The Future of Reading is Near

June 19 2008 / by juldrich
Category: Business & Work   Year: 2015   Rating: 14 Hot

By Jack Uldrich

Cross-posted from www.jumpthecurve.net

Reading. Most of us do it every day and it is so ingrained from such an early age that it is difficult to imagine that there is another way of doing it. Yet, there is.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to sit down with Adam Gordon, the vice-president of marketing for Live Ink, to discuss his company’s revolutionary new technology—Live Ink.

Before explaining the technology, however, have you ever wondered why we read the way we do? That is, why do we read words in block text – such as you are doing at this very moment.

I am no historical scholar but I suspect the answer goes back thousands of years and it is partly dependent on writers need to make efficient use of limited resources. First, stone tablets; then papyrus and, ultimately, pulp-based paper.

In much the same way that the QWERTY keyboard has become the de facto way we write on computers – even though it has been demonstrated that there are more efficient and faster methods of typing – the same can be said for how we read. But instead of dealing with one hundred years of established tradition – as in the case of QWERTY keyboard – printed text in block form has been around since Johannes Gutenberg printed off his first bible.

In the near future, however, the resistance to this long-held paradigm will begin to fade. I am not suggesting that printed block text will fade away overnight, but a convergence of technologies has now created an environment in which a different method of how we access the written word has been created. (cont.)

Before I go any further let me first invite you to view a visual demonstration of Live Ink’s technology here. In its simpliest form, Live Ink displays text in shorter lines; breaks the text into grammatically meaningful segments; and then indents the text to cue the brain to key phrases within a given sentence.

What immediately appealed to me about Live Ink’s technology was the notion that written text as it was historically formatted was not optimized for the human mind. In other words, while it is true that we can read long line-by-line text that does not imply that it is necessarily the best way for the human eye to operate or for the human mind to comprehend written information.

Until recently there wasn’t much that could be done about this shortcoming. To make books compact and conserve limited resources, it helped to cram as many words onto a page as possible. Today, however, as ever more people access digital information on the Web; from their cellphones; Kindle-like electronic books; and, soon, other flexible electronic media, it will make sense to display information not as “we have always done it,” but rather in a manner that is easiest, fastest and allows us to retain the most information.

Company executives don’t make any claims that their technology improves the rate at which people read; they have, however, documented how their technology dramatically increases reading comprehension rates and eases strain on the eye.

I cannot often say with a strong conviction that I have seen the future; but, in the case of Live Ink, I truly believe I have seen the future of reading. Within months, I fully expect my website – and thousands of others – to begin placing a widget on their site that will allow readers to access written information in a new, faster and more efficient manner.

(For the record, I am in no way involved with or have a financial interest in Live Ink.)

Comment Thread (3 Responses)

  1. That’s fascinating, Jack. It will be interesting to deconstruct and then rebuild many entrenched methods that have been essentially institutionalized to promote growth but have become blunt in a world exploding with web 2.0 tools, R&D, massive computational power and increasing precision. This certainly seems like a step towards intelligence amplification, albeit a very organic one. I agree that we will see widgets for this proliferate across the web. It calls to mind the theory that there are seven learning styles that are characteristic to different people and the inherent flaw in the “one size fits all” mentality.

    Posted by: Jeff Hilford   June 20, 2008
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  2. Interesting idea. I once read a Tony Buzan book that taught me to speed read and this technology takes it to the next level! I’m not sure I like it though – I will become dependent on it and won’t want to go back to reading straight lines!

    Also I’m sure the next phase of improving reading isn’t far behind. One can almost imagine fanning through a book and taking it all in!

    Posted by: StuartDobson   June 23, 2008
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  3. @StuartDobson: I just had lunch with the founder of LiveInk and his ideas for “next-generation” reading were fascinating. He hopes soon to be color-coding words and presenting information in a richer, deeper and more visual (and spatial) format.

    Posted by: juldrich   June 25, 2008
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