Round up #211: Jeff Bezos, Fannie
The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.
Don’t fear the e-books
Wasn’t that a Blue Öyster Cult song? Oh wait, no…that’s not quite it. Sorry about that…where was I? Oh, yes…
Don’t fear the e-books. I see a lot of people worried that e-books are going to wipe out p-books (paperbooks). They seem particularly concerned about kids reading on screens, rather than on paper.
Well, let’s start out with the fact that kids haven’t been reading for entertainment for all that long. Books were really an elite thing for quite some time. Even though we appear to have had children’s books for a couple of thousand years, they weren’t widely distributed in the beginning: they couldn’t be, since the technology wasn’t there.
It wasn’t until the 1800s, and arguably the mid-1800s, that we can consider reading books to be something that a large percentage of children did…that’s not much time to figure out what’s good and bad about it.
Now, there is sometimes a conflation of reading an e-book and other things kids do on screens which many people see as “bad for them”: watching television, playing videogames…the list goes on.
For example, there is this recent
where author Joanne Harris reports this exchange with the Queen:
“She asked me what I thought about e-books and computer games and said she feared that children were playing with those more than they were reading books. I told her that we start them on e-books and computer games, then try to get them on to books later.”
First, e-books are books. It feels like Harris may have just been reflecting the Queen’s question by using the terminology that way. Whether you read Alice in Wonderland on material made from dead trees or on a screen, the words are the same…it’s still a book.
Second, why do we think p-books are better for kids than e-books? Where’s the data?
reports on a study that shows two ways that kids engage more with an e-book with recorded narration than with that same e-book being read by a parent (I’m simplifying it, but that’s the thrust).
For one thing, they look at the words longer as the words “highlight” when read by the recording. That was determined by eye-tracking. Looking at something longer generally indicates more interest in it.
That makes perfect sense to me, but I’m not sure it’s more likely to make kids into readers. I think at the age they are talking about (pre-school, really), seeing how reading affects their role models may be more important than engaging with the shape of the letters. That’s just speculation on my part.
For another, the recorded narration is considerably slower than a human reading it.
Sure…humans tend to rush, especially if they are trying to get to bed themselves.
I am always amused when someone leaves me a message and they are very carefully saying their name…articulating it very clearly. Then, they get to the phone number, and it’s all blurred together into one thing: “fivefivefiveonetwothreefour”. As someone who gets people to remember things, I understand: they don’t have the number memorized as seven pieces of data, they have it as one.
Still, the recording is going to be more consistently slow.
Again, though, do we know that is a good thing? The human reading with the child will (hopefully) react to how the child is reacting, even asking questions about the response: “That’s funny, right?”
As you can see, this may have seemed like I was starting out saying that e-books were as good or better than p-books, and now I seem to be arguing the other way.
My point is that we don’t know yet. We won’t know about the effect that learning to read on e-books has on life-long reading for another century or so. We could make a determination for how it affects you in high school in another, oh, maybe fifteen years, but there isn’t any reason to fear it now. We just don’t know. We do know that not many adults in the USA are “serious readers” now, so defending the status quo is…challenging.
Thank you, Fannie Flagg!
My Significant Other is a big fan of Fannie Flagg‘s books (I still tend to think of Flagg first as a panelist on Match Game).
However, we don’t buy books where text-to-speech access has been blocked…so there are some now that my SO hasn’t read.
That’s why we were so pleased to see that Fannie Flagg’s next book
can be pre-ordered right now (for November 5 delivery) and Random House has not blocked TTS access on it!
I have said that I think blocking TTS is becoming less common, and here is a case where the publisher hasn’t changed, but the policy has.
I’m thanking Fannie Flagg because I do think authors can impact this, but thanks also have to go to Random House.
New Jeff Bezos biography
Speaking of upcoming books, this one is getting a lot of coverage:
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
by Brad Stone
I’d like to read that one! It seems clear that, to a large extent, Amazon is Amazon because of Jeff Bezos.
Now, that obviously doesn’t mean that Jeff did everything without help…quite the opposite.
Being able to help other people actually produce things is a rare skill…especially when that involves innovating.
It reminds me of this quotation from Henry Ford (I think this is right):
“Asking, “Who ought to be the boss?” is like asking, “Who ought to be the tenor in the quartet?” Obviously, the man who can sing tenor.”
That’s not the way it usually works, though.
I don’t expect that everyone who has been made a better producer has necessarily been made a happier employee. Most adults are all about social standing, and you may need them to get past that (which is constitutionally unpleasant) to get the best product.
From what I’ve read about it, it should be an interesting book.
Kindle Fire HDX’s are in customers’ hands
I’m seeing very convincing reports that the Kindle Fire HDX 7″ has been delivered to some customers, although it isn’t supposed to be released until the 18th (that’s when I should get mine). If I get it early, I won’t mind.
What do you think? Is there some inherent superiority in kids reading books on paper rather than on a screen? Is all screen time (regardless of backlit, frontlit, or non-lit) equally bad? Can one person shape a corporation? Are you a fan of Fannie? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
his post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.