Monday, 14 April 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Enhanced eBooks Don’t Necessarily Enhance Education

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 06:07 PM PDT

We’ve textbooks-120119-1[1]long known that when games and other enhancements are added to ebooks they can  distract readers from paying attention to the text, and now it appears that enhancements can have a negative academic impact.

Researchers at West Chester University have published a paper which looks at the impact of using digital textbooks on iPads. In a small study they found that students' reading comprehension  was higher when they read conventional books than when they read enhanced ebook. In a second related study the researchers discovered that the students “often skipped over the text altogether”.

The Schugars, a husband-and-wife research team at West Chester University, have been researching this topic for the past 3 plus years. They’ve published numerous papers, including one which I wrote about back in 2012. That paper discussed a study which showed that college students who read on ebook readers performed better on tests than the related group of students who read paper books. That is a markedly different outcome from the two most recent studies, both of which focused on students reading on tablets.

The first study compared students reading ebook apps downloaded from app stores like iTunes to students reading paper books. It focused on just 13  middle school students, so it isn’t possible to draw wide conclusions, but what the Schugars found is concerning enough to merit further study. Students showed a noticeably lower level of comprehension when they read on the iPad. The Schugars attributed the difference to the distractions of the enhancements.

In the second study, the researchers observed students in 18 classrooms where iPads and digital textbooks were in common use. The classes were being taught with enhanced digital textbooks created using iBooks Author. While students were “highly motivated by their interactions” with the enhancements found in the ebooks, they also “often skipped over text, where the meat of the information was.”

While it is easy to add game-like elements to ebooks, crafting an enhanced ebook that improves upon the original is much harder. What is more likely to happen is that readers will be distracted from the text, leading to situations like in one study cited by the Schugars, which showed that children spent 43% of their ebook engagement time playing games embedded in the ebooks rather than reading the text.

So is this a sign that enhanced ebooks should be kept out of the classroom? Not exactly.

The researchers also found that some enhancements really did enhance comprehension. The researchers advised parents and educators to avoid enhanced ebooks where the enhancements distract from the text rather than extend interactions and where the enhancements are time-consuming, lead students away from the page of text they are reading, or don’t contribute academically useful features like understanding difficult vocabulary terms.

“It’s not necessarily that ebooks are bad for reading,” Heather Ruetschlin Schugar said in an interview with Education Week. “But teachers need more strategies for teaching kids to use what they know about reading in an ebook environment.”

NYTimes, Education Week

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The Chicago Sun-Times Shuts Down Their Comment Section

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 03:49 PM PDT

It’s widely 6039415545_bd1bcd8f08accepted that the anonymity of the internet can turn almost anyone into a troll, and nowhere is this more true than in the comment section. This unfortunate trend has led a number of sites to respond by either removing any aspect of anonymity or taking a more extreme step of killing their comment section entirely.

The Chicago Sun-Times is the latest media organization to take the latter path; they announced over the weekend that the comments were going to be temporarily disabled.

“The world of Internet commenting offers a marvelous opportunity for discussion and the exchange of ideas,” wrote managing editor Craig M. Newman this weekend. “But as anyone who has ever ventured into a comment thread can attest, these forums too often turn into a morass of negativity, racism, hate speech and general trollish behaviors that detract from the content.”

The Sun-Times will be launching a new comment section  which they hope will “not only allow for free discussion, but encourage increased quality of the commentary and help us better police the worst elements of these threads”.

This paper is not the first to to try to fix online comments, nor will they be the last. Many sites have adopted comment management platforms like Disqus as a way of managing the troll problem, but that solution comes with its own problems. Other sites require that commenters create accounts, but when the bar is set that high it tends to discourage casual commenters. Some sites that use Disqus share this problem; those sites require an account in order to comment, which usually discourages me from leaving a comment (instead I go to Twitter).

TechCrunch stands as an example of a site that went from anonymous comments to Facebook comments as a way to reduce the presence of trolls, and it worked for them. But they might be the exception.

South Korea first started requiring internet commenters use their real names in 2007. The rule initially only applied to sites with more than 300,000 users, but was later tightened to sites with more than 100,000 users.

The rule was scrapped in 2011 because it was deemed largely ineffective at curbing trolls:

The system has been ineffective in preventing people from posting abusive messages or spreading false rumors. According to a study by the KCC, malicious comments accounted for 13.9 percent of all messages posted on Internet threads in 2007 but decreased only 0.9 percentage points in 2008, a year after the regulation went into force.

Another reason to scrap the rule is that it potentially discriminates against domestic companies. Internet users simply post malicious comments on Facebook, Twitter or other international websites, where the rule does not apply.

Talking New Media

image by Cali4beach

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The ALA Reports that the Most Banned Book of 2013 was “Captain Underpants”

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 02:46 PM PDT

The puerto-rico-censorship[1]American Library Association released their annual State of the American Library report today, and according to the report the never-ending battle to ban books continues unabated in 2013.

In addition to a broad summary of the problems faced by libraries, the report also includes a list of the library books reported as being the most-challenged books in 2013, and it was compiled by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. The list includes perennial favorites like Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary, Captain Underpants, and 50 Shades of Grey.

These titles, as well as others, will likely be featured when Banned Book Week comes around again in September. Here's the “Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books List” for 2013:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    • Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    • Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    • Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    • Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    • Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    • Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    • Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    • Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    • Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
    • Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

The post The ALA Reports that the Most Banned Book of 2013 was “Captain Underpants” appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Puts the Kindle Fire Tablets on Sale

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 01:34 PM PDT

Tablet kindle fire salebuyers, rejoice; Amazon is having a sale today.

The retail leviathan quietly put their 2013 tablets on sale this morning. You can now find the Kindle Fire HD 7″, Kindle Fire HDX, and the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 on sale for $20 to $40 off.

You can find the Kindle Fire HD for $119 (8GB ) or $129 (16GB), and the Kindle Fire HDX and Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 can be had for $199 and $339. There’s no info on how long the sale will go on, so you should act fast.

I, for one, won’t be buying a tablet today;  I got mine in a similar Best Buy sale a few weeks ago. I picked up the 2013 Kindle Fire HD for $129, which at the time was a very good deal. It might not be the fastest tablet but it does run the newer Mojito OS and it came with all the tricks that the older model lacked (Prime Instant Video downloads, for example).

Given how close the teo sales were, it would seem that that Amazon (and their retail partners) will likely have these sales every once in a while, like clockwork.  If you miss this one I would bet that another will be along in a couple months.


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Swedish Startup Develops a Way for you to Pay for Your Next Book with Jazz Hands

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 12:18 PM PDT

Buying quixter[1]stuff in stores is now as simple as waving an NFC chip at a register, but in the near future even that might be dispensed with.

A Swedish startup called Quixter has come up with a new way for customers to buy stuff in stores, and it is truly as simple as placing your hand over a sensor. (Technically not jazz hands, but I’m still punch drunk from doing my taxes and I thought it was a funny image.)

The startup developed a system that reads the veins in your palm, feeds the data through a recognition algorithm, and then identifies the hand’s owner. The system also requires the last 4 digits from a customer’s phone number, so it’s not exactly faster than existing credit card swipe systems, but on the plus side this system will let you buy books and stuff even if you forget cash – and your wallet – and your smartphone – and the NFC card on your keychain.

Quixter's system was developed by students at Lund University in Lund, Sweden. It is currently being tested at 15 locations at the school, with around 1,600 users who signed up to use the system. They of course had to register their palm, name, and financial details before they could pay using Quixter’s system.

Quixter’s long term plan is to commercialize the system and operate a payment processing business similar to Paypal, Visa, or the numerous companies that support the credit card machines you see in stores everywhere.


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Google Glass is Not the Only Augmented Reality Glasses in Town

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 09:15 AM PDT

Google epson-moverio-glasses-xl[1]Glass is expected to go on sale tomorrow, in a one day only sale. With a retail price of $1,500, it’s a little out my price range but the same is not true for the Glass’s cheaper competition.

Google’s first wearable may be getting all the attention, but it’s not the only game in town. There are nearly 3 dozen competitors to Google Glass either on the market or scheduled to be released in 2014, and many of them are a lot cheaper.

According a new site I just came across, everyone from the office equipment manufacturer Brother to Oakley (maker of sunglasses) has a pair of augmented reality glasses on the market. True, not all models are available in all markets (Sony’s product is only available to cinemas), but the selection is still a lot broader than I had previously thought.

There are dozens of companies in this market, including Epson. Yes, the printer maker has a pair of AR glasses on the market; you can see the Moveria in the lead image.


via Jesse B Anderson

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Amazon’s Deal with Bokrondellen Paves the Way for a Swedish Kindle Store

Posted: 14 Apr 2014 05:12 AM PDT

6285961331_94006ebe61[1]Following months-long talks with Swedish firms, news is breaking today that Amazon has signed a deal with Bokrondellen, a Swedish publishing services company.

Given that Bokrondellen runs the central book database for the Swedish bookselling industry, this deal paves the way for Amazon to enter the Swedish book and ebook market. This company is owned by a consortium of publishers, and it is the primary source of information on what book titles are in print and being published in Sweden.

Christer Perslöv, CEO of Bokrondellen, confirmed the news. “Now Amazon can sell Swedish books on all their sites. If they want to make it in the USA, Germany, England – or if they want to start a Swedish site – it’s up to them. Obviously they haven’t shared their plans with us.”

There’s not even any rumors about a time frame for Amazon to enter the Swedish ebook market, but when they do they will not be alone.

At the moment there are 3 international ebookstores in Sweden, iBooks, Nook, and Google Play Books. Apple launched there in September 2011, and Google expanded into the country in July 2013. Barnes & Noble also established a presence in that market when the Nook Store went international in November 2013.

I have known that Amazon has been interested in the Swedish market since at least September 2013, when I discovered that Amazon had added support for Swedish to KDP. With a population under 10 million, Sweden might not be the largest book market in Europe but it is also one of the markets with the highest concentration of consumers buying books online.

There’s no information yet on when Amazon will launch a local operation in Sweden, but we do know that they won’t be running the usual local retail site. Amazon has so far been unable to procure the website address. That is reportedly owned by a Swedish marketing firm which has declined to sell the domain to Amazon.

Amazon faced similar issues in Brazil and was able to negotiate a deal for the domain. The terms of that deal have not been disclosed.

The Local

image by roger4336



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