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'Reading' in the digital environment and the challenges for society, education and libraries

Red de Bibliotecas del Instituto Cervantes (Spain)
Publication Date
  • B. Information Use And Sociology Of Information.
  • Ba. Use And Impact Of Information.
  • Bc. Information In Society.
  • Bd. Information Society.
  • C. Users
  • Literacy And Reading.
  • Ca. Use Studies.
  • Cb. User Studies.
  • Cc. User Categories: Children
  • Young People
  • Social Groups.
  • Cd. User Training
  • Promotion
  • Activities
  • Education.
  • Ce. Literacy.
  • Cf. Reading And Story Telling.
  • Education


This paper is based on a huge, robust evidence-based analysis of what people actually do in the digital space and not what they say they did or wished they did. This is important as most people have problems recalling what they did in the digital space; also, nobody wants to admit, for instance, that they do not spend much time reading. So there is no point asking them, but researchers still persist, and we should be very wary of research based purely on self-report methods. We need a new methodology, a non-intrusive one, to study behaviour in the anonymous and remote virtual space. To this end the CIBER research group obtains its data from the millions of digital footprints people leave behind when visiting a website or using a digital information service, irrespective of what platform they use - mobile, laptop, personal computer, digital television or touch screen information kiosk. CIBER have been collecting and making sense of these footprints for ten years using a methodology specially developed for the purpose, deep log analysis . The group has undertaken deep log studies in the media, education, publishing, health and charity fields and, most recently, in the cultural field (Europeana ). As a consequence, we have amassed an enormous evidence base, which is hard to neglect. As a consequence we now know what the information seeking and reading behaviour of millions of people looks like and the key characteristics are described in this paper. Above all our data points to the fact that behaviour has fundamentally changed as a result of our migration to the virtual space and this includes reading. Although the writing has been on the wall for many years people are still in denial: they are clinging on to the old paradigm, believing that we have been here before (the arrival of printing is often mentioned in this context); but we have not; this revolution is on another scale.

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