March 6, 2012

Are Tablet E-Reader Apps Too Distracting?


Tablet e-readers -- too distracting?

At first glance, the ability to read e-books on smartphones and tablets seems like a triumph of technology. Streamlining the experience by eliminating the need for a specific device, they allow the consumer to consolidate, and to read e-books on the same device they use for email, Facebook, Twitter, and a multitude of games. But that, the New York Times reports, might be their biggest problem.

Many tablet users are finding themselves distracted by the numerous other functions offered by the devices. With email, social media, and entertainment at their fingertips, people are finding that the capability to multitask has made it difficult to focus on reading, amid what the Times describes as a “21st-century cacophony.” Alerts with new messages pop up and divert readers’ attention, or a quick Google search about a term in the text will derail them into surfing the web for another 20 minutes–diversions that don’t occur with a standalone e-reader.

The popularity of tablets in the industry is in decline as well–the Times cites a survey by Forrester Research that shows that only 31 percent of publishers believe devices like the iPad are the ideal medium for reading e-books, compared to 46 percent last year. But James McQuivey, who led the survey for Forrester, says that dedicated e-readers are still likely to be phased out in favor of multifunctional devices, as has been the trend for other technologies: “The historical precedent suggests that’s the case…There’s less and less reason to have these as stand-alone devices.”

Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.