Monday, March 5, 2012

Reading in an Age of Distraction

Finding Your Book Interrupted ... By the Tablet You Read It On. (The New York Times, 3/5/2012)

Excerpt:   People who read e-books on tablets like the iPad are realizing that while a book in print or on a black-and-white Kindle is straightforward and immersive, a tablet offers a menu of distractions that can fragment the reading experience, or stop it in its tracks. 

E-mail lurks tantalizingly within reach. Looking up a tricky word or unknown fact in the book is easily accomplished through a quick Google search. And if a book starts to drag, giving up on it to stream a movie over Netflix or scroll through your Twitter feed is only a few taps away. 

That adds up to a reading experience that is more like a 21st-century cacophony than a traditional solitary activity. And some of the millions of consumers who have bought tablets and sampled e-books on apps from Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble have come away with a conclusion: It’s harder than ever to sit down and focus on reading.

In related news......

Publishers Sour on Tablet as Reading Platform, Survey Says. (Digital Book World,1/30/2012). “The devices [tablet computers] are capable of so many more distracting things,” said James L. McQuivey, Ph.D., vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, who conducted the survey. “If you have an iPad and 15 minutes to kill, are you going to do something more cognitively difficult like reading, or something brain-dead simple like going on Facebook or watching a YouTube video?”

The Kindle Fire in an Age of Distraction. (policymic, 12/5/2011).  Amazon seems to have learned a lesson from the late Steve Jobs, who derided the original Kindle: “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore.” [Guess it all depends on your definition of 'read'.]  The company’s business model for the new tablet reflects the fact that Americans prefer to juggle a wide variety of games, apps, and videos rather than sit and focus on a book or essay. The case of the Kindle Fire demonstrates that today’s consumers embrace a lifestyle of interruption, multitasking, and limited focus. Unless we use the Fire and devices like it to read more books, our society may be driven to distraction.

Re: the bold highlight.  I'm sure Neil Postman would have had something to say about this.


liz a said...

Paul-- you'd be interested to read/re-read in the article from The Atlantic about this 'Is Google Making Us Stupid'
(Ironically: don't bother reading the book about the same subject by the same author-- its too long.
Really. I read the whole thing for work!) One of my big takeaways from his reporting on reading research is that the more hyperlinks in a text, the worse recall of the actual text. It seemed to mean that people got distracted just *thinking* about why something had a hyper-link even if they didn't click on them!

Anonymous said...

The book referred to in the post above is Nicholas Carr's The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brain. It's not all that long, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, very readable & a really important book for anyone who works with information and technology. Carr was the keynote speaker at last fall's AASL national conference, perhaps the best library conference speaker I've heard in recent years. I recommend the book VERY highly to librarians working in all settings.