Monday News: Digital books and learning, reading strategies, Pew’s online harassment research, and advertising at Dear Author
Ebooks suck for learning – Baldur Bjarnason has written a relatively short but pithy post that brought to mind those articles claiming that digital books are making us stupid, blah blah blah. Bjarnason focuses on the way physical books are formatted to cue us in directions that allow us to read and learn in a certain way. By contrast, none of the applications currently used for creating the digital book reading experience do the same thing, which means that readers are not being guided in ways that facilitate learning in the same way. So it’s not the digital environment, necessarily, but the way the “book,” as it’s rendered, is structured, and the way learning is directed. It’s like punctuation, which is a guide for readers so they can follow along and comprehend your intended meaning.
More important is the entire field of UX and Information Architecture (seriously, just pick any one of the major texts) because an ebook is nothing more than a bundled website that doesn’t control its own navigation or the visual representation of its structure. It is the ebook reading app’s responsibility to expose the book’s marked up information architecture in the UI in a way that helps readers build a cognitive map of the book’s structure, which is essential for memory. –Studio Tendra
Reading a Poem: 20 Strategies – Although this piece provides 20 strategies for reading poetry — which has a horrible reputation among, well, a lot of people who aren’t poets — I think it’s got a lot of valuable advice for how to read any type of writing, especially fiction.
3. Try to meet a poem on its terms not yours. If you have to “relate” to a poem in order to understand it, you aren’t reading it sufficiently. In other words, don’t try to fit the poem into your life. Try to see what world the poem creates. Then, if you are lucky, its world will help you re-see your own.
. . .
7. A poem cannot be paraphrased. In fact, a poem’s greatest potential lies in the opposite of paraphrase: ambiguity. Ambiguity is at the center of what is it to be a human being. We really have no idea what’s going to happen from moment to moment, but we have to act as if we do.
8. A poem has no hidden meaning, only “meanings” you’ve not yet realized are right in front of you. Discerning subtleties takes practice. Reading poetry is a convention like anything else. And you learn the rules of it like anything else—e.g., driving a car or baking a cake. –The Atlantic
5 facts about online harassment – With everything that’s been happening to women online lately, Pew’s research on harassment is both validating and depressing.
Men and women have different experiences with online harassment. Online men are more likely to experience at least one of the six types of harassment we queried – 44% have had some sort of harassment experience compared with 37% of online women. Men are somewhat more likely to experience certain “less severe” kinds of harassment like name-calling and embarrassment. They are also more likely to receive physical threats online. –Pew Research
Advertising at Dear Author – In response to inquiries, Jane offers the following:
Yes we do accept advertising. We have four ad slots available: Leaderboard, Zone 2, Zone 3 and Zone 4 (Zone 1 is sold out).
Leaderboard is 468 x 60 and sold per 25 SOV
Zone 2, 3 and 4 is 200 x 300 and sold per 25 SOV
If you are interested in advertising please contact Ned at [email protected]
I love reading novels in e-book format, but having bought a few texts in that format, I can certainly appreciate Bjarnason’s point. As an example, endnotes are not active, so if I want to read one, I have to make a note of the location I am at, go to the endnote location, then go back to my original page. When you have to do this several times, it gets very frustrating, and I wish I had the physical text.
@Pebbletope: I totally agree. I’ve starting just ignoring footnotes or endnotes entirely. Most ebooks make them very hard to navigate.
@Pebbletope: I can access endnotes/footnotes when I use Moon+ Reader Pro. I tap on the note number, jump to the note and then a handy arrow taps back to my original location. Perhaps this depends on both the text and the ereader? I’ll have to look more closely.
Very interesting study about ebooks and learning.
I’ve read epub e-books with footnotes that were hyperlinked. It was easier than having to keep two bookmarks in a book.
Pdf ebooks, though? Worst of both worlds regarding footnotes or indexes.
I may be missing something, of course. But having assisted two political science professors with the development of an online textbook for undergraduate students, I’m astonished by Baldur Bjarnason’s comments. Is he talking about trying to use ebooks that have been minimally reformatted for online viewing as teaching texts? If that’s what he means, I’m sure there is something to it. However, the online versions of textbooks I’m familiar with are formatted differently, much differently. The lesson passages are rich with cues to find background information elsewhere in the book itself, or out on the Internet. There are self-tests for comprehension and insets of contrary opinions to stimulate critical thinking. There are headers, opportunities for split screen viewing…features that are restricted only by the limits to the instructors imaginations. In addition, there is the opportunity for updating or inserting information about emerging global news stories as soon as they take place.
I have plenty of quibbles about the economics of online text books, but as learning tools they offer a great many more supports to learning, not fewer as Bjarnason claims. Naturally, trying to force the design that works for printed materials to work on a computer screen makes as little sense as trying to use a radio script to shoot a television show. Better than nothing I suppose, but nowhere near what it could be.
@Mzcue: I don’t think he’s talking about the formatting of ebooks at all. He’s talking about the limitations of ereaders and ereading apps which aren’t making the most of the formatting.
@Mzcue: It’s my fault, because I wasn’t clear in my description about the fact that he’s talking about apps that structure the reading experience, and was using formatting in that sense – as in how digital reading apps display and render the text. That was stupid of me, but indicative of the fact that I’m not all that tech-savvy. I tried to clarify my description, and I think this passage from his post is also helpful:
Ebook formats expose landmarks, detailed outlines of the book’s structure, and more through the navigation HTML file and basic metadata. And yet, the makers of ebook reading apps think that hiding all of this information behind pop-up windows or in mystery meat menus in the name of ‘minimalism’ and being ‘distraction-free’ somehow serves the reader.
Ah, I see. Thanks for the clarification. The fact that I read almost exclusively on my laptop instead of an ereader probably added to my confusion. Now that I think of it, I was taken aback when I encountered Kindle for Windows 8, when I upgraded my laptop. Kin Win 8 is a pale shadow of the previous app, Kindle for PC, and lacks a number of key features. Since I was able to reload the earlier version, I just forgot all about the limitations of Kin Win 8. Indeed, it would be considerably more cumbersome to try to use a book as a text under those circumstances.
The foot/endnote issue is SO frustrating on an ereader. Sometimes if the notes are very long (multiple paragraphs) I miss being able to quickly flip the page to pop back to the original text, then back to the endnote, just to reread. If your ereader is slow (or perhaps a bit full, like mine) then sometimes hopping from one section to the end isn’t immediate – not killer, but annoying if you’re doing a lot of endnote reading. And MOST frustrating – if the endnotes only mention author, date and and page. And you have no shortcut to the bibliography to understand what text is even being cited, especially if you were reading a single chapter for background and haven’t read the first cite of the author (which might mention the title). (I could also rant about the author who put all his endnotes online, when I didn’t always have access via my ereader.)
I read a lot of academic history for fun and have run into this for years. It’s very, very frustrating. Such that I’ll sometimes switch to reading on my PC, if I’m at home. If I was having this problem as a grad student I’d have just never bothered with attempting reading for work on an ereader.
I think the worst is that each book varies in its formatting, and whether the note is even going to be linked in the text to the note itself. It’s not always consistent even by publishers. I do realize some of this has to do with this being new tech, but this is a problem I’ve had over 5 yrs now. And you still can’t tell what form of endnotes you’ll end up with when you buy the ebook – having the book’s sales page tell you the endnotes are linked to the text isn’t always mentioned. That’s the case with most nonfiction popular books too.
When I first started reading ebooks, I found that fiction worked much better for me in that format than nonfiction. I didn’t feel like I could remember the nonfiction books as well in digital form as I could in print.
Fast forward to the latest Kindle software. I started trying out some of the new features…like swiping up from the bottom to flip back and forth in the book, then easily return to where I was…and the X-ray feature that lets me see everything in the book on a given character when I find that I’ve forgotten who he was. I’ve also started really using the highlighting feature, and enjoying how I can see all my notes in one place.
Then, separately, I started feeling guilty about all the print nonfiction books I have that I haven’t read, most of which are history so I made myself start reading them. Wow. When I highlight parts of the print book, I have to look through the whole book to find my notes. And if someone is mentioned whose history I’ve forgotten, I can’t quickly do an X-ray to find what else was said about her. I can also only read the book where I happen to have it…not in line at the store or waiting at the doctor’s office…and to read a footnote, I have to hold my spot in the book and awkwardly look through to find the notes for that chapter, not just click on the footnote number, jump to the note, then easily jump back to where I was.
Based just on my own experience, I suspect that technology is going to prove Bjarnason wrong pretty quickly once ebook software develops just a bit more.
I don’t write in books, so I like the Kindle feature of being able to highlight something. It’s easier for me to go back and view it later. I’d like it more if I could import it to a file and keep it if it’s a library book, but oh, well.