October 5, 2010

A grain of eSalt


Device owner reports he uses it every day...

Device owner reports he uses it every day...

Two surveys from last month provide a rosy picture of the impact of eReaders on literacy. This Harris Interactive survey reports that eReader owners read more after buying their devices. “Over half of people with eReaders (53%) say they read more now than they did 6 months ago compared to 18% of non-eReader users.” Scholastic’s “Kids & Family Reading Report” survey writes that “a third of children age 9-17 say they would read more books for fun if they had access to eBooks on an electronic device.”

This happy “data” quickly proliferated (see Wall Street JournalReuters, Publishers Weekly, The New York Times, etc.) as evidence not only of the eBook’s inevitable domination, but also its positive impact on humanity.

In the spirit of the e-reader “trough of disillusionment,” we would like to venture that the value of these surveys is probably nil. What type of person, after buying a new Kindle or iPad, would admit that they read less than before? What child, when offered a new toy, wouldn’t promise to behave better?

Look, e-readers are very cool and have lots of possibilities. We’re excited too. But in the end, technology isn’t a cure for behavior. When these exercise machines were invented, I bet someone said that one day, no one would ever be fat.