Are Tablets and E-Readers Responsible For a Rebirth of Reading?

By Jamie Condliffe on at

According to The Economist, we're entering a new age of digital consumption: Lean Back 2.0. They say tablets and e-readers are to thank, but is it all just hyperbole about hypertext?

In a presentation given by Andrew Rashbass, CEO of The Economist Group, he claimed that the old publishing models of web and print are "irredeemably broken." (I wasn't aware that web publishing was old yet — though admittedly for some publishers it definitely is broken.)

So what the hell does he mean by "Lean Back 2.0"? Simple, really. He points to the fact that the use of tablets and e-readers is growing — at the expense of print and web use — and simultaneously also changing our reading habits. Unlike reading on a laptop, reading on an iPad or Kindle is a leisure activity. Unlike reading a print newspaper or magazine, you can access whatever the hell you like. We're now combining the utility of modern tech with the enjoyment of reading as relaxation.

It kinda makes sense. But don't just take Rashbass's hyperbolic word for it, take some of his (not altogether convincing) figures too. In his presentation, he points out that 42 per cent of tablet users regularly read in-depth articles, and another 40 per cent read them occasionally — which suggests people read more longer items on tablets than on computers. Apparently.

Also, users' eye activity is far more focused on an iPad app than on a website, and many people also claim they find it easier to learn new things and enjoy news more when digesting it via a tablet. Apparently.

But lets cut through some of the crap here. These figures aren't actually being compared directly to anything really useful. And terminology like "Lean Back 2.0" is also horrible, nauseating PR bull shit.

That aside: he has a point. Reading from a tablet is more relaxing than reading at a laptop. Amongst those that I know, e-readers probably are having (some, small) measurable effect on the amount people read. These two facts are very positive.

Maybe you have similar experiences. Maybe you don't. But if some people read some more stuff, that can only be a good thing. Just don't call it Lean Back 2.0. [The Economist via The Verge]

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