Chapter 2 Reading by Marshall


The beginning of the chapter discusses societies anxiety and aversion to new technologies, especially ebooks as apposed to print. Marshall is skeptical of any scientific claims aimed at proving reading print superior in different ways to reading ebooks. Marshall explains how technologies change and bring about cultural changes that could not be predicted and often go very much against cultural or societal norms. Marshall quotes V. Bush's article to point out that at that time, mid-1900s, even scientists could not imagine a world where people would own personal computers, women would become professional electronic writers and men would learn to type. The whole world just went crazy!

He also says we are printing more than ever but we are reading less and that this has been considered something we do with the intention of reading... I'll print it off now because I'm too busy to read it right now, but I'll read it later... Later, of course, never comes. *This type of behavior is encouraged in social media formats like Pintrest. The company suggests that you "pin for later". I have not seen this feature built in to Facebook, and I would like to have it because I often want to save the article for future reference or to read more thoroughly, but there's no place to store it. It's an unsettling way to get information.

Marshall points out how electronic writing/reading is constantly changing to allow for new genres.
Marshall Sums up Assumptions About Reading
Then Marshall addresses these assumptions - context..." But also, students read together in a classroom or family members will read the same article, people read over each others shoulders...
Purposes of Reading
There are many purposes for reading, for discussion, for information, for pleasure, to edit...
Types of Reading
Reading, Skimming, Scanning, Glancing, Seeking and Re-reading... *I wondered if these categories sufficed. It seems there is also multi-text type of reading when one is going back and forth between texts...not really Seeking, although, this could be part of it. On page 22 Marshall sort of talks about this as "reading across multiple venues."
Readers often associate skimming and scanning with electronic reading.

With ebooks, readers play a bigger role in determining the layout of the text. Readers can manipulate certain aspects of how it looks on the screen to appeal to them individually. Layout of ebooks is determined by three things:
  1. Content representation
  2. Ebook software
  3. Reader controlled settings
Does the Layout Matter?

A Basic Vocabulary

The Effect of Layout on Readers' Performance

One question was brought up - Is reader's disengagement with e-texts due to the lack of intimacy imposed by the device or rather, could it be that layout designs for screen have not been developed or implemented effectively.
On page 32 - "the optimal use of white space affected both reading speed and text comprehension" ReadingTheWhiteSpace

Preliminary studies showed that while readers preferred reading things that had good use of white space and a nice layout, it didn't actually have an effect on their overall performance.

A nice layout helps to put readers in a more positive mood, but there are trade-offs. A nice layout typically means fewer words on a page. This results in more time spent by the reading navigating from screen to screen. The affects the reader's ability to scan or glance through for seeking or comprehension purposes.

The chapter wraps up by talking about the hardware behind making these mobile reading experiences better - logistics stuff - battery life, synchronizing devices, the backlight, etc...

Making Connections to Krug

Marshall complicates Krug's definition of reading by explaining the depth of the definition of reading, the various ways of reading, and the various purposes behind reading. Krug is very mission/task based in his definition.

When Krug says, "don't make me think," I think Marshall is sort of saying the same thing in a way. Marshall doesn't want the medium to become a distraction to the type of thinking the reader is doing. This is what Krug means too. The thinking and the decisions the internet user has to do should be directly related to his/her purpose for visiting that site (or for the designer's purpose in attracting the user to that site). For an ebook to be a positive experience for a reader, navigating it shouldn't be distracting, frustrating or cumbersome.

Marshall and Krug agree that conventions can be useful. Certain fonts and layout designs have been studied in terms of reader response. These studies can be helpful to a new publisher/designer.

While conventions are important, Krug and Marshall seem to also agree that the designer can do something different if that's what they choose to do. Marshall says that while certain aesthetic and legibility testing showed a more positive response from readers, it didn't result in higher performance. This suggests that maybe the design work is less important than we might believe - However, we shouldn't underestimate the power of experience, especially if you want a repeat user or reader.

Another commonality between M and K is the agreement that while designers seem to have one common audience or demographic in mind, each user or reader is going to be unique.

The Argument

On first read through, I think Marshall is arguing that ebooks will lose their stigma. That the future of technology will add to the "material"-ness of these types of books. I think he's also saying that we can't look to the technology alone to determine the future for readers, but we really need to understand how reading works.

Personal thoughts
The layout vocabulary and theories made me think about the content we teach in Children's literature when we study the layout quite extensively because in children's books, there is a lot to consider (font, text per page, illustrations, # of pages, placement of text on the much more). The theory behind the attention paid to layout of kids books is that it does matter for the user. I'm not sure if anyone has actually studied performance and comprehension based on layout though, or if it is all experience driven. There is some science behind it - cognitive development and reading levels, etc...
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