A special Sesquicentennial show celebrating our finest Fiction Writers
With the help of superb author portraits by Anthony Jenkins appearing on-screen, publisher and author Doug Gibson roams the stage talking about our finest authors down through the years. Decade by decade, he chooses our best authors, English and French, and selects their very best books.
Each decade begins with a burst of Canadian music from the time. Then a contemporary photo reminds us of the historical setting, and a series of iconic works of art remind us of the wider artistic scene in which our writers worked. The result is a celebration not only of our writers and storytellers, but of our artists in general. The resulting reading list is now in great demand, and will be distributed at the show.
Already he has given this hugely ambitious show (with an Intermission when we reach 1967, the year when Gibson himself came to Canada) in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, and at the Toronto Launch in the Lieutenant Governor’s Chambers in Queen’s Park. After this Vancouver Launch, he will be taking the show across Canada for the rest of 2017, as his own tribute to our country and its writers, culminating in his praise of his author, Alice Munro.
WHERE Vancouver, at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre, Room 1400
Join SFU’s Master of Publishing students as they present their final magazine media projects. This year we have combined the tech and magazine projects to expand upon the digital possibilities in marrying print and tech. Our students have created their own “maga” projects that explore the digital possibilities of magazine publishing today.
Friday, April 7th in room 2270 and running from 1:30 to 4:30.
“Generative art” is a blanket term for any creative work produced in part through programmatic or algorithmic means. “Playful generative art” makes use of highly technical disciplines—computer programming, statistics, graphic design, and artificial intelligence—to produce chat bots, digital poetry, visual art, and even computer-generated “novels.” These pieces may be motivated by serious social or political issues, but the expressions are decidedly unserious, often short-lived or quickly composed. Creators working in this medium are rarely artists first—as programmers, designers, game developers, and linguists, they use the tools of their trade in unexpected and delightful ways. Generative art also has much to teach us about issues at the intersection of ethics and technology: what is the role of the artist in a human/machine collaboration; what is our responsibility when we design programs that talk with real people; how do we curate and study ephemeral digital works? Digital artists, writers, technologists, and anyone interested in media studies are invited to attend.
Cinema in Practice
Simon Fraser University’s Film Academic Journal
Editor / Selection Committee Member
[Part-time, temporary] Volunteer Position
In collaboration with the Editor-in-Chief and the Academic Advisor, the three selected Editors / Selection Committee Members will assist in selecting the submitted articles to publish in this year’s journal, and copy edit its text to meet the quality standards of Cinema in Practice.
Key responsibilities include:
● Reading all submitted articles and helping choose which to publish
● Detailed copy editing alongside fellow editors
● Enforcing standards for academic honesty and accuracy
● Maintaining bi-weekly meetings Successful candidate will be:
● Enrolled as an undergraduate student at Simon Fraser University
● Interested in and have a deep understanding of film studies
● Skilled in copy editing other people’s writings
● Able to collaborate with colleagues and writers
● Punctual and capable of working under pressure with short deadlines
START DATE: January 2, 2017
END DATE: April 30, 2017
How to apply:
Applicants should send a resume and cover letter outlining how they meet the specific requirements of the position to email@example.com by November 27 at 5pm. Interviews will be taking place the following week.
“Where publishing is concerned, the Internet is both midwife and executioner. It has never been easier to reach large numbers of readers, but these readers have never felt more entitled to be informed and entertained for free.”
– Sam Harris, The Future of the Book
The e-book: ever since it’s beginning it has posed both equal opportunity and threat to publishers. E-books allow for the ability to explore new content, format, and design, and provide the chance to reach an audience that not only likes to read, but likes the convenience of being able to carry their library around with them; an audience that enjoys the instant satisfaction of not having to leave their house to purchase the books they want to read. However, e-books also pose a threat to the publishing industry, as many consumers of e-books are Internet-savvy, and have certain expectations when it comes to pricing. The digitization of music is a good example of this. Many people felt that they did not have to spend money on a CD when they could pirate the music online for free. This led to Apple’s iTunes store selling both full albums and individual tracks for considerably less money than before.
Like consumers of music, consumers of e-books believe these works should be like anything else found online: free and readily accessible. A large part of consumer confusion over e-book pricing stems from a miscommunication between publishers and readers. Consumers do not understand the work that goes into an e-book on the publisher’s end because publishers have not provided them with that information. As e-book prices continue to fluctuate, the consumer is left confused over who is raising the price, whose side publishers are on, and why prices change so much.
A pricing model for e-books has not yet been established, since there is no price that seems to works for all parties involved: as it stands, publishers feel they are not making enough money to cover the cost of producing an e-book, and consumers feel the price is still too high. While the current pricing models allow for more competition in the e-book marketplace, which is a good thing, the current trend of e-book pricing is not feasible or functional for both publishers and consumers, and coming to a tolerable balance between two extremes may be the only solution.
The confusion over e-book pricing is not simply a tug-of-war between readers and publishers, but a war between publishers and retailers. In 2011, Apple and five of the six big publishers—Hachette, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and HarperCollins—were sued by the Department of Justice for colluding to raise e-book prices. This was one of the first times the war over e-book pricing was made public (Bransford). The lawsuit further fueled consumer confusion over the pricing of e-books, and painted the publisher as the “bad business” trying to raise prices to presumably make a larger profit.
The lawsuit stemmed from 2010, when Apple was set to launch the iPad and the iBookstore. The iBookstore worked for the iPad as other e-reading devices worked: consumers could use the iBookstore’s huge database to purchase and download e-books directly to their iPad (Bransford). But Apple wanted competition in the marketplace, so that their new device would be able to compete with Amazon’s huge database of books. When it came to e-books, Amazon had prices that were so low that no one else could compete with them. At the time, they had just released the Kindle, and were using lower prices on books to fuel demand for the device and give it a larger share in the e-book market early on (Bransford). By pricing e-books so low, Amazon not only devalued the book, but trained consumers to expect a lower price than was possible.
No one could compete with Amazon, and publishers wanted competition so that they could sell their book to a wider audience. Apple also wanted competition so that the iPad would have a chance. They knew they would not be able to take over and become the only retailer on the market because Amazon already had a loyal customer following, so they instead decided to fuel the demand for their device through other means. Because of this desire for competition, Apple created the “agency” model of publishing, and offered it to the big six publishers. This model could have worked had the publishers only made a deal with Apple, as there are no laws barring publishers from making a deal with one retailer to set their books at whatever price they choose (Owen). But the agency model dictated that only publishers could set the price of their e-books, and this price had to be the same across every retailer, in order to encourage competition (Owen).
Prior to the launch of the iPad and the agency model, publishers used the “wholesale” model of publishing. This model is still the most common one used today, especially for print book sales. The wholesale model dictates that the publishers set a list price for the retailer, and then sell it to the retailer at a 50% discount. The retailer can then re-sell the book for whatever they want (Bransford). In the agency model, publishers take a larger portion of the list price, 70%, while the retailer takes 30%; however, the publisher makes less money per unit, even though they are getting a bigger cut (Bransford).
Here’s an example taken from Nathan Bransford’s article, Why E-Books Cost so Much (the numbers have been changed): say a publisher was selling an e-book, and listed it for $22.99. In the wholesale model, Amazon could take that list price and slash it, charging the consumer $7.99 for the e-book. This means the publisher would take roughly half of the list price, $11.50, and Amazon would take a loss of $3.50 on the book. In the agency model, the publisher sets the price of their e-book at $14.99, receiving only $10.50 per unit (70% of $14.99), while Amazon would make $4.50 per unit.
Publishers who went along with the agency pricing model were okay with making less money because Amazon could no longer undercut them by lowering the price of their e-book. That meant that retailers like Apple could come in and drive competition, and the publisher didn’t have to worry about their book being sold for less money. They were the ones who could choose what they wanted to price their e-book at, and they were only ones who could change this price. Publishers were also okay with the agency pricing model slowing down consumer consumption because they did not want to see the print side of their operations die out. The rapid closing of bookstores that has been occurring over the past ten years is not only bad for the publisher, who struggles to have their books reach a wide audience as a result, but is also bad for e-books (Streitfeld). Consumers may have stopped purchasing books at bookstores, but they may still use them to scout out the new releases they want to buy, and download the books to their e-readers, instead of tediously scrolling through innumerable lists online.
Using the agency model didn’t mean publishers were making more money, but, it did allow them to fuel competition in the marketplace, and negotiate their own prices with Amazon and other sellers. Now, retailers such as Apple, Chapters/Indigo, and Barnes & Noble can compete with Amazon. Retailers no longer have to be able to sell the cheapest books, because consumers now base their purchasing decisions on user experience (Bransford). Many people already have their preferred e-reading device, which they have chosen to buy from any of the above retailers based on selection, price, and accessibility. Book publishers who switched to Apple’s agency model got exactly what they wanted: competition, and the opportunity to put pressure on Amazon.
While the majority of those involved in the Department of Justice lawsuit have settled, e-book prices are still an issue for consumers. Since the agency model, many e-books are now listed between $10 and $15 (Streitfeld). Although this is still generally cheaper than print versions of books, it looks expensive compared to the Kindle Singles priced at $0.99, or those for sale for less than $10, which are largely written by self-published authors, such as E.L James, who does not have the overhead costs of a publisher (Crow).
Though the price of e-books has gone up, it is still not set at a price that both publishers and consumers can agree on. Publishers are not making enough money to cover costs, and consumers look at an e-book priced between $10-$15 and see it as being too expensive. A large part of consumer confusion stems from the perception of value that is linked to something electronic (Harkaway). While the e-book is still a book, it cannot be physically held or shared, and is stored on a device, which makes it seem less substantial than a print book.
In his article, Consumers Upset and Confused Over E-Book Pricing, Jeremy Greenfield asks consumers about their concerns regarding e-book pricing, and concludes that there is, evidently, a lack of communication between publishers and their readers. Many consumers believe that publishers make more money on e-books because to the best of their knowledge, e-books cost next to nothing to distribute, create, and sell. Diane Castle, a 36-year-old writer from Dallas that Greenfield interviews, embodies this belief: “‘Why the frick-frack do these major publishers think it’s okay to put out a paperback at half the price of an e-book they can upload and forget?’” (Greenfield). This is the attitude many consumers take over e-books. They either do not understand the costs associated with how e-books are made and distributed, or they have formed their opinion on e-book pricing based on Amazon’s low prices. With the 2011 lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice, even more consumers believed that the high price of e-books is simply the result of a group of publishers who are greedy and want more money.
What consumers do not understand is that e-books still require the same amount of money to make, if not more. While publishers no longer have the added cost of printing, they must pay for author advances and royalties—still the largest cost associated with producing a book—editing, proofreading, design, illustrations, sales, marketing, staff—which may include either the cost of extra staff or the cost of outsourcing in order to convert a print book into an e-book—and distribution, which still occurs for e-books (Greenfield). Distributors of e-books, according to Greenfield, can take anywhere from 2-9% of profits.
Since the cost of producing an e-book runs almost equal to the cost of producing a print book, with less return on the publishers end for the effort, profits are becoming shakier (Crow, Part 2). Publishers are becoming stricter on who they decide to publish. Authors who have a track record of success are more likely to be published over new authors. This means that the books that are being published are becoming homogenized. Consumers who enjoy reading books that are not on the bestseller list are buying and consuming less, which also affects the profitability of the publishing house.
In the aftermath of the 2011 Department of Justice lawsuit, the price of e-books was supposed to drop significantly, as Amazon was once again allowed to set the price of e-books however they chose (Streitfeld). While the price of e-books has lowered overall, the large drop in prices that was expected did not happen, and the $10 floor for e-books is largely still intact. Not only that, but e-book sales are not growing as fast as they have been in previous years. In Little Sign of a Predicted E-Book Price War, David Streitfeld looks at the numbers behind e-book growth and market share. He claims that adult e-book sales were up 34% from 2011, which seems significant, until you consider that sales had been doubling prior to that every year for the past few years.
Streitfeld also draws on information gathered by Simba, a company that regularly surveys e-book buyers. The company claims that at any given time, 1/3 of e-book users have not bought a new title in over twelve months because they want to finish the books they have already bought (Streitfeld).
E-book devices are also getting cheaper. People who don’t have one at this point can purchase a device for less than one hundred dollars at any retailer. Considering the first Kindles were sold for $399 when they were released in 2007, this is a significant drop in price.
Both the agency and wholesale pricing models do not work for e-books. Publishers who are not able to lower their prices run the risk of going out of business, and consumers who do not agree with the price of e-books will try to get the digital versions of books through other means, including pirate the document (Crow, Part 2). There needs to be communication between publishers and readers. Consumers can see that the list price publishers want their book to be sold at is being slashed by online retailers such as Amazon, but they do not understand what this means for the publishing house because there is no transparency on the publishers part in their interaction with their readers (see Joanne Penn’s Why it’s Time for More Transparency in Publishing). Random House has begun this conversation with their readers through a video they created, which shows what goes on inside their publishing house, and all of the work that goes into publishing a manuscript.
While consumers may complain about the cost of an e-book, in the end, they are still purchasing e-books, and their device counterparts, at an unprecedented rate. As the cost for devices goes down, and competition increases between retailers in both Canada and the United States, e-book prices will stay the same, if not increase. Retailers will not lower their prices if it will not help them increase their market share. Perhaps the answer to the confusion over e-book pricing is to create a separation in the minds of both the consumer and the publisher that the e-book and the print book are two different entities, which can be thought of in different ways. Consumer’s confusion over e-book pricing will only be clarified when communication occurs between publishers, retailers, and readers alike.
The dust has begun to settle on the digital revolution and magazine makers can breathe a sigh of relief: this is not, in fact, the end of print media (yet). According to Magazines Canada’s Consumer Magazine Fact Book 20121, 71% of readers prefer print magazines to online magazines and 87% of those interested in reading magazines digitally still prefer a printed copy. What’s more, both student readers and those in households earning $100,000+ still vastly prefer print magazines to their digital counterparts. However, it may not be time for the industry to rest on its laurels just yet. The same study shows that Canadians have access to over 100 consumer magazines per capita, more than any other country in the world. And in the past ten years, the industry has seen a 34% increase in titles. In other words, more magazines are fighting for market share than ever before, and magazine makers are faced with the challenge of marketing their publications to an increasingly splintered audience.
It goes without saying that marketing magazines online is crucial, whether the publication itself is strictly print, digital-only, or a combination of both. For even if Canadians prefer reading magazines in print, they are spending more time online than users in any other country, according to the 2012 Canada Digital Future in Focus study2. And most of that time is spent on social media. So how are magazine marketers to take advantage of this trend? By leveraging the awesome power of social media’s hottest new star: Pinterest.
The Power of Pinterest
For those who don’t already know, Pinterest is a “virtual pinboard” where users can “pin” photos from any website to their own, customized Pinterest board. It’s a digital version of the scrapbook you used to tape magazine clippings to when you were twelve. Users pin photos of clothes they want to buy, DIY projects they intend to attempt, places they dream of visiting, and – interestingly – inspirational or hilarious quotes that resonate with them.
According to the website3, “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” But most importantly, users can browse the pinboards of other users, sharing and discovering new products and ideas easily. It’s this tool for discovery that makes Pinterest the one to watch.
According to CNN4, Pinterest is the “breakout social network of 2012.” Still in its first two years of operation, the site now sees over 10 million unique visitors per month, crossing the mark faster than Facebook did5. And all of this popularity actually translates to real economic impact. According to SocialMouths.com6, Pinterest drives more sales than any other network.
Marketers have myriad options for using online platforms to spead the word about their magazine and share their content. But that other social media juggernaut is starting to look less and less appealing. Facebook ad prices continue to climb while users are less and less engaged by the format. Those tiny Facebook ads are less likely to inspire what Darren Barefoot calls “heartbeat activities7.” On the other hand, when people use Pinterest, they’re in the mood to consume. According to a survey by Bizrate8, seven out of ten shoppers use Pinterest to get inspired about purchases.
And the best part? Pinterest is completely free to use. You just have to know how to use it effectively.
How To Pin Properly
Before we get to the three main pinning tactics of this essay, you may want to consider some of Copyblogger’s Pinterest best practices9:
Connect your Pinterest account to Facebook and Twitter. This makes it easier for those who already follow your other networks to find you on Pinterest.
Use your magazine name on the Pinterest account (rather than your name).
Pin lots of content and do it steadily, rather than in huge bursts. Otherwise you run the risk of flooding your followers’ newsfeeds.
Business bloggers will tell you to host a contest or pin client testimonials10 as the best ways to leverage Pinterest as a marketing tool. And while these may work for some retailers (although I have my doubts), magazines are playing the editorial game. So do what you already do best: provide meaningful, engaging content tailored to your audience.
The Three Commandments of Pinterest Marketing for Magazines:
1. Contribute to a Community
The point of Pinterest is that people enjoy spending time on the site. So if you’re going to get users to follow your boards and share your content with their followers, you’re going to have to speak to them in a human way. No hard sells.
This should be easy for most magazines – it’s what you do already. Consider the community that you’re a part of – food, design, fashion, music – and use your pins to contribute to these community members’ lives. Offer best-of lists. Provide steps for a DIY. Post trends in your industry. Attaching a useful tidbit of information to a beautiful photo is the key to successful pinning.
Your own magazine content is a great source for pins, but remember to pin from plenty of other sources as well. You want to offer your editorial eye to your followers, showing them new images and ideas you know they’ll love and find useful. As Copyblogger says: “Become an information curator for your niche. Gather the newest and best resources on your boards. Become a trusted source of information on Pinterest, and your following will grow by leaps and bounds.”
Also, remember to like, comment, and repin your followers’ content as much as possible. If someone asks a question on one of your pins, answer it! Social networks are about being social.
2. Be a Follower
According to Net Tuesday Vancouver’s presentation on the science of Facebook pages for nonprofits11, people are most likely to respond to images with text on them. A quick scan of Pinterest will show you this meme is extremely popular right now. So follow the trend and create your own image with text. Just be sure to stay true to the tone of your magazine.
If your magazine is on the cheeky side, try a funny meme. If your magazine is more serious, go for an inspirational quote.
The point is to tap into what’s already popular on the internet – these things tend to come in waves. Of course, a straight copy will never be effective. As Barefoot asserts, “safe is risky and risky is safe.” Take an internet trend and use it in an original way to spread your message or market your magazine’s content. Use a form that the internet loves and do something surprising with it.
3. Stay True to Yourself
This may be the most important commandment of them all. You are a magazine: act like one. Take an editorial approach to your Pinterest activities. For instance:
Board Names: Pinterest will provide you default titles for your pinboards, things like “Style” and “For The Home.” Rename these something creative and original. (My style board is called “Walk, Walk, Fashion, Baby.”) The name of your board gets shared along with every image you pin to it, and attractive board names will garner more followers. It’s also a great way to introduce new audiences to the tone of your magazine.
Pin Descriptions: Each pin requires its own description. This is just another great place to say something interesting. It’s good ethos to credit the photo, but beyond that, try describing the photo in the same way you would caption one in your magazine.
Original Content: Farm your magazine’s content to be a source of original content out there on the web. It will help your account stand out and, eventually, will build your reputation as a trendsetter, rather than a trend follower. You can even recycle some of your archived photos. Try throwing a cute quote on an old photo, or link to a collection of photos from your very first issue. If you’re a shelter or lifestyle mag, go Martha Stewart with your photos wherever it’s appropriate. Little colour-coordinated vignettes are like crack for pinners.
Promote Your People: Just like you do in your magazine, use Pinterest to showcase the work of writers, artists, and photographers whose work you admire. Not only is it good will, it will inspire them to repin your stuff for their followers as well.
Moving Forward, Pins In Hand
It’s time to get on board (ha!) with Pinterest, because it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere any time soon. As Cohen demonstrates8, the site’s user base age demographics echo those of the overall Internet population.
And as CNN points out4 via Elad Gil, Pinterest has tapped into three important web trends: sharing content is becoming easier, social sites are becoming more image-based, and social networks are now being organized by topics of interest, rather than specific networks of people. The beauty of Pinterest is that it capitalizes heavily on all three of these trends – and so should you.
Best of all – any marketing people out there will love this one – all Pinterest activity is completely measurable. You can easily see which of your pins resonate with people by typing “http://pinterest.com/source/yoursitehere/”. Use this feature to test the popularity of, say, new feature ideas or photographers. Jon Reed12 suggests using sites like Reachli (formerly known as Pinerly) or PinReach to track your repins and likes automatically.
Remember that Pinterest is new, so experiment with new tactics as you go. And try not to take any of it too seriously. No doubt the next hot social media trend is just around the corner.
Meteoric change in publishing occurred over the last decade as e-books became both more widespread and more interactive. Many publishers delight over the ever-evolving abilities of e-books, adding more technological bells and whistles to further distinguish e-books from print books in hopes of increasing value-added from a consumer standpoint. While many adults embrace the convenience and adaptability of e-readers and tablets for their reading needs, the ubiquity of screens has given pause to many educators who are now faced with difficult decisions as to how to best implement screen-based technologies into their classrooms. To many teachers who see busy and exasperated parents frequently passing off their iPhones to their children in order to entertain them, more screen time seems to be the last thing their students need. This excess of screen time begs the question — do e-books belong in early elementary school classrooms?
While some recent studies illustrate e-books’ success over print books in their ability to attract young readers and increase their initial interest in reading, other studies reveal e-books result in poorer comprehension, more easily distracted students, and passive reading experiences for emerging readers. Yet other studies demonstrate e-books’ ability increase students’ early reading skills at a faster rate than traditional print books. With such conflicting data, it’s no wonder many schools are hesitant to invest in e-books. This report sifts through these contradicting studies to pinpoint ways in which teachers can use the right e-books to the benefit of their students, and how publishers can use these findings to create better content for e-books for children in early elementary school environments.
In order to clear the air around e-books in early literacy it is imperative to make clear distinctions between the vast varieties of e-books currently on the market. In Lisa Guernsey’s 2011 School Library Journal article “Are Ebooks Any Good?”, Jeremy Bruek, a leading researcher in children’s digital reading research who is developing a rating scale for e-books in regards to their educational value, argues that the name “e-book” is “too broad,” giving little indication to the vast difference between commercially developed enhanced e-books, unenhanced e-books, and enhanced e-books developed for educational purposes. So far in his studies of one hundred children’s e-books, Bruek has found only a few e-books suitable for educational purposes. Later on in this article Ben Bederson, co-director of the International Children’s Digital Library, gives a prime example of the multitudes of unsuitable e-books when he discusses his experience downloading a Toy Story e-book for his five-year-old daughter: “It was 25 percent book and 75 percent movie.”
These types of enhanced (or in this case, over-enhanced) e-books are the focus of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s QuickReport, which found that enhanced e-books were “less effective than the print and basic e-book in supporting the benefits of co-reading because it prompted more non-content related interactions.” (In this study “co-reading” indicates guided reading with an adult or an adult reading to a child. “Non-content related interactions” include displays of interest in the device, rather than the story). The study also found that children reading enhanced e-books “recalled significantly fewer narrative details than children who read the print version of the same story.” While this evidence is fairly damning, the study did find that both enhanced e-books and basic e-books were more enticing to emerging readers than their print counterparts.
The QuickReport demonstrates that while many enhanced e-books should be avoided in literacy-building activities, basic e-books were on par with print books for comprehension and content retention, yet they share enhanced e-books ability to excite emerging readers with a new, fresh reading experience; therefore, using basic e-books in teacher-led reading activities has the potential to marry the best that print and digital have to offer to emerging readers.
With the difference between e-books and enhanced e-books clearly illustrated, one more distinction begs to be made: the difference between commercially developed enhanced e-books and educationally developed enhanced e-books. Bruek worries that many companies running enhanced e-book subscriptions are “… putting money into something that isn’t sound from a pedagogical standpoint.” So what, if anything, makes an enhanced e-book suitable for emerging readers?
The answer to this question comes from a 2009 study by Ofra Korat, Adina Shamir, et al. entitled “Reading electronic and printed books with and without adult instruction: effects on emergent reading.” The researchers in this study examined the effects of enhanced e-book and print book reading on children’s emergent reading skills with and without adult instruction. In the study, 128 Israeli kindergarteners from low socio-economic status families were divided into four groups. The groups were assigned to read an e-book independently (EB), read an e-book with adult instruction (EBI), read a print book with instruction (PBI), or were given the traditional kindergarten curriculum as a control for the study. E-book groups read their e-books while working in pairs on desktop computers, rather than on e-readers. The researchers discovered that: “…the EBI group achieved greater progress in word reading and CAP (concepts about print) than all other groups. The EBI group also achieved greater progress in phonological awareness than the EB and the control groups.” These findings seem to completely contradict the Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s study; however, in their report, the researchers clearly define the type of enhanced e-book they used for the study:
“Emphasis was made on the size and font of the text (big and clear) and on the optimal amount of text which appears on each page. The text was highlighted congruently with the narrator’s reading (at the word level), in order to help children connect between the written and the spoken text and thus promote reading ability and CAP. Clicking on specific words enables listening to the sound of the words at the syllabic and sub-syllabic levels in order to promote the children’s phonological awareness.” (pg. 914)
The educationally developed enhanced e-book clearly attempts to mimic many of the cues and prompts that an adult would initiate in a co-reading environment. It prompts children to interact digitally with the text, but only to make connections or practice chunking words by their syllables in order to sound out full words. While these enhancements are a massive improvement over commercially developed enhanced e-books’ bells and whistles, the report indicates that educational enhanced e-books alone were not enough. Teacher instruction was the key to unlocking enhanced e-books’ potential to increase early literacy skills in emerging readers.
Publishers can take three things from these studies: 1) emerging readers are captivated and excited by digitally displayed books, 2) any enhanced content should be considered from a pedagogical standpoint, 3) e-books should be designed with both e-reader and desktop computer use in-mind.
Nearly all studies of emerging readers and e-books highlight the increased interest young readers have in e-books over print books. Unfortunately, many publishers are currently over-delivering interactive content and distracting young readers as a result. These same readers will still be enthusiastic about e-books with much fewer enhancements, and educators and parents will feel better about incorporating those e-books into co-reading activities. At the end of “Are Ebooks Any Good?” Julie Hume, a reading specialist in University City, Missouri, discusses her success with the online reading program TumbleBooks, a Toronto-based company that enhances commercial print books for educational e-book use. While TumbleBooks e-books do contain some music and animation, their main interactive feature is the option to have to story read aloud with corresponding highlighted text, or to read the story independently. To test out TumbleBooks Hume split her students into two groups: one group received her original curriculum of co-reading in small groups with her guidance and one group used the TumbleBooks program. After three months, the TumbleBooks group scored 23% higher than the group that received her regular instruction. Hume contributes their progress to the “strong model of fluency” that the TumbleBooks narrators provide; however, she also cautions that while these e-books are great for building students’ confidence, they shouldn’t replace print books for fear that students will begin to rely on having books read to them, rather than decoding the text on their own. Given this concern, it would make sense for publishers to develop enhanced e-books that have the option of having their enhancements “locked” in order to revert content back to basic e-book format. This would allow emerging readers who are excited by e-books to practice reading independently, without the temptation to revert back to having the text read to them.
It’s easy to say that publishers should consider e-books from a pedagogical standpoint, but in reality not many publishers have first-hand experience in early childhood education. Luckily, in 2009, Kathleen Roskos, Sarah Widman, and the aforementioned Jeremy Bruek published an investigative report of analytical tools for assessing the quality of e-book design that publishers could use as a guide for developing pedagogically sound enhanced e-books. “Investigating Analytic Tools for e-Book Design in Early Literacy Learning” examines three analytic tools and their capabilities to assess the effectiveness of various e-book designs taken from a sampling of books from multiple easily accessible online resources. While the purpose of the study was to observe which tool gave the researchers the best information about the quality of e-books, rather than to explicitly report what kinds of e-books are best for emerging readers, it does highlight the types of designs and calls to actions the researchers were concerned with. Factors studied included book handling, navigation, multimedia, contiguity, redundancy, coherence, personalization, paths of attention (look-read-search-read vs. look-look-click-read-listen to and look-listen), and comprehension over print processing (i.e. understanding the text over reading independently). Publishers should consider these factors when producing e-books while they wait for a definitive tool to be developed for assessing the quality of enhanced educational e-books.
The last recommendation for publishers – to develop e-books for desktop computers rather than touchscreen devices – at first seems counter-intuitive. The reality is that very few schools can afford tablets and e-readers, but 97% of U.S. classrooms in 2009 had at least one computer. Scholastic’s Kids & Family Reading Report, Fourth Edition notes that while e-reading across a variety of devices is on the rise, in 2012 children reported reading e-books on laptops or desktops at roughly the same rate as those who read on tablets or e-readers. Another way to look at the data is that 41% of children polled are reading e-books on non-touchscreen devices; therefore, publishers specializing in children’s e-books who want their product to be accessible to as many readers as possible should develop e-books that can be used with simple point-and-click enhancements rather than swipes, pinches, or graphics that are activated by tilts in device orientation that will only be useful on a tablet. Coincidentally, removing many of the enhancements created for e-book use on touchscreens also removes the same enhancements that result in distractions and decreases in comprehension and text awareness.
Educators and researchers are key partners for helping publishers develop enhanced e-books that will both delight emerging readers and improve their early literacy skills. The recent studies that pinpointed e-book enhancements’ shortcomings should be heeded by publishers who in turn should scale back on superfluous additions to text in favor of enhancements that support comprehension and retention, and encourage emerging readers to decode text and read independently.
Teachers should embrace basic e-books as a way to engage students in new literacy activities, as well as a way to teach them about developing good reading skills for use in a variety of text formats and circumstances. Educationally developed enhanced e-books should be viewed as an exciting new supplement to early literacy curriculums and should be used in conjunction with traditional print book activities to develop strong independent reading skills. With adult instruction and guidance, e-books can be introduced into classrooms to the benefit of early elementary school students.
ADDITIONAL REPORTS ON TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM:
Though technological change has affected the publishing industry since its inception, many publishers today seem caught off guard by advancements and are struggling to keep up rather than striving for innovation. This, however, does not have to be the case. The shift to digital formats is not a means of alienating those involved in the humanities but rather a significant push towards unifying the arts and technology. Gone are the days of scientists grumbling about the flakey idealism of artists and artists complaining about the staunch conservatism of scientists. Instead we have entered an age of collaboration, unification, and most importantly vast and rapid innovation.
Moving forward in a digital era, it is important not to forget the value of the relationship between the arts and technology. This relationship is a dependent one; technology requires the arts to think in a non-linear fashion while the arts need technology to remain practical in its problem solving approach. That being said, when implementing new technologies in the arts it is important to consider why a technology is being used and how it enhances the audience’s experience. This relates to publishing in that the industry could benefit from a better understanding of and more collaboration with technology. Presently, there is a trend among publishers to convert their materials into electronic formats in a rush to keep up with change. Instead, publishers should consider what technologies are available and how they could be used to identify and expand their audiences, while providing a platform for collaboration and discussion.
By looking outside of their industry, publishers can take a cue from what artists, research centres, and galleries have implemented to encourage collaboration, discussion, and audience participation with their work. Some of these include photographer Andy Adams, who used crowdsourcing to create an online exhibit; the Eyebeam Art and Technology Centre, whose Open(Art) project involves an interactive book that teaches artists about programming through play; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s (SFMOMA)Family app, which enhances the experience of children visiting galleries by encouraging interaction and discussion. Before considering these options, however, it should be noted why it is important to have collaboration between the arts and technology.
As many governments and universities slash funding for the arts in favour of tech industries and programs, leaders in both fields continue to discuss the importance of collaboration among the two. In an interview with The Guardian, John Maeda, the president of the Rhode Island School of Design suggests that, “innovation doesn’t just come from equations […] it comes from a human place.” He continues to indicate that the structure of the economy consists of convergent and divergent thinkers. Convergent thinkers are those who focus and get work done, such as scientists and engineers, while divergent thinkers are those who consider a greater range of possibilities, such as artists and designers. Maeda believes that superior innovation requires a combination of the two. (Lamont) Steve Jobs also understood the value of the combination of arts and technology. He stated, “it’s the marriage of that [technology] plus the humanities and the liberal arts that distinguishes Apple.” (Tessandier) This relevance is important in moving forward and understanding how the arts can keep up in a digital era.
A study conducted by the Canadian Art Funders (CPAF) Network, looked into what technologies were being implemented by creative industries and what could be done to keep up in a digital era. Focusing on art institutions, artists, and publishers, it was decided that the interactive nature of the digital world could prove beneficial in disseminating work to a wider audience and increasing public engagement. Presently, the most prevalent and helpful technology in use is social media. (Poole, 4) Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have the ability to identify and reach an audience, provide a space for art to be made and discussed, and offer tools for organizations to build public awareness. In the CPAF study it is noted that, “social media provides important tools to help artists reach their audiences […] predicated on the assumption that there is no longer a mass market but rather a collection of niche markets.” (Poole, 16)
Reaching a niche market is important when considering the trend towards the long tail in retail. Former WIRED magazine editor-in-chief, Chris Anderson, defined the long tail in relation to culture and economy as, “increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of hits (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve, and moving toward a huge number of riches in the tail.” He continued to state that, “In an era without the constraints of limited shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly targeted goods and services can be as economically viable as mainstream fare.” (Anderson, p.52) Critics of the long tail in online retailing suggest that these niches will generate far less revenue than has been with mainstream items, which reiterates the importance of employing effective social media in promoting products. (Poole, 16)
Publishers could take a cue from the innovative strategies of artists and creative institutions in finding ways to target specific markets and differentiate their products from others. Crowdsourcing is one means, employed successfully by photographer Andy Adams. After being asked by the Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum of Art to produce a series of prints for an upcoming exhibition, he placed an open call for submissions online. Through a general request, his intention was to “crowdsource a visual definition of [the] present-day photographic landscape.” (Adams) Adams selected and curated the images into the exhibition Looking at the Land: 21st Century American Views. His intention was to produce an exhibition that documented how others interpret the American landscape, which gave the exhibition more depth than it would have had, had it been solely his view. His audience for the project included individuals who wanted more time to view the exhibit at their own leisure rather than adhering to gallery visiting hours. As a Result, he used responsive web design so that the exhibit could be viewed on any device in any setting. (Quaglieri)
Looking at the Landscape: 21st Century American Views, flakphoto.com
Another source of innovation is emerging from centres that provide a forum for research in art and technology. One of these spaces is the Eyebeam Art + Technology Centre in New York, which was initiated in 1997 as a non-profit with a mandate to expose a wider audience to technology in the arts. The centre offers fellowships and residencies along with education and public programs. (Eyebeam, About) The Open(Art) program is one of their upcoming projects, which was initiated by Eyebeam and Mozilla to encourage collaboration between art and the web. As part of this program, artist and programmer Toby Schachman is creating an interactive book that makes coding accessible to artists by featuring sections where the reader can interact with code to facilitate the learning process. (Eyebeam, Open(Art))
Focusing on a younger demographic, the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco (SFMOMA) created the Family app after identifying a need among children and their families to have more interaction with the exhibits in the gallery. The app is structured as a game hosted by characters from Roy de Forest’s painting, Country Dog Gentleman. Though the app was created by the SFMOMA, they considered that as exhibits are often changing and families may also be visiting other galleries, it was important to create an app that was not specific to their institution or to a current exhibition. Instead the app uses questions that prompt the audience to move from one space to another and encourages discussion regardless of the setting. (Night Kitchen Interactive)
Country Dog Gentlemen, SFMOMA
From these three examples, it can be noted that there is a strong consideration in the arts about how technology can be used to target and communicate with a specific audience. Rather than struggling to keep up with change, many artists and creative centres look for ways to employ technologies to their advantage. Publishers could take a cue from these individuals when considering what technologies to involve in their publishing programs. Perhaps, like Adams, crowdsourcing could be used to generate content for a collection of short stories, while simultaneously promoting the project online and, similar to the Eyebeam Art + Technology Centre, how-to books could provide an interactive experience for readers. Therefore, moving forward in a digital era, it is essential to remember the value of collaboration between arts and technology and continue to strive for innovation.
Aptara has posted an infographic on how interactive ebooks get built. Interactive eBooks combine mobile and graphic technologies to create reading experiences that go beyond text on the page. Aptara specializes in content production for ebooks and apps.
This presentation is an overview of the different electronic publishing options for books, including a breakdown of which devices support which file formats, and the relative investment of time and money needed to create each of the three main file formats (.pdf, .epub, and .azw).
Multi-format Publishing: So Many Formats, So Little Time