Rethink digital reading

Why try to be a print book when you can be smart?

We are three Mobile Creative students at Hyper Island Consuming, digesting and rehearsing information is part of our daily business. We recognized that although we belong to the digital age, we still prefer reading print. If only it wasn’t such a hassle to move an entire bookshelf full of books, when moving or traveling — which we do a lot. We asked ourselves and others, how do we consume books, what do we appreciate and what annoys us the most?

During our research we found interesting patterns and behaviors

Following are the most interesting ones: The thing we expected was that people find it easier to take notes on paper. We watched people using the mark tool on a smart phone and tablet in ibooks. It felt clunky and unnatural.

Writing summaries proves to be essential, especially for those who read to increase their knowledge. “Taking notes helps to absorb information and refresh the memory later. It feels for me like taking out the „golden nuggets“ of a book and build my very own „knowledge bank“.”

The downside of writing notes on paper is to carry around an extra notebook or to lose notes on paper snippets. Also, if you have a few notebooks full of summaries it can take a lot of time to find the particular notes later. Another thing we noticed was that readers changed to the browser window, when they wanted to translate a word or sentence.

We also discovered, that reading on a digital device can be quite intimidating for some. One interviewee even stated, that reading on a digital device feels like swimming in the deep wide ocean with handcuffs wrapped around the wrist. The reason why she feels that way is due to the feeling of control and that her ability to overview is non-existant when reading on a digital device. Furthermore, marking and writing, which she needs a lot, is too complicated to be an enhancement for her. So she would rather read books so she can skim through the pages, go back and forth and look up folded pages whilst keeping the feeling for the reading position with her thumb between two pages.

Even individuals who just read one book at a time find it hard to reconnect to the text after a longer break. For some it even takes up to 20 minutes to get back into the reading flow. Another person wanted to read faster so he tried to borrow a book from a friend to feel more under pressure to read faster.

“Print books feel like holidays”

For many of the readers, print books in general feel more eye-friendly. Some also miss the smell and touch of a print book and would not read on a digital device, they say. The value of a print book was rated higher, especially when receiving one as a gift. Skimming through pages of a printed book seems to give the reader a feeling of control and the ability to maintain an overview.

Some readers use reading on print as a way to disconnect before going to bed. Print books were even connected with the feeling of holidays.

For us there is no winner nor a loser

We believe that both, digital and print, have strong benefits. A digital device doesn’t have the same touch than a printed book. Technically a digital device is way smarter than printed paper. Search, filter, live translate and synchronize are just some examples where a digital device definitely scores where a static print book simply can’t.

Whilst digital reading apps often try to come as close to the look and feel of a print book, they should rather focus on seizing the potential of being a digital device. That’s exactly what we did. We took the app ibook as an example and created a solution that shall enhance the digital reading experience.

Rethink digital reading

Whilst analyzing our research we discovered many patterns. We focused on the ones which showed up the most and asked ourselves: How might we make ibooks more applicable for different reading styles and making summarizing simpler? What would give the reader the feeling of having the overview and control?

Our hypothesis

We believe that if ibooks could provide a way for the reader to feel more control over the book, to be able to document as well as connect to the content, it would become easier and therefore the usage of digital books would increase significantly. This is true when we see our design concept reviewed and discussed remarkably.

Here you can view our solution:

For free: Get the results of our icon user test

THE ITERATION GROUP | Johanna Bülling | Julius Wihlke | Tanja Oberst

If you want to check out what the other mobile creatives at HI Stockholm have been up to check it out here: