design research posts

Reading Ahead: Research Findings August 28th, 2009
Part 20 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

Reading ahead logo with space above

(Updated to include slideshow with synchronized audio track)

We’re very excited today to be posting our findings from the Reading Ahead research project.

Lots more in the deck below, but here’s the executive summary

  • Books are more than just pages with words and pictures; they are imbued with personal history, future aspirations, and signifiers of identity
  • The unabridged reading experience includes crucial events that take place before and after the elemental moments of eyes-looking-at-words
  • Digital reading privileges access to content while neglecting other essential aspects of this complete reading experience
  • There are opportunities to enhance digital reading by replicating, referencing, and replacing social (and other) aspects of traditional book reading

We sat down yesterday in the office and recorded ourselves delivering these findings, very much the way we would deliver them to one of our clients.

Usually, we deliver findings like these to a client team in a half day session, and there’s lots of dialogue, but we tried to keep it brief here to help you get through it. (The presentation lasts an hour and twenty minutes.)

It’s been a great project, and we’ve really appreciated hearing from people along the way. We welcome further comments and questions, and look forward to continuing the dialogue around this work.

Use the green play arrow at the bottom of the slides to play the show with audio.

(If the slideshow won’t load, check it out here)
To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac)

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Reading Ahead: Building models August 24th, 2009
Part 19 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

Reading ahead logo with space above

We’ve been hard at work synthesizing the Reading Ahead data. There’s a great deal of writing involved in communicating the results, and sometimes it makes sense to develop a visual model that represents a key idea.

Here are several partial models evolving through paper and whiteboard sketches, and finally into digital form.

We’ll be finishing synthesis soon, and publishing our findings on Slideshare, with an audio commentary.

Stay tuned…

Portigal-Consulting_synth5

Portigal-Consulting_synth4

models

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Reading Ahead: Managing recruiting August 18th, 2009
Part 18 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

Reading ahead logo with space above

There’s always something new in every project. Often we encounter a bit of process that we may not know how to best manage it. So we’ll make our best plan and see what happens. We learn as we go and ultimately have a better way for dealing with it next time.

In a regular client project, we write a screener and work with a recruiting company who finds potential research participants, screens them, and schedules them. Every day they email us an updated spreadsheet (or as they call it “grid”) with responses to screener questions, scheduled times, locations, and contact info. It still ends up requiring a significant amount of project management effort on our end, because questions will arise, schedules will shift, people will cancel, client travel must be arranged, etc. etc.

For Reading Ahead, we did all of the recruiting ourselves. Although we’ve done this before, this may be the first time since the rise of social media: we put the word out on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, email to friends, and here on All This ChittahChattah.

While Dan lead the effort, we both used our own networks, and so we got responses in a number of channels, sent to either or both of us, including:

  • @ replies on Twitter
  • direct messages on Twitter
  • Comments on Facebook posts
  • Messages on Facebook
  • Emails (directly to either of us, or forwarded from friends, and friends-of-friends

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A private dialog on Facebook

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Comments on a Facebook status update. Note that Dan is able to jump in and make contact directly

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Direct Messages in Twitter

Some people were potential participants, some were referrers to other potential participants, and some were both. And given the range of platforms we were using, with their associated restrictions (and unclear social protocols), we had to scramble to figure out who could and should communicate with who to follow up and get to the point where we could see if the people in question were right for the study. We didn’t expect this to happen, and eventually Dan’s inbox and/or his Word document were no longer efficient, and as some participants were scheduled or in negotiation to be scheduled, he ended up with this schedule cum worksheet:

schedule

Being split across the two of us and these different media, eventually we were interacting with people for whom we had to check our notes to trace back how we had connected to them, which was great for our sample, since it meant we weren’t seeing a group of people we already knew.

It was further complicated when we had finished our fieldwork and wanted to go back to everyone who offered help close the loop with them, thanking them for help. Technically, and protocol-wise, it took some work (who are the people we need to follow up with? Who follows up with them? What media do they use), basically going through each instance one-by one.

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We haven’t figured out what we’ll do next time; we won’t forget the challenges we’ve had but there’s just not time or need right now to plan for the future. If I had to guess, I’d imagine a Google Spreadsheet that includes where we got people from, who owns the contact, whether they are participant-candidate or referrer, etc.). Despite being very pessimistic about the demands of recruiting, we still underestimated the time and complexity required for this project.

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Reading Ahead: Looking for the story August 17th, 2009
Part 17 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

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I started today by typing up all of the Post-it notes you saw in our recent blog post on Synthesis.

This activity created a 6-page Word document of bullet points.

The next part of the process is something I always find challenging: taking an incredibly detailed list of observations, particpant statements, hypotheses, and ideas; figuring out what the Big Ideas are (there’s a point in the process where many of them seem Big!), and putting those into a form that tells a cogent story.

First step: make a cup of tea.

Ok, then my next steps were:

  • Categorize all those bullet points
  • Synthesize those categories a bit further
  • Write down in as short a paragraph as possible what I would tell someone who asked me, “what did you find out?”

Then I went into PowerPoint, which is what we use when we present findings to our clients. I’ll continue bouncing back and forth between Word and PowerPoint; each piece of software supports a different way of thinking and writing.

I dropped my synthesized categories into a presentation file, sifted all of the bullet points from my Word doc into the new categories, and then started carving and shaping it all so that it started to follow the paragraph I had written. (I’m mixing cooking and sculpting metaphors here.)

I printed out the presentation draft, and laid it out so I could see the whole thing at once.

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Steve came back from a meeting and I asked him to read over what I’d printed out. He started writing notes on my printouts, pulling out what he saw as the biggest of the Big Ideas.

Portigal-Consulting_synth11

We talked about what he’d written, which led to an energetic discussion in which we really started to breathe life into this. Tomorrow, I’ll start the day by iterating the presentation draft based on our conversation.

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Reading Ahead: Secondary Research (part 2) August 14th, 2009
Part 16 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

Reading ahead logo with space above

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
  • Where there are bookshelves, there will be books!

    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
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Reading Ahead: Analysis and Synthesis August 13th, 2009
Part 15 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

Reading ahead logo with space above

Synthesizing field data into well-articulated, data-driven patterns, themes, and opportunities is a big part of our work, but it’s an aspect that generally has less visibility than the fieldwork.

An essential early step in the synthesis process involves going back over the fieldwork sessions. An hour or two-hour interview creates an incredible amount of information. By going back into a record of the interview, we make sure not to leave anything significant behind.

We go through and make notes on interview transcripts (done by an outside service), watch videos of the sessions, and look over photographs, sketches, maps, and participatory design pieces.

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Annotated interview transcript

We made a bulletin board of the people we met, so they’re ever-present while we’re working.

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Yesterday we came together to share the points we’d each pulled out. We present each interview, like a case study, to the team. Sometimes it’s just us, and sometimes our clients join us for part of this process.

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While one of us presented, the other captured the essence onto Post-its. We had a lot of discussion and debate while we did this, pulling together multiple viewpoints.

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When we were done presenting the interviews, the board looked like this:

Portigal-Consulting_synth4w

Our next step is to take these notes and start grouping them. We’ll look at different ways the information can be organized, and from there, will start refining our work and writing it up clearly and succinctly into a report.

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Reading Ahead: Photo Diaries August 12th, 2009
Part 14 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

Reading ahead logo with space above

In addition to our in-person fieldwork, we often ask research participants to do some kind of task on their own. In past projects, these assignments have included a range of activities, from workbooks and journals with specific daily prompts, to fairly open-ended photo diaries.

For Reading Ahead, we asked people to do a short photo diary, and send us five or so digital pictures (before the interview session) that would help us get a sense of how reading fits into their lives.

Diaries like this accomplish several things. They give us access to a person’s world beyond what we might be able to get in just a face-to-face meeting. We’re able to see what they do in more locations, at more different times, and in more situations.

We probably won’t be there to see someone actually reading in bed before they go to sleep at night, but they might well ask a family member to take a picture of it for their photo diary, as Tracy did for this project.

Portigal-Consulting_diary1

Diaries also help us build rapport more quickly with the people we’re meeting, by giving us a common set of stories to begin the conversation with. There’s often a bit of back and forth dialogue between us and the participants during the assignment as well, which helps us establish a relationship.

Having some shared knowledge and possibly interaction prior to the interview means that when we are face-to-face, we can jump right in with that person at a deeper level, which can free up time in the interview session for exploring more areas of the research topic.

When you look at the pictures people sent us for this project, you’ll see that they’ve responded in a variety of ways. Some focused on objects, some took pictures of other people, and some photographed themselves or had other people photograph them. It’s useful to see the different ways people interpret the topic area, and the connections they draw. It helps us understand how each person sees the world, and can point us to additional lines of inquiry.

Below are the photo diaries for Reading Ahead.

Erica

Peter

Tracy

Julie

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Upcoming Speaking Gigs August 12th, 2009

It looks to be a busy time between now and the end of the year, with a lot of exciting opportunities. Some details still TBD; I’ll update with links when we get ‘em. Meanwhile, if you’re going to be at any of these presentations, please let me know!

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Reading Ahead: Participatory Design August 11th, 2009
Part 13 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

Reading ahead logo with space above

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Tracy and her younger son thinking about possibilities for books and reading devices

Our fieldwork sessions often include a piece in which we ask participants to brainstorm and fantasize about the future.

In an earlier post, we talked about the simple models we were building for the Reading Ahead interviews.

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Book and device models for participatory design activity

We wanted to put something in people’s hands to help them show us what the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future” could be and do. (This fieldwork approach borrows from participatory design.)

We’ve had clients come out in the field with us and say after an interview, “That person didn’t give us any ideas,” so it’s important to clarify that we don’t expect this kind of activity to directly produce marketable ideas. Rather, it gives people another mode for expressing themselves, and it’s great for helping them communicate things which may not always be easy to verbalize, like:

  • Their desires
  • What they think should exist
  • What problems they are trying to solve
  • What seems acceptable and what seems outlandish to them
  • Preferences and in what ways they would like something to be different

Portigal-Consulting_PD7
Chris uses the device model to help express his thoughts about navigation

Often for us, the very act of making the props for an activity suggests new ways of using them. In this case, while making a blank cover for the “future book” model, we realized that we could also make a blank inner page spread.

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Holding the “book of the future” model

As it turned out, this meant that when we were done with the sessions, people had created very nice book models for us, with a cover and inner spread.

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Erica’s “telescoping shopping bag” book with digital annotations, hyperlinks, and built-in dictionary

Part of the preparation for each interview session was to get the models ready with new blank paper. Here I am on the trunk of my car, prepping the models before an interview in San Francisco.

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Now that the fieldwork is done, we have a great collection of models made by the people we interviewed.

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Artifacts from participants’ “future book” ideation

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The last section (copied below) of our Topline Summary synthesizes some of what we gleaned from this part of the fieldwork. These are just quick hits; we’ll develop any themes and recommendations that come out of these activities much further in the analysis and synthesis phase of the project.


Excerpt from Topline Summary: Participant ideation about the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future”

NOTE: The first thing a number of the participants said when asked about what the “book of the future” could be and do was that it’s pretty hard to improve on the book-it works very well the way it is. In addition to all the qualities already mentioned, books are

  • Instant on-off

  • Durable
  • But people did have ideas. Here are some of them:

  • Interactive
  • Put yourself in the story
  • Leave the story for more information
  • Choose from alternate endings, versions
  • Size-shifting
  • Able to morph from bigger size for reading to smaller for transporting
  • Retain the book form while adding functionality
  • Book form with replaceable content: a merging of book and device, with a cover, and page-turning but content is not fixed-it can be many different books
  • Books that contain hyperlinks, electronic annotations, multimedia, etc.
  • Privacy
  • Hide what you’re reading from others, hide annotations, hide your personal book list and lend your device to someone (with content for them)
  • Projecting
  • A device that projects words that float above it, so that the reader doesn’t have to hold the device in their hands
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    Reading Ahead: Topline Summary August 10th, 2009
    Part 12 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

    Reading ahead logo with space above

    As soon as possible after concluding fieldwork, we write a Topline Summary, in which we capture our first impressions and the ideas that are top-of-mind from being in the field.

    We’re always careful to be clear about what the Topline is and isn’t. There’s synthesis that happens from the fieldwork experience itself (which the Topline captures), and synthesis that happens from working with the data (which we haven’t done yet).

    In the Topline we go a step further than the field highlights and start to articulate some of the patterns we think are emerging, but these ideas may change once we do a detailed analysis and synthesis of the data we’ve gathered.

    In a client project, we’ll have a discussion with the client team around the Topline Summary. We encourage members of the client team to come out in the field with us, and the Topline discussion is a great opportunity for everyone who did so to share their experiences and tell stories. The Topline discussion is also a good time for our clients to let us know if there are any specific directions they want us to pursue as we analyze and synthesize the data we’ve gathered.

    We’ve now finished our fieldwork for Reading Ahead. We conducted six in-depth interviews, with photo diary and participatory design activities (more in our next few posts about these methods).

    Here’s our Topline Summary:



    Portigal Consulting: Reading Ahead Topline Summary

    1. Reading is not just a solo activity; there are significant social/interpersonal aspects for many people
    • Recommendations, book clubs, lending

    • Books facilitate the interpersonal aspects of reading

    • Can be easily lent or given away
    • Given as gifts
    • People can use a book together: parents and kids, showing someone a passage or illustrations, etc.

    • Reading can be a big part of family life

    • Childhood memories, passing books between generations, reading with one’s own children.

    • Connection between home life and outside world (school)

    1. Reading and Books are not always one and the same
    • Erica buys some books because she likes them as objects. She knows she may not read all of them. “I love books. I almost like books more than reading.”

    • Jeff says if you love to read, you’d like the Kindle. If you love books, you should try it out before you buy one

    • The Kindle facilitates types of reading beyond books: blogs, articles, periodicals

    1. Books do more than carry content
    • Books engage the senses: they are tactile, visual objects, with specific characteristics like smell and weight

    • Become carriers of specific memories

    • Develop a patina that carries meaning
    • An inscribed book becomes a record of an event, interaction, relationship

    • There is an art/collector aspect to books (which is absent in the Kindle)
    • First editions
    • Signed copies
    • Galley proofs
    • Typography
    • Pictures and illustrations
    • Quality of paper, printing, etc.
    • Books say something about a person
    • Others can see what you’re reading; like clothes, etc., this carries meaning
    • “Looking at someone’s bookshelves when you go to their house” (Jeff)
    • When people give books as gifts they are deliberately communicating something about the relationship, the event, themselves, and the recipient

    • Books can create a physical record of someone’s reading activity
    • Chris used to line up all the books he had read to get a sense of accomplishment

    • Annotations, bookmarks, tags all convey the reader’s personal history with that book

    1. Books are easily shared
    • Pass them along to others

    • Donate to library

    • Sell or buy at used book store

    • Borrow from the library rather than purchasing

    1. How books are stored and organized carries meaning
    • Emotion, sense of pride, expression of personality, record of engagement

    • Erica organizes her books by how the content/type of book feels to her: “dusty” classics, modern classics, etc.

    • Julie’s extensive shelves are organized alphabetically to reinforce the idea of library

    1. Libraries and bookstores provide specific experiences
    • As a little girl, Erica visited different libraries with her Mom. This was their daily activity, and Erica retains strong and specific memories

    • Julie and her housemate recreated a library atmosphere in their home

    • A quiet, comfortable space
    • Good lighting
    • Alphabetized bookshelves
    • A unified décor

    • For Jeff and others, spending time browsing in a bookstore represents having leisure time

    1. The Kindle
    • For people whose love of reading is bound up in their love of books, the Kindle loses much of the reading experience; it is only a content carrier

    • Julie has a history of wanting to read on electronic devices as well as from printed books, so to her, the Kindle is a big evolutionary step from her old Palm, the iPhone, etc.

    • For Erica, the Kindle signifies “computer,” so it does not let her “unplug” from the fast-paced connected lifestyle that books provide a refuge from

    • Several people described the kinetics of page-turning as an important aspect of reading books that is absent in the Kindle

    • Books afford ways of navigating content that the Kindle does not: flipping, comparing non-sequential pages, looking at the recipes at the end of each chapter, etc.

    • Peter finds it frustrating that when he buys a Kindle book from Amazon, he can’t share it. When he started working in an environment where people were passing books around, he went back to reading printed books

    1. Participant ideation about the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future”
    • NOTE: The first thing a number of the participants said when asked about what the “book of the future” could be and do was that it’s pretty hard to improve on the book-it works very well the way it is. In addition to all the qualities already mentioned, books are

    • Instant on-off
    • Durable

    • But people did have ideas. Here are some of them:

    • Interactive
    • Put yourself in the story

    • Leave the story for more information
    • Choose from alternate endings, versions

    • Size-shifting

    • Able to morph from bigger size for reading to smaller for transporting

    • Retain the book form while adding functionality

    • Book form with replaceable content: a merging of book and device, with a cover, and page-turning but content is not fixed-it can be many different books

    • Books that contain hyperlinks, electronic annotations, multimedia, etc.
    • Privacy

    • Hide what you’re reading from others, hide annotations, hide your personal book list and lend your device to someone (with content for them)

    • Projecting

    • A device that projects words that float above it, so that the reader doesn’t have to hold the device in their hands

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    Reading Ahead: Fieldwork highlights – Julie August 10th, 2009
    Part 11 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

    Reading ahead logo with space above

    During the fieldwork cycle, we write quick summaries of each interview session and send these immediately to our clients so they can start to circulate stories. At this point in the process we strive to stay descriptive; our goal is just to get stories about the people we’re meeting out to the extended team (us, our direct clients, and their stakeholders).


    Our interview with Julie (not her real name) was the last session in the fieldwork for this project.

    Julie and her housemate have an amazing library in their San Leandro home, with three walls of alphabetized floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. With the bookshelves and quiet ambiance of the space, being in this part of their home feels just like being a library.

    Portigal-Consulting_Julie1

    The whole downstairs of their house has been optimized for reading; they have great lighting, and comfortable sofas big enough for two people to stretch out on simultaneously.

    Portigal-Consulting_Julie2

    Of the six people we met, Julie was the person who most seemed to have integrated printed book and Kindle reading. For Julie, reading a book and reading on the Kindle are both equally positive experiences; in fact, she will sometimes go back and forth between a printed book and the Kindle version of the same book, depending on whether she is at home, traveling, etc.

    While some of the people we met described the Kindle as less-than-satisfying compared to a printed book, Julie has a long history of reading on electronic devices, and finds the Kindle a big step forward.

    In the following clip, Julie talks about how her electronic reading has evolved, from her first Palm Pilot up to her current Kindle 2:

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    Reading Ahead: Fieldwork highlights – Jeff August 10th, 2009
    Part 10 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

    Reading ahead logo with space above

    During the fieldwork cycle, we write quick summaries of each interview session and send these immediately to our clients so they can start to circulate stories. At this point in the process we strive to stay descriptive; our goal is just to get stories about the people we’re meeting out to the extended team (us, our direct clients, and their stakeholders).


    Jeff (not his real name) is in the midst of a big remodeling project at home so we met with him in his Silicon Valley office. He was the second Kindle user we saw in our fieldwork, and had a lot of positive things to say about reading on the device.

    Portigal-Consulting_Jeff1

    Jeff says that he’s not a “flipper” but does tend to be reading 3-4 books at a time, as well as newspapers and blogs. These various pieces of content require differing levels of attention and serve different moods, and Jeff likes that on the Kindle he can have all of this material at his fingertips, especially when he’s doing a lot of traveling.

    Jeff uses his Kindle for not only for personal reading but for work as well, and sometimes publishes documents he needs to read to the Kindle. He and his team have also experimented with using the Kindle as a platform for delivering presentations.

    Portigal-Consulting_Jeff2
    Demonstrating a business presentation on the Kindle

    Jeff says one of the things he feels Amazon has done really well is to develop the “device ecosystem.” Between his job, the remodel, and a household that includes 4 kids and several dogs, cats, and chickens, Jeff is extremely busy, and he likes the ease and efficiency of the book-buying experience the Kindle supports.

    In the following clip, Jeff tells some quick stories about using his Kindle to buy reading materials:

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    Reading Ahead: Fieldwork highlights – Chris August 8th, 2009
    Part 9 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

    Reading ahead logo with space above

    During the fieldwork cycle, we write quick summaries of each interview session and send these immediately to our clients so they can start to circulate stories. At this point in the process we strive to stay descriptive; our goal is just to get stories about the people we’re meeting out to the extended team (us, our direct clients, and their stakeholders).


    Chris (not his real name) is a software engineer in his early thirties. He lives in an apartment in Mountain View with his wife and their small dog. They moved here a couple of months ago, after returning from an extended stay in Europe.

    When they left the US for Europe, the couple got rid of many of their possessions, including their books. Now that they’ve settled in again, Chris says he’s still trying to keep from accumulating too much stuff, and has been buying fewer books and using the library more.

    Reading-Ahead_Chris1

    Chris says he used to focus more than he does now on finishing books as a form of accomplishment. He described how he used to line up the books he had finished in a row, so he could see a physical record of his reading.

    Chris reads a lot of technical books. Since he uses many of these as reference materials, often annotating and bookmarking them, he generally finds it useful to own them in print, rather than borrowing them from the library or using PDF versions.

    Reading-Ahead_Chris-2
    One of Chris’ bookmarked reference books

    Chris showed us the various ways he navigates through printed books, including “flipping” and going back and forth between non-sequential pages.

    In the following clip, he talks about the flexible navigation afforded by printed books:

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    Reading Ahead: Fieldwork highlights – Peter August 7th, 2009
    Part 8 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

    Reading ahead logo with space above

    During the fieldwork cycle, we write quick summaries of each interview session and send these immediately to our clients so they can start to circulate stories. At this point in the process we strive to stay descriptive; our goal is just to get stories about the people we’re meeting out to the extended team (us, our direct clients, and their stakeholders).


    Peter (not his real name), the first Kindle user we’ve interviewed, works in web production. When describing himself, he says,”I like gadgets.”

    Reading-Ahead_Peter1

    We met with him at his home in Vallejo. He describes doing several types of reading: instructional reading to expand his knowledge about topics of interest like photography, fiction as a “form of engagement with a piece of art,” and non-fiction as a way to vicariously experience other places and lifestyles.

    Peter’s had his Kindle for a couple of years. He says when he first got it (as a gift from his partner), it “got him” buying books right away, and he used it almost exclusively for around a year.

    He says serious limitations of the Kindle are that you can’t have two books open at once (if you’re using a reference book, etc.), that it is unable to “capture” the act of flipping through a book looking for a passage, and that it still doesn’t create the same quality of experience as “the whiteness of paper” and crisp black text.

    When I ask Peter if he has any emotions about his Kindle, he calls it “neutral.”

    Reading-Ahead_Peter2

    The biggest frustration for Peter is that he can’t share Kindle books.

    In the clip below, Peter tells the story of how this desire to share led him back to printed books:

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    Reading Ahead: Fieldwork highlights – Erica August 6th, 2009
    Part 7 of 24 in the series Reading Ahead

    Reading ahead logo with space above

    During the fieldwork cycle, we write quick summaries of each interview session and send these immediately to our clients so they can start to circulate stories. At this point in the process we strive to stay descriptive; our goal is just to get stories about the people we’re meeting out to the extended team (us, our direct clients, and their stakeholders).


    Erica (not her real name) is 28 and lives by herself in an apartment in San Francisco. She described growing up without a lot of money but in a house where there were “walls of bookshelves.” When she and her Mom had free days, they would visit different libraries, and Erica still remembers physical details from some of these places.

    She had been planning to open a cookbook store, until the recent economic slump. She’s working now as an office manager at a software startup and regrouping.

    Erica talked about buying certain books just because she likes them as objects: “I love books. I almost like books more than reading.”

    Reading-Ahead_Erica1

    She says that lately she’s really been noticing how “the computer lifestyle has seeped in so deeply,” which she feels is making her attention span shorter. She says that on the computer, “everything is fast,” and that books are a way to “unplug” and slow down.

    Erica has different types of books for different weather, moods, and reading situations. On public transit, she reads books that can be easily stopped and started; something she says is difficult to do with complex works.

    In the clip below, Erica talks about how she organizes her bookshelf by feeling:

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