What do we talk about when we talk about digital reading?

We have been comparing digital reading to reading in print for a very long time. However, in many discussions, I noticed that people did not tend to differentiate what kind of digital reading was being compared. Digital reading has become an umbrella term that could refer to online reading, reading with ebooks or even listening to audiobooks. I believe it is time to look closer at digital reading and differentiate one type of digital reading from another.


1. Online reading: reading on websites with either computers, laptops, tablets or mobile phones

Personally, I read on websites only for news or articles. I have never finished an entire book with my web browser although I know some people may have done that. For example, I was quite shocked when I found my roommate could finish a very long novel that was published on a fanfiction website.

For me, I found it was very difficult to stay focused when I read on websites. I tend to skim read a lot and become very easy to be distracted by anything going on the websites. Sometimes it could a pop-up ad, sometimes it could be the hyperlinks embedded in the article, sometimes I just automatically start to check my Facebook without even being aware of it. For this reason, I really want to name this type of reading “the open reading” because my mind is still open to all sorts of notifications and distractions in this reading environment.

I am not the only one. A survey found that, on Slate, a daily magazine on the web publishing about politics, business, technology, and culture, most readers scroll to about 50 percent of the article (shown by the graph below).  Well, I did have to admit, I was also one of them.


Cognitive neuroscientists had worried that our online reading habit may have negatively influenced our ability to read in print. That is, when we read in print, we would be less able to process long and complex sentences because we had become so used to read shorter sentences online.

This alerted scientists but some of them believed that there are advantages to both ways of reading and there is potential for a bi-literate brain as long as educators start to train students to read both on screen and in print properly.

I agreed and I think deep reading on screen may be achieved by extra tools such as Hypothes.is. It helped me to slow down and to go back and forth between the paragraphs to figure out the logic connections. Also, with Hypothesis turning on, I would feel like I’m seriously learning so I would consciously control my self from checking Facebook.

Overall, for the purpose of learning, I will rate reading on websites 3 out of 5 but I believe that it could be improved to 4 with training and extra tools.


2. Reading with an ebook reader or a specific app designed for reading

Another popular digital reading is to read with an ebook reader or with a specific app on your phone (such as the Kindle app). Personally, I often use ebook readers or an app to read an entire book. In my opinion, reading with a specific app is similar to reading with an ebook reader. They both require you to take an extra step (to buy an ebook reader or to download an app) to read! Because of this extra step, I will be more serious when I read with an ebook reader or an app.

Most ebook readers had been trying to resemble print books with its display and page-turning function. Comparing to reading on websites, there are generally fewer ads going on but if you are reading with a phone, you are still very likely to be distracted by notifications.

Another feature I like about reading this way is that I can highlight sentences I think are interesting and I will be able to go back to these notes later.

Overall, I would like to rate this type of digital reading 4 out of 5 for its convenience and its capability to hold numerous books at the same time. Despite that, I am still not a keen ebook reader because I had spent way too much time on the screen every day for my school work (and sometimes for Netflix), I am eager to do something without looking at the screen when I want to relax. Therefore, I’m going to tell you about my new hobby–listening to an audiobook!


3. “Reading” audiobooks

Thanks to Moorea and Avvai who highly recommended me to “read” audiobooks, I now had finished 4 audiobooks! They are mostly fictions and mostly fun read for entertainment.

Audiobooks are the best when you want to multitask. Usually, I will listen to an audiobook when I was commuting, doing chores or sometimes designing for Mauve’s class (don’t tell her!). That is, when I do anything that is not text-related, I would be able to listen to an audiobook at the same time.

After listening to several audiobooks, I realized that it could be a good way for ESL students to learn English. For me, I always found it really hard to learn about all of the slangs and informal way to speak because when we learn English in school, it is always based on textbooks with an academic objective (TOFEL, IELTS, SAT, etc). Those exams will never teach you how to talk casually when you just want to chat with your coworkers or friends.

In the past, I tried to watch a lot of TV shows to learn about the slangs but it was exhausting to my eyes. However, with audiobooks, it would be much more comfortable. I think anyone who wants to learn another language should try to listen to the audiobooks in that language.

However, for me, listening to an audiobook is not the best way for deep thinking. For example, if it is for Hannah’s history class, I would definitely not listen to the textbook. For that scenario, I would prefer a print book.

Overall, I would rate audiobook 4.5 out of 5. This is my favourite way of digital reading so far.


In conclusion, I think they are all reading. I would choose the way for reading according to the circumstances or my purpose. If I am jogging, audiobook! If I want to learn about the update on technology-related news, read something online with Medium! If I need to prepare for a test, probably a print book for me. There is definitely no “pure” form of reading. Let’s just READ!

Works cited

Rosenwald, Michael. 2014, April 6. Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say. Washington Post.

Manjoo. Farhad. 2013, June 6. You Won’t Finish This Article: Why people online don’t read to the end. Slate.

 

Innovation not Limitation

In Hannah McGregor’s history of publishing class, we often talked about how new technology doesn’t “kill” old technology, that they can in fact live alongside one another. Spotify exists, so do record players, both are forms of listening to music, both offer different experiences and both are great. There’s this fear with digital reading that the print book will become obsolete, a fear that it will disappear. On top of that there’s this added fear of the new technology. It’s a habit we humans have. When Gutenberg’s print book was “invented” they called it witchcraft and lamented for the handwritten books of the scribes. When the handwritten book was “invented” they mourned the loss of the scroll. When people started writing stories down Socrates said it would melt our brains and we’d never be able to remember anything anymore… that oral storytelling was the way to go. My point is, “reading” (storytelling) is an ever changing form, that all forms past and present count, and no form is more “pure” than the rest. I also argue it’s more important to look at it as storytelling instead of reading and that it’s our thirst for an entertaining narrative that spurs innovation.

When reading online I tend to have a difficult time settling into a longer reading, and am instead used to skimming for pertinent information. Even when I’m interested in what I’m reading, I find myself wanting to skip forward and get to the point. It’s only when I force myself to slow down and focus (hypothes.is helps accomplish this) that I can connect with the longer form of online reading. Then again, it honestly hurts my eyes if I stare at a screen for too long (Digital Eye Strain). This is more about personal preference than anything, and I prefer print if I’m doing long form reading.

Of course, online reading is good for quickly disseminating information. While there has been a rash of fake news, there’s also credible sources (NY Times, Kottke, Shatzkin etc.) out there that are able to produce reliable articles. Plus, even the longer articles are pretty short in the grand scheme of things. There’s also the ability to update information if someone is able to disprove a “fact”, or there’s at least the ability to have a conversation around it (in the comments). Aside from the standard Medium sized article (pun intended), there are micro stories (tweets and tweet threads) or lengthy, novel sized stories (fanfiction). Both have their own tone, and allow for different levels of detail and expression.

Technology doesn’t limit the stories we can tell, it allows us to be even more innovative than before. From Twinscapes to Twitter, humans enjoy sharing narratives and are hungry for them in any form they present themselves. Some forms work better for some people than others for a variety of reasons. Audio books (oral narrative) work better for people who want to multi-task or enjoy the “company” of someone telling them a story. I prefer print books because they don’t strain my eyes and force me to focus more on the narrative. Other people prefer ebooks because they’re cheap and easy. Here’s the best part, you aren’t limited to one form or the other, you can enjoy all forms of narrative as many people do.

For all the Bettys in the world who are afraid of tech…

This weekend I met a mid-40s lady, Betty, who was struggling to upgrade her old 2014 MacBook Pro, despite it having a large crack on her screen, with the newer USB-C powered MacBook Pros. We had an interesting conversation about technology, and in the end, I could not convince her to try new technology. This got me thinking about my own views with digital reading, as I could somewhat empathize with Betty. I’m quite a traditionalist with my reading habits; I just can’t quite get into audiobooks or ebooks. However, to not be a hypocrite with the opinion I shared with Betty, I recognize that I must move forward, that perhaps reading must also move forward to digital technologies and future advances.

The traditionalist in me can’t give up the overall feeling I get from reading print books. It is pure magic; it is unlike anyone experience there is in our lives. Perhaps it’s partly because of the ownership that comes with books, the physical aspect as I’ve learned in Professor Hannah McGregor’s class about the history of “The Book” and the effect of its tangibility, social & cultural value from a physical object. A new study shows that millennials actually prefer print books to ebooks, outlining that there is a strong factor of emotion that comes to play when making an opinion about books. 

While almost everyone expressed a strong attachment to physical books, and no one embraced a fully digital reading experience, older consumers, contrary to what one might expect, saw more advantages than younger consumers to reading with an e-reader. They referenced physical benefits that might not be as relevant to younger consumers, such as the lightweight nature of e-readers and the ability to zoom in on text (Alexis Blue-U, University of Arizona).

To support this idea, I was able to find a popular Reddit thread that outlined many users’ everyday reasons for not liking ebooks: “For some strange reason, I get nauseous when reading from an e-reader.”, “I live in a large city and rely on public transit. It is less likely that I would be mugged for my book than I would be for my kobo, kindle, or iPad.”, “Formatting. With e-books, some pages are just a mess.”, “I like taking my book down to the beach and I’m afraid of getting sand all in its components.” Could there be more traditionalist Bettys than I thought? 

I think I’m more interested in learning about the technology that advances digital reading experiences than the actual technology that currently exists. I understand that ebooks can be more practical and economical for many consumers, but I’m more interested in how we can apply the emotional value from the physicality of a book onto digital reading experiences because I know we can get there. Like AI technology, I believe we can get to a point where man meets machine, which is a scary thought, but I know it is happening. As we lose the traditions from generations before, I wonder if we are able to keep memories and moments of the past and include it in future technology. 

Betty shared with me that one of her greatest reasons for her hesitancy is fear. She fears trying something that’s foreign to her because she’s afraid of forgetting what she already knows. Perhaps this is an inherent fear in all of us, with change, with technological advances, with the future. We can treasure traditional print reading and we can be curious about new digital reading ways. Perhaps there isn’t one greatest form of reading, but the very act of reading is what makes the experience the greatest of all. I hope one day Betty will have the courage and try the new MacBook Pro with touch bar. I’ll start by downloading an ebook for my guilty pleasure reading.

Extra, extra

Discuss how different digital reading experiences are similar or different from one another. What distinguishes each? Are they all forms of reading? Is one more “pure” than the rest?

The other day during a job interview I was asked where I get my media and how I engage with it and I really had to stop and think about it. Part of my answer was that most of the news I read, I read on twitter from seeing an article that has been retweeted and then choosing to click on it and read it in full. What this generally means is that I read the news on my smartphone.

According to NeimanLab’s Laura Owen, there is, well, “bad news” about reading news on mobile. A paper published in 2018 by Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication by Johanna Dunaway, Kathleen Searles, Mingxiao Sui, and Newly Paul argues that attention is not the same for mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, as opposed to attention to news on computers. They conducted an extensive study on web traffic data and used eye tracking in two lab experiments to capture the effects of mobile devices on attention.

Through tracking attention to news links in the following ways: “duration of fixation on links embedded in news stories, number of fixations on embedded news links, and a dichotomous measure of whether participants fixate on links at all,” they determined that on average, people spend less time on news story content on mobile, and are less likely to notice links on their mobile devices in comparison to when they are on their computers. Their overall findings were that people spend less time on news web pages online and that their focus wavers more while on these devices, and so platforms that prioritize delivering our news through mobile (like Twitter) can be harmful since readers are processing less of the information.

It is worth considering how reading on mobile devices can change our reading experience because according to Fortune.com, 85% of U.S adults read their news on a mobile device. That is not even digitally — that is specifically on mobile!

“There is the stereotype that people buried in their smartphones in public places have tiny minds to go along with their tiny screens and tiny attention spans. None of this bodes well for the future of long-form journalism” — Forbes

Interestingly, a study done in 2016 by the Pew Research Center also investigated how much time people on their cellphones spend reading news articles and what kind of routes readers take to get to news websites from their phones. Pew specifically wanted to measure if mobile users are still responding to long-form journalism (so journalism as was originally intended).

This is what Pew found:

What they discovered was that reading time does, in fact, increase with the increase of the word count. On average, cellphone users spend 123 seconds on long-form articles versus 57 seconds on short-form articles.

While Kevin Murnane’s Forbes article “Think People Who Read On Smartphones Have Short Attention Spans? Think Again” seemed optimistic about these stats, I am not sure I share his positive outlook, because those are awfully short times spent on news articles if you compare them to the amount of time each of my classmates spent on each individual article for our readings every week.

I think there are a number of reasons why readers are not spending as much time reading on mobile devices (despite the increase in accessibility to news sources), the first being distractions. I do not have push notifications on my laptop, but I do on my phone. If someone is as much as writing me a message on snapchat, that is visible to me and can immediately grab my attention, leaving me to forget the article.

Most of us skim on both our mobile and our computers, but the space is narrower on smartphones than it is on a computer, which can result in the article length feeling more daunting, thus resulting in an increase in skimming. And my third rationale is that phones do not necessarily utilize tabs in the same way that computers do. My phone has multiple tabs, but only one online tab visible at a time, and so when I go to delete unused tabs I often have over 20 to delete that I had long since forgotten about because a new link route had been opened.

I can see why mobile reading might be a less “pure” form of reading than reading on one’s computer, with print journalism trumping both in terms of providing the best reader experience resulting in the absorption of information. That being said, access is a necessity, and I have easy access to articles on my phone, whereas most newspapers cost money. I also have zero interest in having newspapers pile up and occupy my already cramped living space, and so while I might make the switch to reading more on my computer rather than mobile, newspaper journalism remains an unattractive alternative.

Works Cited:

People read news differently on phones than they do on computers, new study suggests

85% of U.S Adults Read the News on a Mobile Device

Think People Who Read the News on Smartphones Have Short Attention Spans? Think Again

Reflection time

What is a tech course doing in a publishing program? Before this program I would have thought it strange to find such a course in a program that is supposed to be about the book etc. business. Now I can see that the course accompanies it nicely, that books are fish in the tech sea and they’ve got to figure out how to thrive. Technology is ubiquitous in our lives; it became so rapidly integrated into our everyday in a very short period of time that we often don’t think about the implications and consequences of that. This course really forced my eyes open to the world we’re living in and the road we’re going down with tech. With a fair bit of background knowledge from the first semester with John in PUB 800, I went into this course not knowing what to really expect other than going even deeper into the tech realm. Two aspects of the course which I enjoyed the most were the throwback days of the 90s/00s bloggers and the open web, plus the more contemporary possibilities of using data mining and reader analytics for good, while two critiques I have are the digression from publishing and the book world to the much heavier tech world that wasn’t related back to the industry and the lack of incorporating the online discussion into the physical discussion. Through discussing both sets of my takeaways, I intend to address each of the learning objectives, both explicitly and implicitly.

Despite the internet only being roughly 30-years-old, it sure has gone through a lot of changes. As someone who grew up alongside it (literally, we’re almost the same age) it was interesting to also reflect back on the internet’s childhood and to dive into those idealistic views of the web. The web was meant to be an open space with endless possibility, however a Capitalist society cannot sustain something so free. It feels like the story of the Wild West all over again, with people carving out their plots of land on the internet landscape and then corporations came to put everyone in boxes. Now we fall at the whims of our benevolent overlords and hope they don’t take away the things we like (here’s looking at you Tumblr). The Alex Singh’s Twitter thread on feudalism for that week was an interesting metaphor for this. However, this metaphor of the Wild West just takes me back to thinking of the internet as a physical space we each inhabit, that each URL has its own “feeling,” which was articulated in one of my favourite articles of the semester, Frank Chimero’s The Good Room.

After we explored the terrifying might of Facebook, Google, and Amazon in the following weeks and the struggle for artists to make a living off the few sites that are supposed to help them (Patreon), I was definitely not optimistic about tech. Something so powerful can be used for good or evil, but which do you think the mega-data-collecting corporations are going to choose? Well, there are glimmers of hope in ventures like Jellybooks or the studies being done on the structures of stories and how data mining can help the writing instead of hinder it. I stand by the idealistic view I hold in my blog post on the matter. In the end, for better or worse my new understanding of the complexities of the tech world leads to opinions that are no longer indifferent or neutral. I also feel that if new technologies spring up (as they do) and current ones continue to flourish and change I will be able to better interpret and analyze the events and trends that coincide with it.

Onto the (small) critiques. While I understand that the tech world is integrated into the publishing world, and that Google, Amazon, and Facebook effect our industry I just felt that we digressed from the book conversation most of the time. Our thesis is “books and publishing” with a tech lens, and the points we discuss should always be referring back to the main thesis. These topics of course did more for my general knowledge and education (a positive), but I would have liked to have more publishing examples tied more into certain weeks, especially in the discussion. Yes, at least one article (often more) each week was related to our industry, but I found we avoided talking about it in class.

Speaking of class discussion, I did love using Hypothesis and engaging with my peers in an online discussion of each reading. I felt we were really able to flesh out ideas, musings, perspectives and gain more collective knowledge on a reading. It was always a safe space where I didn’t feel like it was high-stakes to develop and express my thoughts and ideas. Now, Hypothesis offered a preliminary round for thoughts on these readings and I would have really liked to expand on them in class. There were ideas my peers brought up in their annotations that I would have loved to dig deeper into. However, it often felt like even if these annotations were brought up in class they were only acknowledged and not developed. It felt like we’d had these rich and interesting conversations online and then when we came to class they felt more like a fever dream or something we were all aware happened… but that was in a different world. The discussion online just felt disjointed from the conversation in class, but I’m happy we had both.

Overall, this was a class that challenged my outlook on technology and its uses and it opened me to the different ways we can interpret and analyze something that is prevalent in our lives. Digital technology is here to stay, and I imagine it will only become more integrated into our lives. With what I’ve learned in this class I know I won’t be able to accept things at face value anymore and feel prepared to assess whatever new tech trend is on the horizon. Now, it’s time to ride into the sunset of the not so Wild West.

Mission Complete…

Like most of the cohort members, I walked in this class at the beginning of the term with an expectation to learn about some actual technology-related skills such as coding. I was surprised to find out that this class was mostly philosophical. Honestly speaking, part of me was relieved because I did not want to learn to code (I just feel that I need to do that because of the trend); part of me was also curious about the big picture topics we were going to discuss. In the end, I did enjoy most of the readings and discussions we had. I would like to elaborate on the objectives listed below.

  1. To whet your appetite for thinking about the role and effects of digital technologies, especially as it relates to the content we consume.

This course has 100% whetted my appetite for thinking about the role and effects of digital technologies. As I mentioned in my first blog, I had terrible experiences with some Chinese social media before, so I was aware of my behaviours on any Chinese social media. However, I did not apply the same degree of consciousness when using Facebook, Google or Amazon. This lack of awareness was probably due to my biased perception of Capitalism. Before this course, I did not actively think about the shortcomings of Capitalism because as an immigrant, I wanted to believe that I am now living in a society with more respect to individual, freedom and transparency. However, during this course, I started to think about the relationship between Capitalism and digital technologies, especially during the week on data privacy and surveillance when Echo and I lead the seminar.

  1. To help you develop a framework to analyze and interpret technology-related events and trends.

This course has helped me to develop a framework to analyze and interpret technology-related events and trends. First, I learnt about where to find the technology-related content. I really like platforms such as Medium, the Guardian, Electric Lit, The Shatzkin Files and etc. I am considering choosing a platform to subscribe after this term so I will still be able to follow the recent technology-related news and trends. Second, I learnt about how to critically think about technology-related controversies and apply it to my personal life. For example, I used to turn on my ad blocker all the time without any second thought, but after we talked about advertising and Internet business models on Week 5, I became aware of the importance of advertising to some websites and started to adjust my use of ad blockers accordingly.

  1. To better understand (but not necessarily fully comprehend) how different technologies work.

This course has helped me to better understand how different technologies work. I appreciated that at the beginning, Juan told us about the origin of the Internet which was maybe a basic knowledge but very helpful. I also like the mini tech lessons on topics such as XML, HTML or DRM. I did have a better understanding but also felt that my knowledge of these different technologies was still very minimal. I wish we could spend more time on elaborating these topics or we could have more readings on how these technologies work and fewer readings on the big picture concerns.

  1. Give you practical experience with three digital publishing tools and formats: blogging (WordPress), wikis (Wikipedia) and annotations (Hypothes.is)

I enjoyed using Hypothes.is. because usually I am not used to talk in class but with Hypothes.is, I am able to participate in discussions and engage in conversations with my cohort members. I really appreciated their input. Also, if someone mentioned something I am interested in, I would be able to keep a record, reflect upon and go back to the topics afterwards. In retrospect, I realized I may have asked too many questions in the annotations, but I was happy when my questions were answered. I also like sharing my thoughts via blogging and reading what my cohort members had written. I like this chance to research, practice my writing and learn something new about my classmates. However, I found that sometimes, it was difficult to keep blogs every week. I was not sure if each blog should be research-based, but for those are research-based, I ended up spending a lot of time on researching and it was especially time-consuming when something else from other classes was also due in the same week.

  1. Allow you to develop and express your own thoughts about various aspects of technology.

As I mentioned previously, I appreciate that I can express my own opinions with Hypothesi.s and blogging. I was very happy to write about my own experiences with Chinese social media in the first two blogs because those were unique experiences that my cohort members may not have. When I read the comments from Avvai and Juan under my second blog, I was very glad that I could contribute something to this class and motivated to keep exploring the cultural differences of technology.

Mission Complete!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, I think this class is definitely inspiring to me. I did learn a lot from every topic and I enjoyed the assigned readings. This course does not only change my perspectives on digital technologies but also affects my views on Capitalism and western societies. This class will end soon but my life will still be full of technologies and I will think about what the class had taught me whenever I encountered any controversy regarding digital technologies.

 

 

Reflecting the reflection- pub 802

I was looking forward to taking PUB 802 when I was reading about the master’s courses on the SFU website. It definitely helped me not only to develop the opinions I had about technology but also to create new opinions on how to deal with technology on a personal and a professional level.

This course has made me really interested in learning about technology.  For example, before I started the course, I wanted to know more about the “tech industry” and how to get into the tech industry after I graduate. Instead, in week two, I saw a whole new point of view on the tech industry. I realized I have been a part of the industry without even noticing. Readings about how the web changes things, especially how there is no Tech Industry anymore in the world we live in. Readings about how the web changes things made me realize that technology is incorporated with almost every action we do

I enjoyed that we all had a chance to lead the class discussion. Because it is not graded directly, it gave me the opportunity to challenge myself by choosing a topic I did not know a lot about without fear of making mistakes. Week 4 and 5, when we learned about Internet Business Models, were the most interesting weeks for me. They opened a new horizon that allowed me to form informed opinions regarding the ongoing problems the publishing industry is facing. They also helped me understand that there are a lot of unexploited business models that can help the publishing industry get better results, and we should not necessarily follow or focus on the dominant business models.

Another aspect of this course that I enjoyed was using Hypothes.is to annotate. Although I was not the kind of user who made a lot of annotations all over the place, I appreciated the fact that I could read others’ annotations. It allowed me to see different perspectives on a single idea. Moreover, it made me aware of how people can look at things in a way that is different than mine.Hypothes.is also made me a better reader because I found myself stopping to think and analyze every time I saw an annotation. I am not going to lie here, sometimes I felt overwhelmed by it. However, overall, when comparing the pros and cons, this tool has been very helpful.

In terms of the weekly blog post, I felt those were a bit too much to be doing every week. They were very challenging for me because writing is not my sweet spot. I tried my best to incorporate the comments I received to new blog posts, but due to the delay in receiving feedback, I was not able to do this as much as I would have liked. As I write this reflection essay, I have received feedback on two of my blog posts and there are three after those two I still did not receive any feedback on. While I definitely understand that Prof. Alpreni was very clear that he was making an effort to get them back to us as fast as possible, I just wanted to clarify that this was challenging for me because I would have liked to receive more comments on how to improve. As a person who likes to work on herself, I will be waiting for the feedback and will be updating the published blogs simply because I want to get better at writing, even after the class is over.

Overall, I enjoyed this class. It was a class where we were all able to work collaboratively every week, which allowed us to develop new opinions about the structure of technology as a whole. Moreover, it allowed us to learn how to interact with different technologies while doing our weekly assignments.

Closing the chapter on PUB 802

Technology for me had been this big encompassing word to describe not only the internet but also the devices we use. While I interact and engage with technology in both a professional and social capacity, I never really questioned the growing role it plays in our lives. Taking Technology & Evolving Forms of Publishing in conjunction with the History of Publishing puts into context how relatively young technology is as an industry. This course has given me the opportunity to think about technology a little more critically through the various learning objectives.

Objective 1: To whet your appetite for thinking about the role and effects of digital technologies, especially as it relates to the content we consume;

Having written a few of my papers for PUB 801 on AI and publishing technologies, I came into the technology course with an interest in learning more concretely the ways which technology is shaping the publishing industry. I had a particular interest in how scholarly publishing is changing as a result of these new technologies. Although these topics were not covered in this course, the mini-lessons were a bit helpful in this regard. I do feel that they would have been more effective had they been a more hands-on exercise rather than a mini-lecture.

Objective 2: To help you develop a framework to analyze and interpret technology-related events and trends;

Having developed a more critical framework of how I interact with technology, I feel more confident engaging with developing technology-related events and trends. Throughout the course, I have been able to see varying perspectives when it comes to technology. When discussing data privacy, I felt like I was able to see the value of data mining through the lens of the company who are choosing to sell their consumer data as well as the consumers. Going forward I am interested in being more learning more about the more “technical” side of publishing. Being able to think more critically about the extent and the ways we use technology would help in being a more responsible member of our society.

Objective 3: To better understand (but not necessarily fully comprehend) how different technologies work; Give you practical experience with three digital publishing tools and formats: blogging (WordPress), wikis (Wikipedia) and annotations (Hypothes.is);

As most of the digital publishing tools we used in this course were things I never really engaged with normally it was a great way to learn about these things worked. While I thought the Wikipedia assignment was interesting, I did come into this course with my own set of biases. The last time I really even looked at wiki pages were in high school and was discouraged from using it as a source as it was not the most credible at the time. It was interesting to know that it does engage in peer review which helped reframe the way I thought about this. I personally enjoyed doing annotations in reading as I would often find it hard to focus on digital readings. Having to annotate did force me to slow down and engage in the readings. Blogging is not something I would normally do so it was a great learning experience. The lack of clear expectations was a little frustrating at first. I also found it to be time-consuming and having to do it for every week meant that I did not really have time to devote on each one nor was I really engaged in all the topics which made having to write a blog post for them even harder. Perhaps having students complete a certain number of blog posts by the end of the semester instead of every week would be more effective.

Objective 4: Allow you to develop and express your own thoughts about various aspects of technology.

The online discussions through Hypothes.is and in class had been a valuable experience in learning more about technology. I thoroughly enjoyed reading my peers comments and insights into the readings. They also provide some valuable resources and we often collaboratively helped to understand larger concepts. The discussions we had in both platforms were helpful in both solidifying some of the thoughts I had regarding technology and at other times put into question my own thinking. This was especially true in our discussions on data privacy, while I came into the discussions being comfortable with being open (to a certain extent) on the web. It was helpful to see my peers stance on this and their logic behind it.

This course has introduced several new concepts and ways about thinking about technology. I feel that I’m better equipped to engage with the technological world more responsibly. As mentioned, going forward I am interested in engaging more with technology. One of the key things I’ve taken away from this course is how technology shouldn’t be seen as being the opposition by replacing the place of humans. It would be more helpful to see them as helpful tools that could improve many processes.

Reflecting on Tech

Before this course began in January, I did not spend much time thinking about the role that the internet has in my life. I did however think that I was thinking about “digital technologies” quite regularly. I complain about the reliance that we have on computers and technology today and feel that progress isn’t always for the better; just because you can do something infinitely faster doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes when things get faster and more automated, it actually creates more work for the people it is supposed to be helping, or leads to the expectation that people can get more work done and operate like machined too. I’ve been there, and the technology burnout is real.

When I think about ‘tech’ I get overwhelmed by the word. Everything is tech now. Making en ebook, making a print book, sending emails, texting friends, social networks, medical devices, voice operated speakers… and of course the list goes on.  What I haven’t really spent any time thinking about specifically is the internet and for that reason I didn’t really know what to expect from this course. I haven’t considered “publishing technologies” to be associated with the internet including new business models, data privacy and copyright, but through our discussions, I learned how the internet plays a central role and connects all of the various publishing technologies together. At a more granular level, here is how I believe I faired at completing the learning objectives for this course:

Consuming Tech

I definitely became fully immersed in critically thinking about tech from the start of this class. On Wednesday’s I would come home to my parter saying,  “You gotta see this! Did you know…..” and I would forward friends some of the readings I thought they would also find interesting. Many of the discussions we had during the semester were about things that I was already aware of, but didn’t take the time to pay attention to or really understand in any meaningful way. Now I seek out more information about the discussions we’ve had.

I tend to think more critically now especially about internet business models. The consequences of big companies having my data are something I consider more deeply now as well, but this course has inspired me to think about the smaller companies too. How do they compete, how can they use the possibilities of tech to make a mark and create a new model that really works? I am more on the lookout now for new initiatives that I would like to support.

Using a Framework for Analysis

I don’t feel like I have specific frameworks to draw upon to analyze  tech and it’s impact now, but I do see things more holistically and that’s the general framework that I draw upon. I was looking at the minute details about tech before without connecting the dots between models and ideas. The class discussions, with many perspectives on the table really helped me see things from many sides. For example, our discussion about copyright and whether or not it should exist really made me think! On one hand I see how it works, but it also really prevents the spread of knowledge that it is there to protect, and if it was gone, there would seemingly be many repercussions! Many of our discussions did not have answers, but they were thought provoking and exciting.

How it Works

I will fondly remember learning about how the web is different than the internet. I thought I had a pretty thorough understanding about how the internet works but I was wrong! Now I can have much more in-depth discussions about the internet and how it’s all connected.

I know that we only scratched the surface of many other technologies such as xml markup and html but I do feel that I can now converse with people who deal with code a little bit better. This is very important since many of us will go on to work at small companies where we will need to understand the languages of our colleagues, even if we’re not in the same roles or departments. This applies to how Mauve has been teaching the cohort to use the elements and principles of design to really talk about design in a meaningful way and get our ideas across effectively.

I would have liked to dive into a further discussion on how AI and machine learning works. It was a mini lesson in the schedule but I don’t think we really got to it. Someone asked a question at tech forum about when a publisher should start using AI. the panel responded with, “Right now, and start feeding your AI data!”  To that I thought, how? Where does one even start? I think a further discussion on this would be a great addition to the syllabus.

Digital Publishing Tools

WordPress
As someone who really struggles to write, a course where all assignments are written including weekly blog posts was incredibly taxing. I completely understand the use of the blog posts and do think it’s great that we have learned to write in a way that can be read by the public and understood without any prior knowledge of our conversations. This is a great skill so our opinions and ideas can get out in the world in a sharable, cohesive and public way, but it was definitely difficult. Some of the questions felt too big to even begin to answer in the space and time allotted, which made the expectation of a short blog post hard to grapple with. Having four slightly longer and in dept posts throughout the term may be a solution to this so we could dive into the responses more. The requirement of doing one every week alongside annotating 6-10+ readings made it seem like they shouldn’t take more that three to four hours, but I ended up agonizing over it for quite a bit longer.

I can also officially say that I am now typing directly into WordPress rather that using Microsoft Word. I think I have a bit of an inherent distrust of the internet, but this course has warmed me up to a few things which will serve me well as I move through our technology driven world!

Wikipedia
The Wikipedia assignment was actually quite interesting and upon posting it, I felt great that I had contributed to public knowledge and now people can go to the article and learn more about hybrid publishing. I now know that if a page doesn’t exist and I think it should, I have the ability to simply create it! The scope of the project however didn’t quite line up with the percentage value attributed to it. I know that it is now an extra credit piece, but for the research, writing and editing involved, it feels like it should be worth a bit more to make students more keen to really put the effort in. I also understand however, that having many smaller things due that are more equally weighted takes a lot of pressure off for some.

Hypothesis
In the Hypothesis survey I submitted, I definitely sang the praises of the tool. It helped me gain a deeper understanding of the content and I loved getting more perspectives from my peers, which often would end up changing my opinions about a subject. I however really do prefer off-screen time and prefer reading on paper. This would have allowed me to take readings with me on transit or to sit offline at a cafe or park bench. To me those little breaks of connectivity really help my experience as a student. As per my introduction about tech, you can see how I’m not fully on board with making every part of my education experience online!

Developing my Own Perspective

As I mentioned above, I think this course has made technology seem a bit more friendly. With an inherent distrust and dislike of technology and the way it seems to be taking over, I started to see some of the really great things that it does, as well as some examples where people are trying to combat some of the more unsavoury aspects of the online world. An example of this was our discussion surrounding platform cooperativism – giving power, ownership and autonomy to all those involved within an online business. It is really important to know what’s going on and analyze the trends in technology in order to see what exactly is problematic and in turn, see new areas of opportunity. When I mentioned a holistic analysis above, I think that’s what has helped shape my own perspectives on technology the most, because now I can see what’s happening with a less biased lens. From there, I can then form an educated opinion around what’s happening. Having this ability will make it easier for me going forward to not simply by into whatever a big tech giant tells me to do, but question if there’s another option or if there’s anything I can do about it.

In Conclusion

This class reminded me a lot of Text and Context with John last semester. This style of seminar discussion is my favourite type of class because it really helps open up the floor for an engaging discussion that gets everyone involved rather than an idea coming from one source. I learned a lot from this course and have book marked most of the readings so I can keep going back to them!

I will no longer make the mistake of thinking that the internet is somehow separate from “publishing technologies”, and the word tech it is starting to feel a bit more friendly after we unpacked some of the issues that we face today and discussed them openly.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Looking…Around

At the outset of PUB 802 I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I have been pleasantly surprised at the way the course has encouraged me to reflect on the role that technology plays in my life and how I relate to technology. Technology and Web 2.0 are so ubiquitous in my life, and has been for so long—I realized over the course of this semester how complacent I had become with how it functions and even the lack of awareness that I had related to a lot of things that go on behind the scenes. This has played out in regards to each of the course objectives.

Appetite: Whetted

This course has encouraged me to think more critically about how interact with and consume content in a digital environment. I’ve reflected on my reading habits; for instance, last week’s reading on Being a Better Digital Reader  has made me more aware of the obstacles we face trying to engage deeply with content online, which has had the twofold effect of alleviating some of my anxiety/guilt regarding sometimes feeling like I’m not full absorbing online content, and also allowing me to consciously employ strategies to absorb content online in a more meaningful way.

Hey, I See what You’re Doing over There

This course has also educated me on the function that data serves in the Web 2.0  economy. I was aware of this in a vague sense before coming to PUB 802, but I had no idea how extensive and pervasive of an issue this really was. Reading this Twitter thread about Google and this article about Facebook really brought into focus the surveillance economy. I feel like, now that I know more, I can make conscious decisions about how I’m using technology in my life, and, when I am offering up my personal data as currency in exchange for a service or product, I can make a more informed decision and weigh the cost against the value of the service.

A Peak Behind the Techno Curtain 

My technological knowledge was very use-based before coming to this course; I understood how programs worked from a user’s perspective, but I really had no idea what was going on behind the scenes. It was so interesting for me to learn about the origins of the Internet and how information travels. Specifically, I appreciated acronyms like IP, HTTP, and CSS being demystified. I like understanding what’s going on around me, and when it comes to something as ubiquitous as the Internet, I really appreciate things being made a little more transparent.

I Do, Therefore I Am

The Wikipedia assignment, admittedly, was not a favourite of the 2018/19 MPub cohort. That being said, I’m happy to have completed the training module. It’s empowering to feel like I’m equipped to contribute to public knowledge production projects like Wikipedia, and I also enjoyed the WordPress work that we had to do. I think it’s good in a course like this that there is a hands-on aspect to the learning, because I think technology really lends itself to learning this way.

I also really appreciated working with Hypothes.is. All throughout this year, in PUB 800 and 802, it was a great tool for our cohort to make meaning out of the readings, and also build community among us. Even when serious knowledge production wasn’t necessarily happening in those margins, it helped bring us together as a group, and it was also a fun GIF testing ground.

Wrapping Up

Prior to coming to 801, my relationship to technology was quiet passive—things were what they were, and I didn’t necessarily spend much time or energy thinking about how technology functioned in my life or how it affected me, I think partially because I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it. After having completed this course, however, I do feel more engaged, informed, and empowered when it comes to thinking critically about technology in our society. Thank you for an interesting course, and have a good summer!

 

 

I Object! A Pub 802 Reflection

I walked into PUB 802 feeling very excited and fascinated by the course syllabus, partly because I’m a rookie tech lover and constantly surround myself with social media and new tech forms. I soon realized that the class would be centered around thinking about technology with a critically analytic lens. I have never been in a seminar like this, or even felt challenged to think about technology in an academic way, so I felt very inspired to alter my thinking and learn further about the technology that consumes our everyday lives! To critically reflect on my experience in this course, I will address my attitudes towards each learning objectives from our course syllabus. 


Objective 1: To whet your appetite for thinking about the role and effects of digital technologies, especially as it relates to the content we consume.

I felt most drawn to the articles from Week 7: data privacy, Lynn Neary’s article “Publishers’ Dilemma: Judge A Book By Its Data Or Trust The Editor’s Gut?[Week 9: Measuring & Tracking], and the text from Frank Chimero, “The Good Room” [Week 3: The Internet changes everything]. These articles and our class discussions during these weeks definitely challenged me to further my thinking and spiral down a rabbit hole of research and additional relative news articles. Technology is not just a fancy shining thing that needs our everyday attention; in fact, I’ve learned specifically from those weeks that perhaps we desperately need technology for our society to evolve and continue growing. Technology has thoroughly integrated into our lives; could it be for the better? I don’t believe we can go backward toward a time without tech now.

Objective 2: To help you develop a framework to analyze and interpret technology-related events and trends

I feel that I’m quite up to date to popular news on technology while discovering them by the trusted Twitter; but with those stories, I read it, hear it, and go on with my day. However, this class has given me the opportunity to dive into the technology-related events and really question it’s deeper context and reasoning. Specifically, with the Facebook scandal, many of my close family/ friends vowed to never use Facebook again, and I started feeling a little hesitant towards social media. However, after reading Cory Doctorow’s “Deleting Facebook is not enough: without antitrust, the company will be our lives’ “operating system” [from Week 7: Data Privacy], I realized that if we don’t discuss and think critically about these issues, then it is a form of ignorance and avoidance to the problem. I learned that perhaps technology is not the real problem, but the problem is how creators/users interact and make bad decisions with technology.

Objective 3: To better understand (but not necessarily fully comprehend) how different technologies work

I felt like one of the biggest missed opportunities in this class is that we didn’t learn how to code. I think it’s a fundamental learning objective that should have been included within the course schedule, as it’s an important and growing skill that could be beneficial to our relationship with technology/ publishing. I truly appreciate the mini-tech lessons, especially the first lesson we had that helped us understand how the web works (with the cool web drawing Juan made). I understand that learning how to code within 30 mins sounds impossible, but I wonder if we could have devoted a class to it. 3 hours seems reasonable? I often felt a little lost during the mini tech lessons as they were huge concepts squished into a slim 20 min time slot. Could workshops break up the discussion heavy component to this course? I think it would help us feel more motivated and on track with the course. It’s hard to be in a technology course and always talk, just talk, and not feel like we are interacting with tech more beyond using the basic publishing tools.

Objective 4: Give you practical experience with three digital publishing tools and formats: blogging (WordPress), wikis (Wikipedia) and annotations (hypothes.is)

I felt very comfortable with using WordPress before I came into this course, having run a small lifestyle blog site before. I also completed the exact same Wiki assignment in my undergrad English literature class, so I was familiar with the site and the weekly tasks. I particularly liked being provoked to annotate via hypothes.is as it kept me motivated to complete the readings and contribute to my class’ online discussion. I liked how it became a space for me to communicate with my cohort and further discuss how we each felt about the readings. I think hypothes.is is a powerful tool that can invoke better online reading, and with a couple more enhancements (better @ system or reply/comment area, or a better way to include photos and GIFS!), it can be game-changing.

Objective 5: Allow you to develop and express your own thoughts about various aspects of technology

I really liked each blog prompt, despite some taking more time from me to ponder and outline. I like feeling like I have a space to explore my thoughts, even if they are incomplete, incoherent ones. One of my biggest fears with sharing anything is the fear of failure or rejection, so knowing that I am sharing my opinion with my peers who do not judge me, but rather push me to think harder is really motivating and new for me. I particularly liked the task of reading everyone’s blog post and posting a comment during my lecture week. It inserted me into a position of having to challenge attitudes and ideas, despite initially agreeing to them and wanting to move on as I always do. One of my favourite things about this is seeing a thread going on in the comments in hypothes.is ! The digital party is always bumping! 


Overall, this class has opened my eyes to technology, to not simply read what I see and live in ignorance about it. Group discourse is important about tech issues because we can better understand and find ways to live a balanced life with technology (hence, the birth of recharge). I’m excited to learn about new technologies that come and interact with them the same way I did during this course, if not better and deeper.

Audiobooks are my JAM*

 

In case you couldn’t tell from the title and the GIF, I love audiobooks. I love reading and I love performance, so an audiobook is the marriage of those two things into a consumable media that I just devour. Also, they are so handy to read when you’re traveling, doing chores, or cooking. Traveling is a particular draw for me, as the audiobooks I listen to are housed online or on my phone, which means I don’t have to carry any extra weight with me when I travel.  Besides all this, I think they are just super neat! Seriously, of the fifteen non-school related books I’ve read in 2019, eleven have been audiobooks.

But there is phrasing around audiobooks that really bothers me, and it is that, supposedly, when one listens to audiobooks they aren’t ‘real’ reading.

Okay, I say after a deep, calming breath, I’ll bite. What are the reasons that audiobooks aren’t ‘real’ reading? 

““I was a fan of audiobooks, but I always viewed them as cheating,” says Beth Rogowsky, an associate professor of education at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania” in Markham Heid’s article Are Audiobooks As Good For You As Reading? Here’s What Experts Say.

Rogwsky went on to conduct an experiment in 2016 where she had students read the same section of a book on an e-reader and in audiobook. She found that the retention of information from the reading was the same in both formats, although she did say that that might have been because e-books have been shown to sometimes have a smaller retention rate than physical books (Heid, Are Audiobooks). However, we know that this is not necessarily the truth, thanks to Maria Konnikova’s article Being a Better Online Reader where Konnikova finds that difficulties with retention in reading have more to do with distractions than to do with the physical format (Konnikova, Being).

The most compelling evidence that audiobook reading is not ‘real’ reading, in my opinion, is that the spatial and physical aspects of reading a physical book are lost, leading to poorer retention of material (Heid). However, those issues also exist in e-book reading, and I haven’t heard many arguments that ebook reading is not ‘real’ reading, just that you need to read it differently (Konnikova).

Audiobooks have immense benefits that should not be undermined by negative connotations. They can help children who struggle with reading, as we read about in Linda Flanagan’s article, but they can also help readers with disabilities, like dyslexia and blindness. By writing audiobooks off as cheating, people are also writing off those who benefit from audiobooks as less than as well. Also, people get the story the same way whether it be through physical, audio, or e-book.

Different people learn in different ways– for example, I’m a kinetic learner, (with my audio and visual learning coming in second and third, respectively) which means I learn things best when I’m moving. Audiobooks stimulate this for me, as I can move when I’m listening.

In my opinion, audiobooks are just as much of a reading experience as reading a physical or e-book. By saying otherwise, people might forget the ways in which audiobooks excel where the other formats do not.

*seriously, I don’t listen to music anymore HELP ME

Work Cited

Flanagan, Linda. 2016. How Audiobooks Can Help Kids Who Struggle with Reading. KQED

Heid, Markham. Are Audiobooks As Good For You As Reading? Here’s What Experts Say. Time. September 06, 2018. Accessed April 02, 2019.

Konnikova, Maria. 2014, July 16. Being a Better Online Reader. New Yorker.

Time to Say Goodbye: A Review of PUB802

Before taking this class, not only did I not think critically about anything involving the digital technology in my day-to-day life, but I didn’t have the vocabulary to talk about anything tech-related in a serious way. Now, at the end of the semester, I can hold my own in a casual conversation about technology-related events and trends, drawing on the various lenses through which we looked at the digital technologies to do so.

Objective One
This class has definitely whet my appetite for thinking about the role and effects of digital technologies, and how they relate to the content I consume. Learning about the Web versus the Internet in our first class immediately captured my interest. In the future, I’m curious to learn more about some subjects than others—as a fan and frequent remixer, I’m still very interested in learning about copyright as laws continue to change—whereas I have less interest in online business models. In short, my eyes have been opened with regards to critically thinking about technology and the tech industry; the way the Web has evolved over time, the way we think of data collection and privacy versus what’s being collected and how that data is used, the dangers of using only one business model both on and offline, and the web as a space as it pertains to design were all of special interest to me.

Objective Two
As I said in my first blog post, this course has provided me a vocabulary and framework to analyze and talk about technology-related concepts, events and trends. I’ve become much more cognizant of how I interact with technology in the digital spaces I frequent, and now have the framework to be critical of them. I can analyze any platform through multiple lenses: business model and data privacy, measuring and tracking user behaviour, design as an integral part of the online experience, etc. As such, I’ve been able to develop my own thoughts regarding various aspects of technology—especially concerning the issue of data privacy, and user measuring and tracking. After reading and discussing in class, I’ve managed to better understand what my comfort level with regards to these things are, and why I feel the way I do.

Objective Three
While I have a very good grasp of copyright law, XML, various online business models (subscriptions services, the Patreon model, advertising, etc.), and how the Internet works, I wish we had learned more about how to implement a lot of the technologies we talked about, such as spending time learning to code. That being said, I definitely understand how the technologies we covered work, and can implement this knowledge in my future endeavors. My knowledge of metadata comes to mind, here; knowing how it works as well as its function permits me to understand why it’s important and how it can be better used to help publishers in the future.

Objective Four
After completing all required blog posts, annotating all the readings, and posting my Wikipedia assignment, I can confident say that I have experience with all three of these digital publishing tools. I really enjoyed annotating all the readings—I feel that they helped me grasp the material, and the sense of community created within the annotations was a welcome addition to the class, and provided further learning opportunities through links, explanations, and anecdotes. I’ll continue to use them. I found the blog posts to be extremely difficult to keep up with—they were very time consuming and the expectation for the assignment was unclear until later in the semester, which I found frustrating. That being said, I think I’ve hit my stride with regards to the assignment objectives and requirements; I’m linking, tagging, and adding gifs to my posts and have balanced the narrative reflection with information and analysis.

I’m very happy the Wikipedia assignment was optional; the weekly blog posts and annotations are a lot of work by themselves, but combined with that assignment and my other classes, the class workload was impossible to keep up with. It was still very difficult—I wish there had been fewer blog posts with longer word counts, and that they had been presented as mini-essays or articles.

All told, this class provided me with a solid framework to understand, use and analyze various digital technologies, and I’ve come out of it better equipped to be critical of the online world.

A Publisher’s Dream

The publishing industry has been through many big changes in, especially with the rise in popularity of ebooks and buying books from Amazon. Customer data a very useful tool in the publishing industry. If I were a publisher, data about reader’s data would be the most effective data for the company.

Gathering readers’ data especially their behavior and interactions with the book and knowing what readers find engaging and what they do not can help us as publishers unlock previously hidden assets within our publishing lists. We have seen a lot of books that got rejected at first because the publisher did not think it would sell but later ended up on the bestseller list. This can happen when there is not enough data for the publisher to make an informed decision. Therefore, the reader’s insights can help publishers understand their readers better and thus make better new editions of books and improve the quality of the books taking user input into account. User data can give us more information about which authors and genres we should invest more time in. It also helps in gaining market insights by acknowledging which types of books are running out of steam; if there is any problem with a book itself, the reader’s data will help us identify exactly where it is. By knowing where and when they stopped and continued reading  It will give us opportunities to make a decision regarding the publishing content. This can help paint a detailed picture, allowing publishers to predict future book purchases and forecast sales and predict bestseller list–every publisher’s dream!

The main concern we have as publishers is getting customers’ data without breaching their privacy. As I always mention, transparency is the key. We should be very clear with our customers on how we are tracking and collecting their data. This model will allow us to retain customers and attract new ones. . Even if, as a publisher, we are not collecting the data ourselves and we receive it from another party (what we see in most cases in the publishing world), we should not resell or share any private information.

Collecting data is crucial for business survival, yet there is no clear way to implement it without breaching anyone’s privacy. Taking into consideration how recent the use of data in business models, it seems we are in the trial and error phase. Companies are trying to use data in many different ways, some are failing and others are succeeding. I think that the next phase will allow businesses to collect data in an easy manner while being honest with the customer. But for now, as publishers, we should take the initiative to be transparent with users by giving them the option to provide their data or refuse to do so.

Yes, I want DATA!

I always want to have my own publishing company someday in the future. A small-scale, independent children’s book publisher will do. Hopefully based in Vancouver. My plan is to publish children’ picture books in Chinese and sell them to Chinese parents living in Canada.

When I dream about this publisher, I found a lot of obstacles that would drag me back into reality. I asked myself: How many Chinese immigrants have young children at home in Canada? What are their book-purchasing habits? Will they buy books in English or Chinese for their kids? Will they order books online and have the books shipped directly from China?

I know nothing about them. How am I supposed to sell books to them without knowing them?  Now, imagine if I had access to any data in the world, that will be great!

First, I want to learn about the population of Chinese communities in Canada. I want to find out how many Chinese parents are there in Canada and how many of them have child(ren) 3-10 years old. In addition, I also want to find out where they are mostly living. Are there more of them in Vancouver or Toronto? Which city do they prefer to live in? I would like to use this information because I want to know if I should start the publisher in Vancouver or Toronto or maybe other cities in Canada.

Second, I would like to explore their economic status. What kind of jobs are they doing? Do they have enough savings to support the education of their children? Will they be willing to spend money on children’s books or just borrow them from local libraries? For example, a survey among English readers has found that half of the picture book “purchases” made by the parents were either second-hand (34%) or came from the library (11%). Will the trend be similar within the Chinese community?

Third, I would like to learn about their psychographics. What do the parents want their children to learn from books? What kind of children’s books do they want to buy for their kid? Are they aware of how important reading is for young children? Do they care if the kids read in English or Chinese? This will help me to find the gap in the market.

To get the information without violating anyone’s privacy, I agree with my cohort member Moorea that “a layer of anonymity is needed”. I would only collect the data from anonymous parents who are willing to enter our database. I would not force anyone to join our survey or secretly collect their preferences, neither will I be aware of their personal information such as name, date of birth, home address or private contact information.

Data is important to any business. For me, I want to use the information to decide if I am going to have this publisher. If the data shows that only few parents is interested in encouraging kids to read in Chinese, then I might not start this publisher or I might adopt another strategy.

Data will help me to position myself. Do I want to publish for younger kids (3-5 years old) or do I want to publish for older kids or even teenagers? Data will tell.  Data will also help me to get my first capitals. It is the evidence to support my business plan and convince any potential investors or to successfully receive grants.

Yes…I can think of millions of benefits to my (future) business if I can get access to any data in the world. However, I am also aware that part of the privacy will be sacrificed in exchange for the benefits. If I collect and analyze the data to satisfy readers/customers’ needs (and make just enough money for me to support myself), will the end justify the means?

A dream: a world where our information is protected and truly private

While there is data that can predict the next blockbuster hits, as shared from Stephen Phillips’ “Can Big Data Find the Next Blockbuster Hit“, I believe that the most useful information a publisher can obtain is from the author and his/her readership credentials to prove that the author is worthy of being published. It’s sad that the amount of likes or follower count is how we qualify how worthy an author’s work is to be published, but I believe this is what the future of publishing is moving towards. Many publishers look at an author’s previous publishing experiences, or if an author has previous entertainment success to use as a security blanket, as a means to promise success and high profit from a project. For example, it’s been very popular to look at the social media account information from prospective poets, as most “Instapoets” are now published based off of viral posts from their poetry. I think this is how most celebrities become authors too. It’s so risky for publishers to publish works, as most ideas don’t really make money. I understand that not most publishers publish just for monetary value, but for the large-house publishing companies, I don’t see it any other way. It’s as if this data acts as the closest publishers can bet to a promised return on a project. 

While I’m not too familiar with the types of data there are for publishers to use in their favour, I’m particularly interested in Apple’s announcement this week with the launch of Apple News+, a brand new subscription service that offers human-curated news to the user. One of the most impressive perks is that Apple promises to keep the user’s reading habits private, from Apple and advertisers. Apple shared that “publishers will be paid based on how many people read… data will be collected in such a way that it won’t know who read what, just what total time is spent on different stories.” I’m interested in exploring this flip in the question, that what if readership data is restricted from publishers? How would it impact the productivity of the publisher, or alternate the decision-making process of what gets published? This is a huge stab at Google and Facebook, who are notoriously known for selling our data to brands, most often without our permission. I think this is a great step for Apple as a brand, but I wonder if this makes many advertisers pull out from working with Apple, or publishers nervous that they will be weakened from not accessing primitive data. I respect Apple as a company because it continuously sought to differentiate itself from companies like Google and Facebook by emphasizing on privacy standards. I admire that Apple focuses on being consumer-friendly, so I wonder what this could mean for publishers. I think if a publisher can be like this, it would gain even more appreciation and support from readers. It’s a strong way to increase branding value, by making the reader feel like they are respected and don’t have to fear for an invasion of privacy. However, if publishers don’t depend on readership data, then how can they strive for blockbuster hits? Can it be taken as just a game of chance or the gut feeling? How successful can this be? I guess time will tell, but given this powerful initiative from a big-time corporation like Apple, I hope that other companies can follow this as an example. 

PS: There was Oprah at the #AppleEvent so Apple is sooooo winning!