “reading” (or power browsing) describe your habits?
People of the Screen Christine Rosen Scenes of Reading: People of the Page With screen reading, “you are the master, not some dead author. And that is precisely where the greatest dangers lie, because when reading, you should not be the master”; you should be the student. “Surrendering to the organizing logic of a book is, after all, the way one learns,” he observes.” (Historian David Bell) “You enter the author’s world on his terms, and in so doing get away from yourself. Yes, you are powerless to change the narrative or the characters, but you become more open to the experiences of others and, importantly, open to the notion that you are not always in control. In the process, you might even become more attuned to the complexities of family life, the vicissitudes of social institutions, and the lasting truths of human nature.” Rosen is suggesting that the passivity associated with reading is actually a good thing. Does this sense of surrendering describe your experiences with books? With all forms of print literacy?
People of the Screen Christine Rosen Critiquing the Kindle Prohibitively expensive Can’t share ebooks with friends “you have no sense of where you are in the book by its feel.” “It doesn’t smell like a book” It’s not marked by previous readers “But it is at least worth noting that these tactile experiences [of the book] have no counterpart when reading on the screen, and worth recalling that for all our enthusiasm about the aesthetics of our technologies—our sleek iPhones and iPods—we are quick to discount the same kind of appreciation for printed words on paper.” Rosen clearly values the tactile experiences of reading…are they important? What IS the tactility of screen reading? Is it true that we don’t care about the aesthetics of the book?
People of the Screen Christine Rosen Critiquing the Kindle (Oh no, the children!) Okay, now she’s talking about YOU: “Meanwhile, older children and teens who are coming of age surrounded by cell phones, video games, iPods, instant messaging, text messaging, and Facebook have finely honed digital literacy skills, but often lack the ability to concentrate that is the first requirement of traditional literacy.” Is she getting this right? What kind of concentration does digital literacy require?
In Defense of Readers Mandy Brown Looking and Reading Brown emphasized the “pre-reading ritual” of looking at a book This examination “eases the transition between looking and reading” She gives a designer’s perspective Using elements (illustrations, categories, links, summaries) to “create an entryway” into reading Emphasizing the beginning of the text through typographic signals She also addresses the reader’s attention Designers should eliminate distractions (through typographic detail, line length, typeface) The reader’s attention fluctuates while reading How does a designer’s view of reading, looking, and attention differ from the other perspectives we’ve read?
In Defense of Readers Mandy Brown “As a designer, the only way to ensure that the page makes for good reading is to read it yourself; to relinquish the design sensibility that is inclined to look at text and take the time to actually read it. It’s not an easy task, but then, neither is reading on the web, and making the effort may help you empathize with the reader’s plight. The web is still a noisy, crowded place—but it’s also limitless, and surely we can find space enough for reading—a space where the text speaks to the reader and the reader does not strain to hear.” Is there space for *reading* on the web? Or only power browsing, scanning, skimming, distractions, flashing ads, distractions….
Flat Screen Novels Harold Augenbraum The physical act of reading… “When you read an e-book, you read from edge to edge. When you read a printed book, you read from the edge to the interior, and then the interior to the edge, again and again and again, a metaphor of immersion.” Does this difference matter?
Flat Screen Novels Harold Augenbraum The book as an unique object… “Another difference is the lack of uniqueness for the book as an object.… Sure, your own Kindle is unique, but the cover to the book never changes, and again flattens the reading experience from a unique physical experience with unique content to the same physical experience with unique content.” How often is our reading actually a unique physical experience?
With the rise of standardization comes more opportunities for books to become unique objects … aesthetic, artistic objects.
correspondences Dan Visel The book as unique object… “you could argue that Correspondences isn't a book: a maroon band surrounds an ingeniously constructed box which, when unfolded, turns out to contain three pamphlets folded accordion-style and a postcard.” “The whole thing was printed letterpress; it's a limited edition, and each copy is signed by the author.”
correspondences Dan Visel “The extraordinary form of the book is a recognition that in an age when content has become almost infinitely cheap an object needs to stand out to be bought.”
correspondences Dan Visel (inter)active reading… “At nine points in the story there are bracketed numbers, indicating the points in the story where a postcard is read or sent; the reader is invited to take the postcard include and to compose a message to be a part of the story, and possibly part of future editions of the book. There's a lovely tension here between the intent of the author and the wishes of the collector: filling out the postcard and dropping it in the mail destroys the unity of the book.”
correspondences Dan Visel (inter)active reading… “While this book is very firmly an object, it's also aware of itself as a process: while the writing and the printing of the book has already happened, the reader's response may yet happen. It's a book that wouldn't have existed in this form if the web hadn't changed our understanding of how books work.”
correspondences Dan Visel Interactions with the author… “This empathy between the author and the reader is not empathy as empathy is generally understood to exist between two people: Rilke is of course dead and does not know the reader or the suffering that the reader might be undergoing. The reader may not even speak the same language as the author. Rilke is not your friend and almost certainly would not cheer you up if he were. But this is immaterial, the feeling still exists: the reader knows Rilke even if Rilke does not know the reader….this sort of response is perhaps why people describe themselves as having a visceral connection with books: our terror of print being dead isn't so much for the books themselves but for the associations inherent in those physical objects, the sense of connection with the author even if that connection is unreciprocated.”
correspondences Dan Visel Interactions with the author…are changing “Greenman's work, like that of Johnson's before him, anticipates a new kind of relation between the author and the reader. The reworking of this relationship in increasingly varied ways will be the most significant aspect of the way our reading changes as it moves from the printed page to the networked screen.” We’ve gone from the smell of books to new models of publishing to the convenience of the Kindle to designing reader-friendly spaces to…new relationships to authors. What IS the most significant aspect of our new ways of reading?
Digital Literacy, Digital Books Final thoughts… We waded through the key points of discussion surrounding e-readers, digital books, digital literacy, the future of reading, and the dangers of screen reading. Beyond offering us these points of discussion (in addition to important historical and cultural contexts), these readings are also models of digital discourse. That is, they’re hyperlinked to images, videos, and other texts; they actively encourage radial reading (some more than others); two contain robust comment sections (including author responses). How do online critical essays differ from print articles in academic journals or books? How does critical discourse change in a digital environment?