Words Move Me – Sony adds social networking around reading (but doesn’t seem you can *buy*)– "Words move me" was created by Sony to celebrate the words that move us and to share our reading experiences with others. Connecting with readers around literary moments enables us to express our individuality, share our own stories, and find commonalities with others.
- Sony’s Daily Reader – Kindle Competition: Touchscreen Plus AT&T, for $399 – Includes software to link with local libraries and check out a library-based electronic book. Also has portrait reading mode (showing two pages), touchscreen, and broadband wireless access to add books without a PC.
- IKEA as destination retail, in Beijing – Although the store is designed similarly to Western IKEAs, the meaning and usage has changed. In Beijing, It's a place to rest and eat, more theme park than shopping emporium.
- The lost art of reading: David Ulin on the challenge of focus in an era of distraction – Who do we want to be, she asks, and how do we go about that process of becoming in a world of endless options, distractions, possibilities? These are elementary questions, and for me, they cycle back to reading, to the focus it requires. When I was a kid, maybe 12 or 13, my grandmother used to get mad at me for attending family functions with a book. Back then, if I'd had the language for it, I might have argued that the world within the pages was more compelling than the world without; I was reading both to escape and to be engaged. All these years later, I find myself in a not-dissimilar position, in which reading has become an act of meditation, with all of meditation's attendant difficulty and grace. I sit down. I try to make a place for silence. It's harder than it used to be, but still, I read. (via Putting People First)
Here’s some more articles, projects, websites, and other online ephemera that we’ve come across since we posted part 1.
- A series of humorous videos from Green Apple Books comparing the Kindle to a book
- Books and Browsers (audio link) – Dave Gray (IDEA2008)
The book as a form factor has been around for about 2,000 years, since Julius Caesar first decided to fold up a scroll, accordion-style, and mark the pages for later reference. In 1455, Aldus Manutius was the first to publish the portable paperback, and it has remained relatively unchanged since. XPLANE Founder and Chairman Dave Gray explores several questions about the future of the book and the web browser.
Sony has launched the latest salvo
a sub-$300 touch-screen “Reader Touch Edition” and the $199 “Reader Pocket Edition,” which features a 5-inch display. The company is also lowering prices of ebooks. New releases and best-sellers will all be $9.99, matching Amazon’s price point for the first time.
- NPR Science Friday broadcast exploring Who Owns Your Digital Data?
- NPR on Amazon removing Orwell books
Lynn, you cover books and publishing for NPR, so do you have a Kindle or an e-book Reader?
LYNN NEARY: Actually, I don’t, Linda. In fact, my cubical at NPR and my night table at home are loaded down with good, old-fashioned books because even though I’ve actually seen the Kindle work and I’ve talked to a lot of people who love it, I still can’t imagine reading some of my favorite novels on the Kindle. What about you?
WERTHEIMER: I love it. It’s especially nice for traveling. I really do not leave home without it. But I did have a very peculiar experience with Kindle. I was reading a book and all of a sudden, I was back at the beginning of the book. So I thought I’d punched some button somehow. But no, what I had was a book in two pieces.
- CHART OF THE DAY: Most People Still Have Never Seen A Kindle
Some 40% of North Americans who responded to a Forrester Research survey in Q2 2009 had heard of, but had never seen, an e-reader. Another 17% had never heard of one. But ownership more than doubled year-over-year to 1.5%.
- A short piece from Steve Haber, who developed the Sony Reader
When Eddie Bernays, the father of modern publicity, was asked by a group of book publishers to increase book sales, he said, “Where there are bookshelves, there will be books.” And then he went on to convince architects, construction companies, and interior designers to install bookshelves in new homes. That helped to launch the modern day publishing and selling of books. (thanks to Joshua Treuhaft)
- Cathy Marshall’s publications about reading, interaction, electronic periodicals, and ebooks
Smarter Books – Envisioning the uses & future of print, electronic, & new media books
This site is dedicated to design thinking for re-envisioning books, publishing models, and the cognitive activity we call reading. The many markets and models for books and distribution are changing radically and continuously. We, authors and designers, need to share what we have learned and are doing to recreate the forms, meaning, and thinking of books of all kinds. Sponsored by Redesign Research
- The unbook is a concept originally developed by Jay Cross. The concept evolved based on discussions between Jay and Dave Gray
The Diamond Age is a postcyberpunk novel by Neal Stephenson. The Primer in The Diamond Age is a complex and highly elaborate descendant of today’s hypertext.
Unlike the very static version we are familiar with today, the Primer is fully interactive. It not only offers the reader an open-ended narrative, but it also changes to the reader’s demands, among many other features.
- Vogon Heavy Industries is proud to make the The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy available to Earth Internet users under licence from Megadodo Publications, Ursa Minor.
- Visualization of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book
- Fore-edge painting – Pictures along the page edges, hidden behind gilt
- Exhaustive list of book terminology
- Digital Book 09, a conference put on by IPDF (International Digital Publishing Forum)
- Wholesale eBook Sales Statistics
Starting any project means we inevitably come across any number of articles that pertain to the topic or the themes that emerge from the research and synthesis.
Sometimes we’ll dedicate some time at the beginning to collect articles and summarize ‘em, but more often we’ll just do a quick scan and opportunistically look for issues to inform our recruiting and planning for fieldwork.
Here’s what we’re reading now (and we’ll do a part 2 if and when we find more articles of interest):
- Kindle and the Future of Reading – Nicholson Baker in the New Yorker
- NPR Books: July 7, 2008 – “A challenge for amazon’s Kindle e-reader: how does it stand up to a visit to a pool?”
- Hotels Offering eBooks as Amenities – jk OnTheRun (also this from the same site)
- Amazon Taps Its Inner Apple – Adam L. Penenberg in Fast Company
- Barnes & Noble unveils largest ebookstore
- Some Thoughts on the Anthology – A Working Library
Among the many complaints made about the shift from reading on paper to reading on screen, perhaps the most common—and most difficult to counter—is that we are moving from a medium that requires concentration to one that sows distraction into every syllable. This complaint assumes that the act of flitting from one reading to the next is necessarily inferior; but what if that were not always the case?
- Possible ou probable? – Video of a future scenario for the book itself
- Amazon’s Orwellian deletion of Kindle books- Boing Boing
- Universities Turn to Kindle Sometimes To Save Paper – NYT Green Inc. blog
- Jeff Bezos on NPR’s On Point
- NPR Books: June 26, 2008 – “Chinese fiction writers are using the Internet as a way to reach and entertain their readership”
- Comparison of eBook devices (also here)
- Devices from Wikipedia
Prominent examples include:
• Plastic Logic (2010)
• txtr by the German start-up txtr (to be presented in the Oct 2009 Frankfurt Book Fair)
• Cybook Opus by Bookeen (August 2009)
• Readius foldable eBook reader by Polymer Vision (Will never release due to bankrupt)
• COOL-ER ereader by Interread (2009)
• Digital Reader 1000 SW by iRex (2009)
• Kindle 2 by Amazon (2009)
• Sony Reader PRS-700 by Sony (2009)
• Digital Reader 1000 by iRex (2008)
• Sony Reader PRS-505 by Sony (2007/8)
• Kindle by Amazon (2007)
• Cybook Gen3 by Bookeen (2007)
• Hanlin eReader by Jinke (distributed as “Lbook” in Estonia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine as “BeBook” in Europe; also distributed by Pixelar) (2007)
• Wattpad (2006) for Mobile Java devices and other mobile phones
• Sony Reader PRS-500 by Sony (2006)
• iLiad by iRex (2006)
• Librié by Sony (2004)
- iPhone as eReader – Lexcycle
Lexcycle today announced that more than 2 million users have downloaded Stanza, the popular electronic book reader application for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch, since it was launched one year ago. Stanza’s award-winning reading experience, which features customizable formatting, searching, library management and over-the-air book downloads on demand, has led to more than 12 million book downloads.
These milestones highlight that many people are quite comfortable reading full length books via Stanza on their iPhones and iPod touch.
- Is the iPhone the Ultimate eBook Reader? – ReadWriteWeb
- Why Apple’s iTouch Tablet Will Become Its Flagship Product – Seeking Alpha
We’re very excited here at Portigal Consulting to announce the start of a new self-funded project–Reading Ahead.
In Reading Ahead, we’ll be exploring the evolution of reading and books from a consumer perspective–what it means to be a reader, how artifacts from traditional books to devices like Amazon’s Kindle affect the experience, and what the future might hold for readers, product developers, and beyond.
Over the course of the project, we’ll be blogging both about how we work and what we see and learn.
Steve Portigal (left) and Dan Soltzberg, project kickoff, July 27, 2009
Understanding our client
One of the first steps in any project is figuring out what the project is really about. So the first piece of research we do is often focused on our client.
As we work with our clients to establish the scope and approach of a project, we also interview key stakeholders in their organization to better understand what they know and what they need to know. (This doesn’t always map to what they think they know and what they think they need to know, and it’s important to suss out the differences.) These interviews help us understand the dynamics of the team and the organizational culture.
In this case, we’re our own client, so we sat down and asked each other some fundamental questions
- What is it we want to know that we don’t know now?
- What are we going to do with what we learn?
- What are the people, places, things, behaviors, etc. that we think we want to focus on.
- How broadly or tightly do we want to draw the scope of the exploration (at least at the outset—this can change as the project moves forward). In this case, to what extent might we want to be looking at bigger categories like content, entertainment, free time?
The way we answer these project definition questions will have a huge affect on how the work unfolds. As in most projects, we’ll be looking for the sweet spot that is constrained enough to give the project a clear focus but open enough to leave room for the unexpected.
- Robert Fabricant of frogdesign considers whether understanding users means that design is or isn't persuasive/manipulative – How do we decide what the user really 'wants to achieve'? The fact is that there are a host of different influences that come to bear in any experience. And a host of different needs that drive user behavior. Designers are constantly making judgment calls about which 'needs' we choose to privilege in our designs. In fact, you could argue that this is the central function of design: to sort through the mess of user needs and prioritize the 'right' ones, the most valuable, meaningful…and profitable.
But according to what criteria? These decisions, necessarily, value judgments, no matter how much design research you do. And few designers want to be accountable for these decisions. From that perspective, UCD, starts to seem a bit naive, possibly even a way to avoid accountability for these value judgments.
[Obviously no easy answers here; even defining the terms for the discussion is challenging, but the dialog between Robert and others is provocative]
- Dave Blum, treasure hunt designer, offers 100 treasure hunts around the world – I was always a puzzle and a game kid. I had a friend when I was growing up in Millbrae, Mike Savasta, and he and I were just board game and card game fanatics. Monopoly, Life, Sorry, Stratego.
In college, I played thousands of games of cribbage. I like the intellectual challenge, the analytical challenge. I'm very much a "play-it-by-ear" kind of guy, so I like a game where you have to think on your feet.
After college, I lived in Japan for 3 1/2 years and taught English. Then I spent 11 months traveling through Asia and Europe, and when I came back to San Francisco, I worked in tourism for a while. I said, "I need to find a career that I really love." I thought if I could combine group work, travel, games and puzzles – that would be the ultimate job. I started Dr. Clue in 1995.
- What Does Your Credit-Card Company Know About You? – "In 2002 J. P. Martin, a math-loving executive at Canadian Tire, decided to analyze almost every piece of information his company had collected from credit-card transactions the previous year. His data indicated, for instance, that people who bought cheap, generic automotive oil were much more likely to miss a credit-card payment than someone who got the expensive, name-brand stuff. People who bought carbon-monoxide monitors for their homes or those little felt pads that stop chair legs from scratching the floor almost never missed payments. Anyone who purchased a chrome-skull car accessory or a “Mega Thruster Exhaust System” was pretty likely to miss paying his bill eventually. Why were felt-pad buyers so "upstanding? Because they wanted to protect their belongings, be they hardwood floors or credit scores."
The article goes on to describe how debt collectors build relationships with (rather than harass) debtors, who pay off more to the brands they have a relationship with.
- We Are Now In The Age Of Nice – another Sunday NYT unsubstantiated trend-attempt – That amiable guys and uncomplicated sweethearts could be today’s pop heroes is one sign of an outbreak of niceness across the cultural landscape — an attitude bubbling up in commercials, movies and even, to a degree, the normally not-nice blogosphere.
- Can supposedly-predictive quantitative market research techniques help Hollywood? – Still, is it smart to bring on pricey consultants when corporate overlords are demanding cost cuts? And what of the parade of failed attempts by consumer research firms to break into Hollywood? Few people in the industry can forget Tremor, the research firm that was owned by Procter & Gamble. It came to Hollywood in 2002, signed up with Creative Artists Agency and roped clients like DreamWorks — though its ideas often proved prohibitively expensive.
- Mass Customization of the Fiat 500 – A number of folks we recently met in Europe mentioned this new (although an updated classic) car as being perfect for their needs. The variation and customizing, while perhaps not unique in today's marketplace (I'm imaging the Mini's variability is similar if not beyond) was still striking: "The 500 is available with four different trim levels: Naked, Pop, Lounge, and Sport. Customers can choose also between 15 interior trims, 9 wheel options, 19 decals, and 12 body colours. There are over 500,000 different personalized combinations of the 500 that can be made by adding all kinds of accessories, decals, interior and exterior colours, and trims."
- Searching for Value in Ludicrous Ideas – Allison Arieff writes about "inventor/author/cartoonist/former urban planner Steven M. Johnson" whose "work tends toward the nodes where social issues intersect with design and urban planning issues." I'm reminded of my formative experiences with Al Jaffee features from MAD magazine where he's describe future products or technologies, or explain (fancifully) the workings of some current product (i.e. bars of soap that are made with quick disappearing stuff on the outside and then a small interior core that takes a long long time to dissolve).
- Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt – Suggested to me by René Vendrig at the Amsterdam UX Cocktail Hour, after my talk on looking at cultural differences based on everyday observations. He tells me "It is about traffic, but the real subject is human psychology and how we deal with that kind of situations."
- It's Not TV, It's HBO – HBO's standard-creating slogan, giving words to the premium experience of their programming.
- It's not just coffee, it's Starbucks. – New ad campaign for Starbucks attempts to differentiate on quality, but sounds just a bit familiar.
- All This ChittahChattah | Flying the sneaky skies – (see link for screen grab)
While checking in online for a United Airlines flight, you may be offered the opportunity to upgrade to Economy Plus. It’s likely that most people decline upsells in many situations, though. The default would be to click “no thanks” and move on to completing the transaction. But United has done some tricky and manipulative interface design. The bright yellow arrow with bold text placed on the right is almost irresistible. E-commerce sites have trained us to envision a transaction moving from left to right (granted that they’ve landed on that model since it corresponds to how we read and other cultural factors); it’s very easy to click on the arrow and make a purchase you didn’t want. It takes cognitive work to search for the preferred option which is a lowly blue-underlined unbolded text link off to the left.
- Evil-interface design in airline website design spanked by European Commission – "Another common problem is the use of prechecked boxes offering services like travel insurance; consumers must uncheck the boxes to remove the unwanted charge." I've written before about United's website being slightly more subtle in their evilness, by offering an upgrade during check-in where the highly visible (colored graphic arrow) button in the default location will cost you tons of money; it's more effort to realize, locate, and decline the offer. Why do we live in a world where major brands want to sell us things that we don't want by tricking us? It's unconscionable that any company can claim to respect consumers and then pull crap like this.
- Cyd Harrell of Bolt | Peters reacts to the ludicrous Dell campaign trying to sell computers to women, in 2009 – "…a woman, with the last Dell I will ever own. It’s my current laptop, and I chose it because I needed a computer powerful enough to run screensharing tools and high-res video; I needed mobile broadband to stay in touch with my clients and employees, and not just my kid (heresy!); I needed my screen to look great when I go to meetings with clients. That is to say, I needed it for work. Dell, let’s make it official: you can bite me and the millions of other women who take themselves and their technology seriously."
I love the articulate passion here, as well as the insight into what may have happened organizationally/culturally at Dell (ahem, really crappy research) that leads to such a horrendously offensive sales pitch to HALF of their buying population
Artpiece made of clocks, Chicago MOMA
This list of 10 workplace skills of the future is going around the various ‘Scapes and ‘Spheres (it came to me on Twitter via Chris23). Without getting into whether the list is entirely correct or comprehensive, I think it’s incredibly thought-provoking.
For anyone involved in designing products–especially work environments and tools–it will be crucial to explore people’s daily lives and see what’s really happening: how these types of shifts are manifesting behaviorally and emotionally, and what new opportunities are being created as a result.
10 Workplace Skills of the Future
(From Bob Johansen’s book, Leaders Make the Future. Originally posted by Tessa Finlev in The Future Now blog.)
Excellent responsiveness to other people’s requests for engagement; strong propensity and ability to reach out to others in a network
Seeing a much bigger picture; thinking in terms of higher level systems, bigger networks, longer cycles
Creating content for public modification; the ability to work with massively multiple contributors
The ability to sense, almost intuitively, who would make the best collaborators on a particular task or mission
Fluency in working and trading simultaneously with different hybrid capitals, e.g., natural, intellectual, social, financial, virtual
The ability to do real-time work in very large groups; a talent for coordinating with many people simultaneously; extreme-scale collaboration
Fearless innovation in rapid, iterative cycles; the ability to lower the costs and increase the speed of failure
Knowing how to be persuasive and tell compelling stories in multiple social media spaces (each space requires a different persuasive strategy and technique)
Filtering meaningful info, patterns, and commonalities from the massively-multiple streams of data and advice
The ability to prepare for and handle surprising results and complexity that come with coordination, cooperation and collaboration on extreme scales
Magazine kiosk, San Francisco, 2008
be going the way of these…
Dead pay phone bank, Honolulu Airport, 2008
This Engadget piece on R&D efforts at the New York Times got me thinking about what gets lost as technology changes our physical routines. How gestures like folding up a newspaper and putting it under your arm to walk down the street become obsolete.
How many aspects of our behavior are influenced by the differences between how we consume online and print-based media?
What physical routines would you be sorry to see go away?
(This post originally appeared on Core77)
There’s a strong fascination cum infatuation with semi-secret rules that explain why we do what we do. Even In Treatment uses Gladwell (the form’s biggest popularizer) to forward a common misconception about therapy while creating dramatic tension.
In a recent counter-intuitive example, a study indicates that people ordering from a menu that includes healthy and less-healthy options will feel more free to choose the less-healthy option. The theory isn’t totally clear (perhaps a vicarious “I’ve been good” hit comes from the presence of those other items) and its extensibility to other choice behaviors isn’t at all clear.
And in the “no duh” category, another study that looked at radiologists found that “when a digital photograph was attached to a patient’s file, radiologists provided longer, more meticulous reports. And they said they felt more connected to the patients, whom they seldom meet face to face.” Although I wonder if the folks at the passport office, with their surplus of mortifying headshots, would support this study, it really just makes sense and could be applied to all sorts of intermediated interactions, both asynchronous (i.e., mortgage applications) and synchronous (ie., tech support chat). For further study, does an avatar or a stock photo work as well as photograph? Do other biographical details work as well? And how long does this effect last?
Meanwhile, we’re ready to casually cite the classic marketing/business/social science examples, such as the Add An Egg phenomenon, the Kitty Genovese effect, how a waiter’s tip can decline precipitously based solely on the waiting-time for the bill (citation anyone?) and the Hawthorne Effect.
- Harley-Davidson: You Can File Our Obituary Where The Sun Don't Shine – Passionate and 100% on-brand response to rumblings about Harley not making it through 2009. Seen as full-page ad in today's New York Times and presumably elsewhere
- Very slight story on how and why we use lines from movies in regular conversation – It also turns out that using movie quotes in everyday conversation is akin to telling a joke and a way to form solidarity with others, according to a researcher who has actually studied why we like to cite films in social situations.
"People are doing it to feel good about themselves, to make others laugh, to make themselves laugh," said Richard Harris, a psychology professor at Kansas State University.
Harris decided to ask hundreds of young adults about their film-quoting habits after he and his graduate students realized it was a common behavior that no one had looked at closely before.
He found that all of the participants in his study had used movie quotes in conversation at one point or another. They overwhelmingly cited comedies, followed distantly by dramas and action adventure flicks.
As for horror films, musicals and children's movies, "fuh-get about it." They were hardly ever cited.
When asked about their emotions while quoting films, most people reported feeling happy.
- Paul Graham writes on "Why TV Lost" – Lots of interesting points in Graham's essay, but I found these two, about the underlying media component of many startups, and the temporal aspect of TV-watching especially thought-provoking: "Now would be a good time to start any company that competes with TV networks. That's what a lot of Internet startups are, though they may not have had this as an explicit goal. People only have so many leisure hours a day, and TV is premised on such long sessions (unlike Google, which prides itself on sending users on their way quickly) that anything that takes up their time is competing with it."
- Where does Twitter go from here? – My post on Core77 about how Twitter can think about evolving its overall user experience as it straddles lead users and mass awareness
- Logic+Emotion: Skittles Smackdown, A Sociological Viewpoint – Nice words from David Armano, pulling out something I wrote yesterday about the Skittles/Twitter PR experiement
Every drummer knows, it’s hard to find a place to practice.
Drummer, Highway 9, Santa Cruz mountains
So when I drove by this guy rocking out on the side of the road, I thought, “yes, that makes so much sense.” Plenty of space, no neighbors around to get pissed off at you.
So how come the roadsides aren’t dotted with drummers?
Even though it’s a great solution, it takes a certain degree of chutzpah to go drum in the woods.
Lots of seemingly innovative ideas never take hold. Some of these concepts may be asking customers to “drum in the woods”– to behave in ways that might stick out, feel weird, or refute what they’re comfortable with.
Nicolas Nova further explores why ideas do and don’t take hold in his visually rich Inflated/Deflated Futures presentation.
Earlier this week I spent the day with the design team of a global technology company. I can’t say much more but I can share a couple of photographs from different bathrooms.
The standard soap dispenser has been repurposed for hand lotion. The soap comes from the other kind of standard dispenser, a foot away, next to the sink.
Washing your hands is a fairly unconscious behavior, you assess the space visually and quickly move through the various tasks…so who stops to read the sign that says Hand Lotion? That sign serves more of a “here’s how you messed up, buddy” explanation than as a preventative measure. I had a hard time stopping myself from getting hand lotion when I wanted soap.
We did have a group discussion about observing signs in the environment to identify workarounds and opportunities for improvement and so I was pleased to have an example from their environment to share back. This ended up in the always enjoyable men’s bathroom vs. women’s bathroom comparison…in this office the women’s bathroom includes a dispenser for hand sanitizer (in addition to soap and lotion). Unfortunately I didn’t get in there to take a picture. But, oh, the mode errors!
I was struck by the presumed need for this sign in a different bathroom, explaining what locked and unlocked look like. I had this quick “well that’s dumb” reaction, took the picture, used the facility, and then upon exiting realized that I had failed to lock the door! I’m not sure exactly how I managed to not lock it, since that is another automatic behavior.
In both cases, the signs themselves caught my attention, but I still exhibited the behavior they were trying to prevent (taking lotion instead of soap, leaving the door unlocked).
See also Signs To Override Human Nature, previously.
Given what we’re trying to figure out and plan for here at Portigal Consulting (essentially growth in all the ways one might define that), I enjoyed listening to two brief podcasts about starting and growing (design) consulting firms, one with Chris Fahey and another with Myk Lum. Both are in the category of here’s what I did which is very different than here’s what you should do. That’s not a criticism, of course. Anyone who is has been in similar situations will hear a number of head-nodding-in-recognition moments, and maybe find a few ideas for things to try.