0 4 Aug, 2011
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The Era of Online Reading is coming

a protracted war with Print Reading

Books have been around, well, for centuries. In the same time, reading medium is changing for thousands of years, from rock, to tortoiseshell, to bark, and finally to paper! But as we all know, it’s the era of internet and hi-tech, so will the print reading be taken place by the screen, or we call it, online reading? It’s not a easy question, no one can easily get a final verdict.

A new study authored by Anne Mangen published in the Journal of Research in Reading says:

‘Reading online may not be as rewarding – or effective – as the printed word. The reasons: The process involves so much physical manipulation of the computer that it interferes with our ability to focus on and appreciate what we’re reading; online text moves up and down the screen and lacks physical dimension, robbing us of a feeling of completeness; and multimedia features, such as links to videos and animations, leave little room for imagination, limiting our ability to form our own mental pictures to illustrate what we’re reading.’

This survey is verdict and convictive to a certain extent. And the Team of Squidoo launched a survey about the competition between books and ebooks, or we say, Online Reading vs. Print Reading. Here is the list of the top eight reasons WHY REAL BOOKS (print reading) BEAT EBOOKS (ONLINE READING):

1. You can take a “dead tree” book on vacation, to the beach, or to the park (and leave it behind without guilt).

2. Printed books are available everywhere. There are books in bookstores, airports, supermarkets, libraries, and yard sales.

3. Books are forever. When you’re finished reading a book, you can put in on a shelf (and remember the story when you look at it).

4. There are millions and millions of paper book titles in print. Books in Print offers a database of 7.5 million titles in the US alone.

5. No software upgrades. You never have to buy a new Kindle or iPad to enjoy printed books. Digital data degrades over time and software becomes obsolete. Books can last for centuries.

6. No batteries required. You don’t need a computer, an Internet connection, or special tools to read a printed bound book.

7. Books are cheap. Used books on Amazon cost as little as 1 cent. Kindles start at $139. That’s a lot of books! And Kindle books can cost more too. The paperback version of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is cheaper than the Kindle edition!

8. You can use old books to hold your new books. Stack them up, lay wooden boards on them, and create bookshelves.

Nobody can stop the wheels of historical progress, but online reading or ebook should do better in order to win this battle. Let’s hear some different voice from the paper form team TechCrunch. In their views, there is still enough room for online reading to improve, especially the 4 parts below:

1. Demand

The web long ago became “mainstream”, but people have always sandboxed it, so to speak, not classing it among traditionally reliable news sources or judging it by the standards of traditionally well-made media. And so, for good reason, it has been neither expected nor pressured to meet the journalistic standards of a national newspaper or the layout standards of a print magazine. Instead, it has been a place where you can find everything that doesn’t go into those media institutions, and the price you paid was in the deliberation of its execution. Good design was collateral damage directly attributable to the quickness of the draw – regrettable, but well within acceptable limits, considering the benefits of instant access, commenting, and so on.

Many people, especially among those under 30, use the internet as their sole news and media source, and as early adopters, they considered the sacrifices worthwhile. The grit of a newspaper or the creative layout of a product spread in a fashion rag have been considered luxuries over and above the content itself. People happily browse the web through a tiny, inadequate window like an iPhone (pathetically, the best mobile browsing experience) showing a single paragraph at a time, or one figure, or a photo so small that none but the coarsest features can be discerned.

2. Content

Yes. This section will be short. There has been a lot of cross-pollination from the print world over the last couple years, spurred perhaps by the early e-readers, for which, it was promised in 2007, we would shortly have a grand selection of fully-realized newspapers and magazines. It seems that task was a bit more than the media companies were capable of. Tablets have proven an effective cage-rattler as well, since the growing desire for natural, print-like interaction has grown beyond the media companies’ ability to provide it.

They’re catching up now, gradually cordoning off staff and sequestering cash for the sole purpose of making their stuff look good. There’s a race on to be the first newspaper or magazine with a million subscriptions or some such, and a big part of that is effectively transferring the experience of the magazine to the web or an app. Early entrants with tablet-native interfaces, like Project and The Daily, are having mixed success, but the New Yorker seems to be thriving (admittedly, its sparse layout requires much less in the way of adaptation, which has allowed it to migrate quickly and intact) and AOL is jumping in as well. Dreams of international distribution at microscopic cost (compared to, say, a major newspaper’s global army of printers, drivers, billing agents, etc.) are making these initial millions seem like down payments on money trees.

3. Technology

There’s something to be said for modifying your own reading or viewing environment, but I believe that there is almost no chance right now of someone creating something for web consumption that will be seen by the consumer the same way it was seen by the creator. Fortunately, we are leaving the era when this is necessarily true, a confusing transitional era with a jumble of conflicting standards: which color space? which non-serif? which filtering method? We’re not quite to the next phase, but there are two heralds of this approaching golden age.

The first is resolution. With screen size more or less a matter of taste (there are options for practically every single diagonal measure from three to thirty inches), what matters is quality, and in particular for design: resolution. I very nearly switched to the iPhone 4 solely because of the screen. The benefits of increased resolution (and, eventually, resolution independence) are too obvious to list, but there’s one in particular I want to call attention to: text rendering.

Look at the text on your screen. Now look at a printed page. Now back to your screen. Sadly, this text doesn’t look like the text on the printed page. But if this screen had quadruple the resolution it does, it could vastly improve clarity by minimizing aliasing and mooting questionably effective sub-pixel font smoothing (a blown-up example is at the head of this article).

The second thing that makes this possible is agreement on those standards. HTML5 is a nice, big step in this direction, with geometric, flexible rendering of many items, every pixel accounted for and affected systematically. It’s not a magic bullet, obviously, but once we’ve weaned the great unwashed from their IE6 (or Netscape Communicator 4, in my dad’s case (until last year!)) and moved on to modern browsers on processors that can handle on-the-fly rendering of visual effects and so on (which would otherwise have to be displayed as video, Flash, etc.), the doors fly wide open.

4. Taste

Now that consumers want to buy it, creators want to make it, and technology wants to accommodate it, beautifully-designed content will begin to actually bubble its way to the top. The more nicely-designed site may win in a rivalry these days — despite the fact that services these days are so simple that practically every menu and button is superfluous — but there aren’t many sites I would say are an actual pleasure to read, as I find many printed magazines are, or a pleasure to use, as a well-turned device is. I’m sure there are plenty of examples of standout design, but standing out from this crowd is a dubious honor.

It’s going to take time, of course, and money. The time will be to bring readers up to date with technological standards they tend to ignore. The money will be because this increase in quality won’t be due to improved processor or transfer speeds (like, say, the increase in quality of streaming movies and music), it will be due to much hard work done by designers and editors. Just as movies have gotten more expensive and labor-intensive as their production values have gone up, so will websites and services require more than lip service to good design.

Personally, I mix and match. I have an old Palm pilot and an Ipod touch, and read novels, websites, blogs, and so forth on that. The selection of novels isn’t very broad, but as I read public domain books most of the time, this doesn’t really matter as I can simply download them.

Paper books are still my favorite though. They don’t need batteries, and I can read them just about anywhere.

Time will tell whether ebooks are a viable alternative. At the moment, the whole thing is still in it’s infancy, and a decent solution has yet to appear.

REFERENCES:

http://www.squidoo.com/print-books-or-digital-books

http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=online-v-print-reading-which-one-ma-2008-12-23

http://techcrunch.com/2011/08/03/the-beautiful-internet/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29

http://techcrunch.com/2011/08/02/aol-editions-ipad/

http://coeus.hubpages.com/hub/Ebooks-Versus-Paper-Books-The-Pros-and-Cons

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