Tag Archives: internet

The generation of tomorrow and the “embarrassment” of books.

Liz Bury¬† wrote a worrying, yet interesting, article on The Guardian‘s website yesterday (4th October 2013) revealing results from the 2012 Annual Literacy Survey which the National Literacy Trust carried out. ‘Books are deemed a thing of the past by YouTube generation of readers’ – the ’embarrassment’ of books means that children are watching more YouTube videos instead.

It was reported that since 2005, there has been a 25% decrease in the amount of children who read outside school. The National Literacy Trust’s survey included approx. 35,000 young people, and it was thought that almost a third of children aged between eight and 16 do not read any text-based media in their leisure time. In the space of 7 years, the percentage of children who claimed to have read in their own time was down around 10% (38.1% in 2005, compared with 28.4% in 2012).

It is thought that one of the main causes of this is ’embarrassment’. 16.6% of young people said that they “would be embarrassed if their friends saw them read” in the 2010 study; this increased to 21.5% in the 2012 study. Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said that it “is a significant social and cultural trend which needs to be addressed”.

I understand that whilst growing up, children and teenagers constantly feel that they need to ‘fit in’; I remember feeling like that in my younger years. Although I never felt that reading was deemed ‘uncool’ and was certainly not ’embarrassing’. It is harder to accept that this is how children of today feel about reading, particularly given that I never personally experienced this when I was a child. (Perhaps it was because I grew up in the 90’s, before the internet boom??) Saying this, I can only imagine that with the surge in social media sites, YouTube, Vine, and video-based communication, such as Skype, it is a lot easier for children to choose to communicate/search the web through videos as opposed to writing. Douglas mentioned the original thought was that “children’s reading was migrating from print to digital, […] that they were reading ebooks. But […] they are consuming information in ways that do not involve reading or writing text”.

So, what is being done to encourage children to read?

  • The National Literacy Trust has launched a campaign to promote reading whereby children and adults must nominate their reading hero.
  • Children’s laureate Malorie Blackman, author of Noughts & Crosses, has recently announced a campaign to support Young Adult fiction in the UK with a YA Literature Convention which will happen in London, summer 2013 (article from The Bookseller).
  • Whilst I have a rather biased negative view regarding Amazon, I have to say that their recent advertisement for their Kindle device is fantastic in encouraging children to read (despite the fact that they are encouraging children to read in electronic form as opposed to print form – I definitely think that needs to be the opposite way around, but still, I guess it is a start??):
  • As I mentioned in a previous post about library closures affecting children’s literacy, organisations such as the Voices for the Library are trying to promote libraries and shows that, despite the closures, there are still many opportunities for libraries in the future.

It will be interesting to see the results which come from the next study generated from the National Literacy Trust so we can see whether there has been any change in statistics (hopefully, for the better!) Certainly, it would be fantastic to see if any of the points I mentioned above may help the cause and hopefully make children aware that reading is not embarrassing, but can be a great experience.

‘Internet English’ destroying language?

The Guardian published an article today which piqued my interest. It posed the question: Is internet English debasing the language?

It got me thinking that with the evolution in internet technology constantly changing, what does this mean for the English language and is it being devalued as a result? And with the digital era in publishing, does this also devalue the English language in e-publications?

Robert McCrum, former editor-in-chief at Faber & Faber and current associate editor for The Observer, stated his concern over ‘the abuse and impoverishment of English online’ and what he perceives as ‘the overall crassness of English prose in the age of global communications (being blogs, emails, etc.)’

He did also mention the fact that depending on various websites and blogs, there is bad and very good writing all over the web. McCrum stated that ‘there’s just more writing at all levels of quality’. It can be argued that more people have access to the internet in this day and age and people are communicating through a multitude of mediums, therefore English is likely to be written in different levels of quality. With social media having a vast presence on the internet, today, and different generations using the sites, the quality of English language will undoubtedly vary. Take Twitter, for example. Twitter users base their entire communication messages on 140 characters or less, therefore creating a different level of English, for example, some people may choose to use ‘text’ language in which to get their full message across.

It has already been seen with the rise of ebook technology, that some ebooks may be published with grammatical errors which poses the question as to whether the English language is devalued in e-publications. There is no denying the surge in ebooks being published over the past year, and particularly with the many options available for people to self-publish their works, the quality of what is being published may not be to as high a standard as ebooks which might have been published by a publisher. In addition, many academic publishers are enhancing people’s access to journals through online access, and with the introduction of Open Access, does this mean that the English language could be devalued? In particular for academic publishers, I feel that the standard of publishing is too high for it to be thwarted by the internet.

So, as publishers continue to adapt to the digital age, it will be interesting to see how ‘internet English’ will continue to change the way in which we write over all aspects of the internet.

Do you think ‘internet English’ is destroying language?

Another article which may be of interest: George Orwell’s critique of internet English

Adaptive Web Technology and Publishing

I’ve just found an interesting report on Adaptive Web Technology which was promoted by Netbiscuits on Twitter.

The report stated the urgent need for business leaders to ‘evaluate mobile web strategies’ to accommodate for the fast paced rate of web evolution. It is thought that there are currently 1.2 billion mobile subscriptions in the world (17% of the global population).

It is predicted that mobile internet usage will soon take over desktop internet usage, with web connection being made available through watches, cars, glasses (Google Glass, anyone?), household appliances and not to mention the transforming models for televisions and gaming consoles.

Of course, with every new piece of technology, there are multiple issues to consider. Some of the issues mentioned in the report include:

  • Browser windows on mobiles are not resizable like those on a laptop, for example.
  • Varying input methods: computers/laptops require a mouse and clicking, whereas on a mobile, you are most likely using ‘multi-finger gestures’ when navigating through pages.
  • Differing contextual usage: smartphones and tablets = on the go vs. desktops = serious working time.

The report states that by 2016, 2.1 billion mobile browsers will have adopted HTML5 browsers, therefore there will be increasing pressure for mobile developers.

So, what does this mean in the publishing world?

Ebook technology is already available on mobile devices through apps, and of course the Kindle and other tablets such as iPad accommodate for ebooks. I believe that as ebooks evolve, the interaction which they will be able to provide will be enhanced by mobile technology. Particularly for academic ebooks and journals, links to external web pages and videos will be emphasised by this evolving web technology. I think fiction books could evolve with this kind of technology, too. Think Pottermore but on a larger scale. Can you image published ebooks which are also accommodated with a virtual world? Of course I can immediately think of a multitude of additional disadvantages to the idea (for a start it would take away the reader’s perception of the story) however, I do feel that small additional snippets to accommodate the story could work.

I also wrote an entry a while back detailing a talk I attended which was given by Stephen Bourne about Imagineering the Book Trade in 2050 and how he stated that books in small chucks would be available on mobile devices and accessed via mobile web technology. Should his prediction prove right, then certainly the publishing industry could thrive. Perhaps publishers could develop their own apps in the future where readers can buy these bite-size stories (perhaps charging per chunk?) or could give the opportunity of buying and downloading ebooks like you would to a Kindle.

Certainly the opportunities which can be offered through mobile web technology are extraordinary and I feel that the publishing world could really benefit from the new technologies if they are applied effectively.