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)
Continue reading “The Continued Value of Print”

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.
Continue reading “Libraries & Third Party eContent Services”

Libraries & eBooks

[NOTE: This is a piece I originally posted on Facebook on March 23, 2012. It’s already somewhat dated, even only a year later, but I want it to live on my blog here because it addresses an issue that I believe is still, and will continue to be, one of the central questions librarians face in a world where more and more of our content is being delivered digitally via third party services.]

Is not good enough better or worse than nothing at all?
Continue reading “Libraries & eBooks”

Interesting Article: The Reading Brain in the Digital Age

The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens by Ferris Jabr (posted by Scientific American on April 11, 2013)

When I was in grad school, I had an idea to conduct research into the neurological underpinnings of reading on paper vs. computer screens vs. ebooks. While my vision for the project was beyond the scope of what I could accomplish in the program and thus never got started, I’ve continued to be obsessed with this facet of our modern technology. I’ve written about it on this blog before. I continue to follow research being done on the subject.

This article from Scientific American sums up well what we currently know about how our brains process written language through different presentation media. It appears that I’m correct in my belief that these acts of reading are qualitatively different as far as our brains are concerned.

As librarians, we need to account for these differences in our resources – especially when it comes to education and literacy initiatives.

Thoughts on the True Nature of Ebooks

Stuart Kelly at The Guardian has an interesting take on the potential new reality of ebooks:

Why ebooks are a different genre from print (posted March 26, 2013)

I’ve long been advocating for the multimedia potential of ebooks but I hadn’t really thought about the data-gathering and non-private nature of the medium before.

On a deeper level, I’d like to see more longitudinal studies done on information comprehension and retention when reading ebooks, as well as direct neurological mapping of ebook reading vs. print. I’m curious to know how our pre- and sub-conscious minds deal with the physical differences in the delivery mechanisms.
Continue reading “Thoughts on the True Nature of Ebooks”

‘Tis the Season for Mobile Technology!

According to many sources, this Christmas was a big one for mobile technology! Ebook and app downloads hit record highs! Ebook readership continues to grow while print readership declines!

It’s an exciting time to be a digital librarian!

Wandering through the library these past couple of weeks, with new technology the talk of the season, I overheard several comments that went something like this:
Continue reading “‘Tis the Season for Mobile Technology!”

The Right War Over Ebooks

Last week, this article was tearing through the rounds of the library community:

The Wrong War Over eBooks: Publishers Vs. Libraries by David Vinjamuri

This is an important read. It raises some really good points, challenges some often unquestioned perspectives, and his proposed “pay-per-circ” model appears to have some real potential.

Still, though, I can’t get behind him on this issue. I feel that he misses the whole point. Continue reading “The Right War Over Ebooks”

Hey Authors! Where’s the Library Love When it Comes to Ebooks?

Every time news breaks about a library getting its budget slashed, or a system under threat of being shut down, we see authors from all over the world eager to publicly proclaim their love of libraries. On blogs, on social media, in articles and print, they speak of the irreducible importance of libraries in their careers, their lives, and their communities. They argue passionately for the societal value of the free access to information that only libraries provide.

Such declarations of library love from our favorite authors are not only incredibly heart-warming – they’re essential in our efforts to maintain library service and support in our communities.

In the current struggle between libraries and publishers over ebook lending, I’ve often wondered what would happen if all these authors were to jump into the debate with the same level of library love they show when our budgets are threatened.
Continue reading “Hey Authors! Where’s the Library Love When it Comes to Ebooks?”