Archive for July 14th, 2009

Are e-readers too unemotional?

July 14, 2009

We’ve been experimenting with a Sony e-book reader in the office for the last couple of months. So I was interested to read a comment piece by Peter Crawshaw in the Bookseller magazine about them as they finally seem to be taking off, especially in the States, following innumerable false starts over the years.

He refers to a piece of analysis from Entertainment Media Research which looks at how emotionally engaging books are compared to e-readers. In this context, emotional engagement is the process by which we get hooked into our reading material and swept away into another world. The research shows that while people view books as one of the most emotionally engaging entertainment vehicles, e-books are seen as the least.

Crawshaw suggests two issues with e-readers. One is simply that the technology gets in the way. There is something timelessly effortless about holding a book and automatically turning pages as you read. Somehow, the clicking of little buttons on the side of your Sony or Amazon Kindle doesn’t have this automatic quality. Personally, my experience is that the tiny delay while the page of text is redrawn by the reader does interrupt the flow. Of course this may change as we become use to such devices and they become slicker.

A more important point he makes, I think, is the tendency for e-books to be interactive, with added video snippets and links to click. All this he argues may be great for certain types of content (for example learning material), but is less so for the delicate flow of good story. Crawshaw wonders whether traditional publishers will begin to alter their content to fit the expectations of a more interactive way of reading, and thereby lose what he calls “the wonder of an unhurried story.”