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Poll Reminder: Digital Readers, Online readers . . .?

Here’s a reminder of the summer poll I’m conducting on this blog. I would love to have some more participation so go to the sidebar and cast your opinion for the single question: What should we call readers who read digitally to distinguish them from print readers?

Here are the interim results so far:

Yep! You’re reading that right. The highest ranking name/label so far is ‘reader’ and that’s a write-in. Yes, this is from a research based profession who are suggesting that we distinguish between readers of print and digital in professional conversations and future research by calling both behaviours by the same name. That’s a little like professional musicians calling electric guitars and acoustic guitars just guitars when they ask the roadies to pass the guitar. I’m assuming that most of these responses are meant to be humourous / ironic. 😉 Anyway, there’s still time to cast a vote.

Original Post:

What do/should we call people who read the e-versions of books?

This is one of those retronyms. When you change the language for something you have to fix the old world. For example – electric guitars necessitated the clarification acoustic guitars. Dial telephones were needed when we had to distinguish them from pushbutton phones.

Anyway, we probably call folks, in professional conversations and research, who read print, print readers. “Paper” reader seems awkward and I can’t think of another, better term. But, then what do we call readers when they’re reading the e-version and we need to distiguish them for research and reporting purposes? And yes I know most readers will be hybrid readers for the foreseeable future.

online readers?
digital readers?
e-readers? (too close to the device?)
e-book readers?
non-print readers (confused with non-readers?)
paperless readers?
mobile readers? (is it different?)
Are news, periodical, report, website, and book reading different?

So check out the poll on the side of my blog here and fill out the simple one questions survey.

Take the poll!

Anyway, there’s a little recent French news market research on this topic:

The New Faces of Digital Readers

In France:
“Respondents declare spending 37 minutes a day on digital publications as opposed to 22 minutes a day on print press.”
“51% of the respondents prefer web sites, 31% go for electronic editions, and 17% use applications.”
“Mid-morning breaks constitute the first of two prime times during which web consultation is favored by most users (36% of respondents), while digital editions and apps account each for 21-22% (apps are doing quite well at lunch time). The second prime time occurs in the evening, after work, when use is evenly distributed between devices.”
“As for the tablets, 56% of their use involves reading the branded press; that’s behind internet usage (77%), email (66%), or watching videos (62%).”


Posted on: July 26, 2011, 11:46 am Category: Uncategorized

13 Responses

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  1. Jan Magnusson said

    Digital readers versus Print readers are my favourites.

  2. Your readers–in this case, readers of your blog–are telling you something, and you should listen: You’re insisting on a distinction that most people regard as meaningless. Most librarians don’t talk about MysteryReaders and RomanceReaders and NonficReaders except in special circumstances: They’re all readers. Add to that that it’s likely most readers will use both e-devices and print books and, well, why insist on different terminology?

  3. Robert Noise said

    You are incorrect in your comparison between asking for an acoustic or electric guitar. We were not asked what to call and e-book compared to a paper book, we were asked what to call the person who read them: A reader; as the person who plays either guitar is a musican.

  4. admin said

    You’re right. I’ll have to think of a better metaphor.

  5. Suzanne Reymer said

    I’m with those advocating for the reader designation. The distinction you seek may be important to some. To me, it’s switching the emphasis from the content to the container. Instead of Walt Crawford’s comparison of mystery and romance readers, I see it as attempting to distinguish between containers such as paperback readers or newspaper or magazine readers. I think that for many of us the decision of how to access content will be based on cost, convenience, availability, etc. And not on container.

  6. admin said

    So, as I noted in the poll post, when we study changing reading patterns and styles, how would you distinguish between readers and readers in conversations?

  7. Stephen, if you come up with a distinct label, I’m curious about how you see it working in cases like me: I read a lot. I read for pleasure, and for professional purposes. I read books for pleasure in print, in audio, and on my iPad. I read books and articles for work in print, on my iPad, and in a web browser. Am I, therefore, six different kinds of readers? Because I feel like one woman. Who is a reader. 🙂

  8. Robert Noise said

    Having read your response to Walt, I wonder if it was the phrasing of your question that caused the confusion. I certainly got no sense that what you were asking was whether or not people read differently when reading electronic presentations of the material. I read the content the same either way (the way my brain processes the information), but read for shorter periods when it is electronic (haven’t had long access to e-ink so can’t say there), because it is so painful to look at. I still consider myself a reader regardless.

  9. “That’s a little like professional musicians calling electric guitars and acoustic guitars just guitars when they ask the roadies to pass the guitar.”

    Or more importantly, the musician is still a guitarist. I don’t refer to Eric Clapton as an electric guitarist or Joni Mitchell as an acoustic guitarist. They’re just guitarists. In fact, I’m pretty sure they both use the other kinds of guitar on occasion and probably without expecting to be called a different kind of musician.

    A good example is Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists story — where probably 100% or close of the 100 are primarily known for playing the electric guitar. But yet, just “guitarists.”

  10. Jenica: Actually I think that was already answered in the post. I’d call them hybrid readers when people don’t fall soley into one or the other camp. I know people at each pole, but most folks fit in the middle. I see some folks who claim that they never read a print newspaper anymore. Other’s tell me they don’t do news online. Calling them both simply ‘readers’ doesn’t help me talk with prduct developers about how to support and build products to support different modes. When we’re trying to study or discuss the changes in reading behaviours as new modes arrive I guess I just find it helpful to have language to discuss it more clearly. As you note you make different choices about format based on context so you see some differences. It’s not about labelling people as individuals but using it for study and aggregating data, scenarios and insights. Obviously from various comments here and elsewhere there are a few people who think that this isn’t an issue or worth studying and questioning. Since I work for a print and electronic publisher I guess I think it is worth understanding better and studying and finding a language to help discuss the changes taking place would be helpful to me.

  11. NoisyBob: Maybe my phrasing was difficult or confusing. But, actually, the research shows that your brain doesn’t process the informaion the same in print versus electronic reading. It also shows that your eyes don’t move the same when reading on screens versus print pages. There is also research that shows that most people have different comprehension, time spent reading, and fatigue with different formats. There’s more but how can we discuss these better as reading and informatin professionals if we disagree about even making a distinction for research purposes? Hence, it would be nice to have a language to discuss differences in readers based on the format/delivery choices instead of just lumping everyone together as a ‘reader’.
    Lastly, I wasn’t asking what people considered themselves to be. I was asking about how we would label folks in order to have a more substantive discussion about the differences in reading based on format/device/delivery so that we could make better choices about product design and delivery.

  12. Louise Alcorn said

    Stephen, although I agree that the experience reading in different media has, arguably, a different effect physically and possibly in comprehension, the ultimate intake of content remains the key goal for the end user. A more or less interactive experience can, indeed, affect final comprehension and retention. That’s true of different “old style” content media, too, like books vs. audiobooks vs. web. However, I would still designate all these people as readers, as that’s the ultimate purpose/goal.
    I suppose we might subdivide by “reader – primarily electronic input” or “skimmer – primarily image-based input”, if the research required those labels. However, I think (as perhaps your poll proves?) we’re having a hard time coming up with one set of designators as the lines are very blurry. Do we delineate between the end delivery advice (ereader vs computer screen, which produce different physical effects when reading) or between the transport medium (printed text vs digital/electronic) or what? For my purposes as a public librarian, right now, in this moment, “haves and have nots” are more the issue. Who has access to content, and who doesn’t, and who has the resources to bridge that divide. Not your question, I realize, but certainly a piece of data “in the mix” for me.

  13. Joe Kraus said

    “I was asking about how we would label folks in order to have a more substantive discussion about the differences in reading…”

    I think it is the phrase “Hmmm, how should we label folks” that rubs many people the wrong way. If someone is a reader, then they would want to be labeled a reader, not a type of reader. It is like marketers trying to label different classes and types of people as a yuppie or an urban metrosexual or whatnot so they can be classified and marketed to. Lots of people I know can’t and don’t wanted to be classified as a certain “type” of person, whether it is type of reader, ethnicity, culture, race, or whatnot. From one of your favorite middle-aged balding slightly chubby librarians. No wait, I am just a librarian.