Amazon Unlimited

Last week, Amazon launched their new Kindle Unlimited service—$10 a month for unlimited ebook & e-audiobook loans direct through Amazon.

American Libraries Magazine wrote a reaction piece about it:

  • Amazon Unlimited by James LaRue (posted on American Libraries on July 18, 2014)

And Forbes posted this deliberately provocative op-ed piece:

A Google search turns up many more blogs and opinion pieces from librarians reacting to this. As one might expect, the Forbes post generated a tremendous hue-and-cry.
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The Real Problem Affecting Kids & Reading

This op-ed piece is an important contribution to the ongoing discussion of literacy and reading in our current culture:

Kids Don’t Read Books Because Parents Don’t Read Books by Jordan Shapiro (posted on Forbes on May 13, 2014)

It focuses on the essential point:

The most powerful influence on whether or not kids read, and grow up to be reading adults, is their parents.

Whether they read in print or on screens is secondary—the first requirement is that kids need to be taught to make reading an important part of their lives.

I admit that I get caught up in the “print vs. digital” argument (although I tend not to argue for one or the other, but to point out that this isn’t a competition).

There is evidence which shows that our brains handle written language differently between different presentation media, which can have an impact on retention and depth of comprehension, as well as the kind of deep, slow reading required to develop empathy.

I don’t want to minimize this evidence—but Mr. Shapiro is absolutely correct to point out that framing these discussions as essentially “print vs. digital” is a distraction from the true core issue:

Parents must make time to read to their children and actively engage them with the text.

Parents must take the time to read for themselves so their children see adults reading as a normal part of life.

This—more than any other factor—is what makes kids want to read, and keep reading for the rest of their lives.

The Importance of Deep Reading

I’ve long wondered about the differences between reading in print, reading online, and reading in mobile formats. Science is bearing out my belief that our brains apprehend and process language differently in different mediums.

Technology is changing the way we read, with a much greater emphasis on skimming and speed reading. Apps like Spritz—well-intentioned though they may be—intrinsically promote an idea that reading isn’t worth investing time, a belief that deep reading is flawed because it’s inefficient.

I can’t believe that this is a good thing. So I was very happy to read this article:

Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer by Annie Murphy Paul (posted by Time on June 3, 2013)

It’s an excellent summary of the importance of deep reading. Intentional, invested, slow reading.
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Print, Ebooks & Reading Comprehension

I’m not gonna lie—I do experience a wee bit of a thrill when I get to say I told you so.

OK, this isn’t really an “I told you so” moment… but this is something I’ve been saying for the past several years.

Paper Versus Pixel by Nicholas Carr (posted on Nautilus Quarterly, 2013)

This doesn’t really offer any new ideas. That print offers better reading comprehension than ebooks is something that’s been shown by quite a lot of data recently. The telling quote for me is this:

Some scientists believe that our brain actually interprets written letters and words as physical objects—a reflection of the fact that our minds evolved to perceive things, not symbols… The differences between page and screen go beyond the simple tactile pleasures of good paper stock. To the human mind, a sequence of pages bound together into a physical object is very different from a flat screen that displays only a single “page” of information at a time. The physical presence of the printed pages, and the ability to flip back and forth through them, turns out to be important to the mind’s ability to navigate written works, particularly lengthy and complicated ones. We quickly develop a mental map of the contents of a printed text, as if its argument or story were a voyage unfolding through space.

I told you so.

5 Myths About the 'Information Age' by Robert Darnton

This article needs to be shared as widely as possible! I couldn’t have said any of this any better.

5 Myths About the ‘Information Age’ by Robert Darnton (posted by The Chronicle of Higher Education on April 17, 2011)

It may be a couple years old but the points he makes are important.

I discovered this post through the Library Juice Press blog—for my money, one of the very best library blogs out there.

The Continued Value of Print

With the inexorable rise of ebooks, there have been a lot of people expounding the continuing benefits of print books. Most of them tend to cite similar things:

  • The physical heft of print books.
  • The smell of print books.
  • The permanence of print.
  • The retention of knowledge when reading print books.
  • Etc.

People also approach the issue from the perspective of the benefits of ebooks.

We’ve all read these blog posts and articles, we know how they go. These are all legitimate and important considerations.

Here’s an article, though, that mentions a couple benefits of print that I’ve not seen cited before—and I think these reasons are some of the best for continuing to allow print books to play an important role in all our lives:

The Biblioracle on Physical Books in an E-Book World by John Warner (posted by the Chicago Tribune on August 2, 2013)
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Libraries & Third Party eContent Services

It’s self-evident that more and more library content is being delivered digitally – ebooks, emagazines, digital movies and TV shows, digital music, databases. It’s even more self-evident to point out that many of the third party econtent services to which libraries subscribe suck in some truly horrendous ways. Sometimes the content is bad, or the selection is too limited, or the user interface is frustratingly complicated and unfriendly. (It’s frequently a combination of these.)

Few of these services – if any – live up to the expectations we have for them, or the standards we set for non-econtent library services. Third party econtent subscription services always seem to make us feel like we’re compromising too much.

From what I can see, when it comes to econtent services, opinion amongst library professionals gets divided into two camps:

  1. Those who believe that services that aren’t good enough are still better than nothing when it comes to offering patrons what they want.
  2. Those who believe that it’s far worse to provide a not-good-enough service than none at all.

In the last year, I’ve flip-flopped between these two camps more than a few times.
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