Thursday, December 8, 2011

To eRead or Not to eRead: is That The Question?

Uta Hussong-Christian and Jane Nichols, Oregon State University

Hussong-Christian and Nichols discussed an ongoing study being conducted by Oregon State University of e-reader adoption among OSU librarians and staff. 

The speakers opened with an illustration from the Economist (2011) showing an old man in a home library, its shelves empty and full of cobwebs, reaching for an ebook reader  (see http://www.economist.com/node/21528611 ).  Hussong-Christian and Nichols went on to point out that, while print revenues are down and electronic revenues are up, print is still the dominant medium in publishing.  They suggest that the dichotomy question--print or electronic – is not useful since we read in multiple formats for a variety of reasons. 

OSU received a year-long grant to study e-reader use when the barriers to owning an e-reader are removed.  The researchers gave one of 4 different types of e-readers (Kindle, Kobo, Sony Reader, and Nook) to 30 librarians and press staff for 2 months.  They then planned to interview each user before, during, and after those 2 months (the study is ongoing). 

The speakers went over some of the concerns/findings of the study so far

Factors to prevent purchase:
  • Preference of print   
    •  No clear need to change
  • Cost
  • Needs are already met  through apps on other devices
  • Confusion about what to buy
  • Confusion about when to buy
  • Decision to “wait and see” what becomes available
Some of these concerns have been addressed by newly released tablet versions of popular devices.


Hurdles to comfortable eReader use:
·         Content
o   Finding
§  Cost/ease of use
§  Format compatibility
o   Getting
o   Managing
§  How to organize, sync, delete
·         Competing tech
·         Device comfort
o   Learning curve
o   Charging, tethering
·         Misc
o   Lack of priority
o   Advertisements
o   Screen fatigue
·         Hard to replicate tasks that are expect from print such as flipping back and forth
The speakers stressed the importance of moving beyond replication to create new practices that are not tied to print. 

Hussong-Christan and Nichols went over their study of reading practices and how electronic reading compares to print reading in some depth.  They particularly concentrated on the Pugh (1978) study or reading practices.  They discussed the ease with which a number of different formats (print, ereader, handheld device, tablet, and full screen computer) could be used for each type of reading

Pugh reading styles

Scanning: reading for structure and ideas
Search: close reading when uncertain of forms and keywords
Skimming: reading for structure and ideas
Receptive: reading for pleasure
Responsive:  deep reading for short periods of time.

They concluded that, while each format may be used for each style, depending on factors such as screen size, hyperlinking, etc., some are better adapted than others.  They do point out that rapid advances in technology will most likely improve usability.

The talk concluded with the assertion that “a rise in one technology does not mark the end of another.” (they quoted Bauer, 2011) and that, as electronic reading gains a presence in our lives “transliteracy”(interaction across literacies) will become ever more important, ultimately moving us past the title question, “to eRead or not to eRead?”



-- Stacey Judy

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