The production effect is the memory advantage of saying words aloud over simply reading them silently. It has been hypothesised that this advantage stems from production featuring distinctive information that stands out at study relative to reading silently. MacLeod (2011) (I said, you said: The production effect gets personal. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18, 1197–1202. doi:10.3758/s13423-011-0168-8) found superior memory for reading aloud oneself vs. hearing another person read aloud, which suggests that motor information (speaking), self-referential information (i.e., “I said it”), or both contribute to the production effect. In the present experiment, we dissociated the influence on memory of these two components by including a study condition in which participants heard themselves read words aloud (recorded earlier) – a first for production effect research – along with the more typical study conditions of reading aloud, hearing someone else speak, and reading silently. There was a gradient of memory across these four conditions, with hearing oneself lying between speaking and hearing someone else speak. These results imply that oral production is beneficial because it entails two distinctive components: a motor (speech) act and a unique, self-referential auditory input.
Khoi Vinh is not down with the new Kindle Oasis:
The Kindle’s surprisingly resilient upward trajectory—the company insists that the Kindle line is still a source of revenue growth, even in the face of smartphone and tablet ubiquity—is a reminder that “good design” is hardly universal. When it comes to digital products, people value things that work well more than they value things that look good. Apparently working really well is good enough for this audience—Kindle users love their Kindles. It doesn’t much matter, I guess, that my stomach goes queasy and my eyes start to bleed every time I try to read anything in a Kindle.
I haven’t owned or used a Kindle since the first generation model, but I do use the iOS app on my iPhone and iPad. My #1 complaint? The Kindle app still paginates books without the ability to continuous scroll (as if every book were a huge, single page a la Kerouac’s On the Road scroll).
Pagination is an artificial construct that doesn’t make sense when reading on touchscreen devices.
We may now have a new “most unread best seller of all time.”
Data from Amazon Kindles suggests that that honor may go to Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” which reached No. 1 on the best-seller list this year. Jordan Ellenberg, a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Piketty’s book seems to eclipse its rivals in losing readers: All five of the passages that readers on Kindle have highlighted most are in the first 26 pages of a tome that runs 685 pages.
The rush to purchase Piketty’s book suggested that Americans must have wanted to understand inequality. The apparent rush to put it down suggests that, well, we’re human.
—Nicholas Kristof, An Idiot’s Guide to Inequality
I’m guilty of going a step farther: I acquire tons of e-books with the intention of reading them, but takes years for me to get around to reading them (if ever).
Last week, Amazon updated it’s Kindle app for iOS. For the iPad, the new update is a case study in poor design. From the update blurb in the app store:
Improved reading experience on iPad: Smaller margins and a cleaner look help you focus on the author’s words.
When I first saw this in the blurb, I was immediately suspicious. It’s hard to overstate the importance of healthy margins and whitespace in good design. Generally, it’s also one of the earlier casualties when good design meets project managers and clients who aren’t designers. But I updated the app anyway. Upon opening, I saw what had been a decent treatment of margins had been destroyed by the redesign:
The image on the left is a screen capture from an iPad without the update installed (I’m a developer, I have more than one iPad. How first world of me.). The image on the right is with the update installed.
The smaller margins do indeed help a user focus on the words. In fact, that’s all a user can focus on. What Amazon has done is create a solid mass of text that has no breathing room. It’s claustrophobic. It’s stressed.
It’s like standing three feet in front of a brick wall and pretending you’re appreciating the architecture of a building.
The words are the most important aspect of a book. That’s intuitive. But, presentation is very important. Having ample margins helps the eye flow over the text and makes it easier to move from one line to the next while reading. Making the margins smaller in the app hinders the ease with which the eye can move over the page, making the book harder to read, not easier. Also, it’s just ugly.
There is also a usability gap that was created with the update. Previously, the app’s toolbar overlays would not interfere with the text on the page. Some people like to read with the toolbar visible. I’m not among them, but I respect that. After the update, keeping the toolbar visible is no longer a workable option:
Also, the new toolbar design has none of the nuance of the previous version. It’s black, bold, and in a user’s face. Even if it didn’t cover up text, the look and feel of the new toolbar is a downgrade.
The Kindle app in the iPad has been a conundrum ever since I began to use the device, simply because the presentation has always been suspect. The options for reading have been limited in ways I could never understand.