Saturday, January 29, 2011

Teh Awesome, Teh Distraction

A Picture of a eBook
Image via Wikipedia
Tonight I was at Barnes and Noble contemplating the purchase of a Nook Color. Our family already owns the original Nook; a very popular device in the household. My day job requires reading of reports and other items that are readily available in PDF.
While PDF is a great way to store long documents and publications, it's tough to read exclusively on a computer monitor. 

Electronic book readers are great in the sense that they give you the freedom to step away from the computer. But, why is this a good thing? One reason is that LCD screens and CRT monitors are not easy on the eyes for long periods of time. I say this as I type at the computer, mind you. Additionally, the problem with sitting at the computer is that they are great at running multiple apps while you are trying to read. Therefore, you'll have message notifications galore popping up when you are trying to absorb some really dense material.

While messing around with the Nook Color tonight, I realized that what makes the eReader awesome is also what makes it inadequate for reading books. In practice, you could read a book on the thing. However, given that it has an awesome web browser, can do video, and will later have apps available for download, it will eventually be as distracting as a desktop computer.

The Nook Color is an awesome device; I will not deny that. However, if you are really interested in focusing on reading books and documents, you are probably better off buying a basic Nook or Kindle. It kills me because I really, really like the Nook Color. I also like the iPad. However, when it comes to focusing on getting some reading done; there is something to be said for a dedicated eReader.

As a technical society, I don't think this is our first time at the rodeo. If you recall, computing used to be client-server based. Then, as desktop operating systems got more powerful, people started running apps on their own computers. I think this was partially based on how far we could push things; also, the Internet didn't really have much of a footprint. Now, it's all about cloud computing, which is basically client-server computing again.

I think we have crammed as much as we can into portable devices as we can, for proof of concept. However, in practice, it's inefficient for the human being using the technology. Our devices have no problem with multitasking. Our brains, however, are built to focus on one thing at a time. For this reason, I foresee that some awesome single-purpose devices will see a resurgence just as client-server applications have.

Research shows that we suck at multitasking. It doesn't make business sense to demand it of our employees and business partners if we aim to get the greatest benefit from their work. Therefore, we really should facilitate the use and adoption of technology that forces single-minded focus rather than multitasking.

Otherwise, we save on the purchase of technology and pay on the back end through more wages and longer project times. You spend thousands in wages to save a few hundred in equipment. Where is the sense in that?
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