Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Small Solutions?

All of the discussion this week about digital publishing and paperbacks vs. hardbacks vs. Kindle just keeps running through my mind making me wonder whether to buy a Kindle or an iPad and use the Kindle app. I even considered downloading the Kindle app to my iphone and trying it out to see what it was like. One of my colleagues at work did that last year and she loves it.

Isn’t it too small to enjoy, I wondered? She says she doesn’t have a problem with the smallness. She just likes the portability and the fact that she didn’t have to buy another device. I think I would find it too small.

I was, however, interested to read a piece that Howard Hill wrote in this week’s Guardian about how his iphone helps him to read. Howard is dyslexic.

I'm reasonably well read but I read slowly; books have always been a struggle. I read one sentence, which sparks a thought, maybe causing my eyes to flicker, and I lose my place.

Then he bought an iphone and downloaded an app that let’s you read classic books online. He realized he hadn’t read many of them so he chose one at random. When I read he chose “The Count of Monte Cristo” I thought “wow, that’s a pretty long book to choose for your first try.” I was amazed that he finished it

The first title I selected was The Count of Monte Cristo. I raced through this on my iPhone in just over a week, my wife asking why I was continually playing with my iPhone. When I'd finished I enjoyed the story so much that I went to buy a copy for a friend. In the bookshop I was amazed. It was more than 1,000 pages! Had I been presented with the book in this form I would never have read it. It would have been too much like climbing a mountain.

He analyzes why:

So why I had found it easier to read from my iPhone? First, an ordinary page of text is split into about four pages. The spacing seems generous and because of this I don't get lost on the page. Second, the handset's brightness makes it easier to take in words. "Many dyslexics have problems with 'crowding', where they're distracted by the words surrounding the word they're trying to read," says John Stein, Professor of Neuroscience at Oxford University and chair of the Dyslexia Research Trust. "When reading text on a small phone, you're reducing the crowding effect."

I’d like to see some real research into this.