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Portrait of the tablet user

A new study of over 2,500 tablet users in the US (produced by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and Frank N Magid Associates) makes interesting reading.

Tablet ownership explosion

  • 74 million US users have a tablet device – this constitutes a 31% adoption rate (up from 12% in 2011)
  • Adoption rate is expected to hit 47% by Q2 in 2013
  • 58% of tablet users are ‘very satisfied’ with their device

Embedded use

  • 74% of table owners use them every day
  • On average users are spending 13.9 hours with their tablets.
  • 32% are using two screens for 3.1 hours per day.

Main tablet activities

  • 94% cite accessing content/information is their main tablet activity
  • Other key activities include accessing email, news, weather and entertainment content

Paid content and advertising

  • 61% of tablet users have purchased content in the past year.
  • The tablet app market is estimated at $2.6 billion for 2012 (almost doubled figures for 2011)
  • 38% of tablet users have made purchases after seeing tablet advertising

You can access the full report here.

Read more analysis of the report on TheNextWeb

Supermarkets sweep into digital content

Supermarkets are already key players when it comes to selling ‘physical’ books, movies and music.  Now they are increasingly moving into the online entertainment space.  Two news stories this week highlight the digital content strategies of the big supermarkets as they jockey for position in what is a growing market for ‘non-physical’ content.

As part of its strategy to become ‘a key player in the digital entertainment market’, the supermarket Sainsbury has announced it has bought HMV’s stake in the digital book retailer and social network Anobii, meaning it now owns 64% of the business.

Anobii enables its 600,000 users to research and read ebooks on a range of devices.   It is the social media element of the service which Sainsbury believes differentiates Anobii from other ebook retailers such as Amazon and Apple.

Meanwhile, Tesco has announced it is buying the music streaming service We7 which offers personalised online radio services to subscribers.  Tesco already has a stake in the movie/TV streaming service Blinkbox.  It offers streaming services to its Clubcard members, part of a growing trend of offering ‘merged’ physical and digital’ content to customers.

Students – leading the way or falling behind?

Two interesting pieces of research look at how students are interacting with digital information and e-resources.

A recent CourseSmart survey finds that more students are bringing laptops to class than a print textbook.  Only 5% said that a print textbook was the most important item in their bag.  90% of respondents said that the use of digital devices, e-readers etc helps them to save study time.  68% estimate they are saving at least two hours a day by using technology.

On average, students are using three devices per day – and 40% of them claim they can’t go for more than ten minutes without using some form of digital technology.

Easybib, a service which creates citations, has analysed the websites that students use most frequently – and discovered that four of the top ten are user generated sites including YouTube, and Wikipedia.

Easybib has created an infographic (available here) which shows the key role of librarians in helping develop students information literacy skills.  The company will also work with the American Library Association to spread awareness of the importance of digital/information literacy.

UK government – agile and digital by default

The UK has a tradition of excellence in public services.  However, this has not always translated into excellent online services.  The UK government is now pursuing a ‘digital first’ and ‘digital by default’ agenda which aims to design and deliver world class digital public services.

Mike Bracken is the Executive Director for the UK Government’s Digital Service, responsible for delivering ‘customer first’ digital services.  Speaking at the ‘Agenda Setters’ stream of seminars at this year’s Internet World event, he described how a transformed, agile approach to design and development is opening up online government services. is the new single site for government services (replacing  Currently in beta, the site provides simple, clear and fast answers and is designed with external users in mind.  An example of this customer focus can be seen in the contrasting treatment of the same information – in this case about public holidays in the UK.

On, this information is displayed in a table – the information is correct, it is simply not easy on the eye.  The new site answers the key question that most people searching for bank holiday information want answered – When is the next bank holiday?  It is a simple, yet revolutionary approach to delivering truly customer first information.

Key elements and principles of

  • Digital first and digital by design
  • Users first!  The users ‘trump’ the government department(s) in all decisions
  • Digital services NOT websites
  • Less information – much of the ‘marginal’ information currently available on will not be transferred onto Gov.UK
  • Quick tasks and answers – for example, by answering four simple questions you can discover your maternity entitlements
  • Understand the user journey – 90% of users will come into the site via search engines, not via expensive ‘home pages’
  • Devices and mobile  - the content is designed for mobile delivery
  • Agile development – small teams are involved in iterative development.  These are not massive, long term IT projects  This approach means you can ‘fail in increments’ and do something about it
  • Learn from experience
  • Build a trusted network of partners – a contrast with previously strained relationships with large external providers.  Work with world class digital businesses

Today, the government has announced a new advisory board to help drive the next stage of Digital by Default.  Leading figures from academia, industry and retail will help the government deliver its digital transformation agenda.


Wikipedia – spread the love

Wikipedia has announced it is testing a new way of sharing accolades for content.

In a blog post, the organisation outlines how important positive feedback is to contributors and editors.  78% of contributors stated that they are more likely to contribute in the future if others are complimentary about their efforts.

Wikipedia calls the ‘Wikilove’ initiative ‘an experiment in appreciation’.  It simplifies the feedback process and enables users to send barnstars or other (even customised) symbols of appreciation.


International usability and website design

Usability guru Jakob Nielsen shares the findings of usability studies conducted in Australia, China and the UAE.  The tests covered websites, intranets and mobile apps/sites.  His key findings and recommendations include:

  • Headlines and links are REALLY important.  Irrespective of the ‘direction’ of reading (left to right languages/ or right to left), all users focus attention on the first few words.  Interest quickly wanes.
  • Multilingual search is ideal. At the very least make allowances for both British and US English.  Be kind to poor spellers.
  • Everyone needs an internationalised site.  But be aware of local differences.  Australian users favoured a domain.  Arab users were more likely to trust international sites.  Localised sites can be used to target specific, important, regional markets.


Personal archiving for literary greats

How will the literary researchers of the future be able to understand the thought processes of great authors?  With handwritten manuscripts, the authors notations, edits and revisions are captured on the page, which can themselves be captured digitally.  A page of Jane Austen’s mansucript for Persuasion for example, shows how she worked to refine the language and tone of her work.

The sale to the British Library of the archive the poet Wendy Cope included personal items such as school reports and 40,000 emails.  The poet had ‘displayed an archival consciousness’ and her wide ranging and rich archive will be catalogued and made available to researchers.

Meanwhile, BBC Radio 4 this week broadcast Tales from the Digital Archive, featuring an interview with the British Library’s first Curator of Digital Mansuscripts.  The programme explores how technology, far from cutting researchers off from the creative process, can actually become part of the archive itself.  At Emory University in the US, the computers on which Salman Rushdie wrote his bestsellers are held in an archive where they are as valued as highly as any leather-bound hand-written manuscript. 

Perhaps there are career opportunities for information and archive specialists to work alongside great authors and help them to maintain their creative archives!

And as a postscript, the marvellous website Letters of Note publishes a covering letter from 14-year old Stephen King who sent one of his stories for consideration by Spaceman Magazine in 1961.  The story was rejected…

What do students REALLY want?

In an interesting blog post, Stephen Abram considers the findings of a recent (US) research report.  The original research was conducted by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and asked US college students about their format preferences for textbooks.  BISG found that ‘nearly 75% of students…say they prefer textbooks in printed rather than etext form’.  Reasons cited for this preference included the potential resale value of the books and its ‘permanence’.

About 12% of the students surveyed said the prefer etexts to printed texts because of lower cost and portability while 11% preferred to rent textbooks.

Stephen Abram’s interpretation is slightly different.  The survey was conducted before what he terms the ‘explosion’ of affordable tablets and e-readers in the consumer market which will almost certainly impact the uptake and acceptability of etexts.  He also feels that students considered a ‘polarised’ view (either print OR etext) when in fact a hybrid model that combines e-texts with books would be much more likely. 

Abram also states that it is often difficult for people who are surveyed to compare a situation they know (in this case text books) and an ‘imagined future state’.   The e-text space is evolving with textbooks and library research services beginning to integrate.  The space should be watched closely, says Abram.

Readers ready for digital

A new international study by Bain and Company suggests that by 2015 ebooks will represent up to 25% of the global book market and that 15-20% of the global population will own a digital reading device.

The study researched consumers in France, Germany, Japan, Korea, the UK and the US to explore how digital devices were changing reading behavours.

The report suggests that up to 90% of respondents stated they were unwilling to pay for online news, with respondents from France being the least likely to pay.   Those who owned a digital device claimed they were reading more books as a direct result.

Building audiences through digital collections

On 22nd October 2010 listeners to BBC Radio’s History of the World in a 100 Objects series discovered the final item chosen by the Museum’s Director to bring the collection up to date. 

The ‘100 objects’ series has been a multimedia success – a radio programme, an illustrated book of the series, television tie-in programmes including one for children – all supported by web content and podcasting.  A key strength of the programme has been that you can view the items being described online (although in fact such is the power of the spoken word that seeing the images is not always necessary).

The digitisation of collections seeks to broaden access to, and build new audiences for, cultural collections of all kinds.   In the digital space, new and imaginative virtual collections can be created, offering new interpretations and building audience engagement.

This is the key driver behind funded by the European Commission.  One of its latest online exhibitions Reading Europe: European culture through the book, features 1000 rare and fascinating books chosen by the curators of national libraries.  The collection may be browsed by timeline, country of origin, language and subject area.