Yes, cell phones can be distractions in school, at work, and elsewhere, and one solution could be cell phone book clubs that encouraged the young and their parents to associate the phones with ereading and other good stuff.
But at least a partial remedy is already at hand. And that is for people just to swipe down on their Android screens and go into the airplane mode, which cuts off network connections needed for Facebook and the rest. On the latest iPhones, anyway, you can swipe up from the bottom.
Mind you, the existing airplane mode is not a complete solution. I myself would like to be able to easily choose a number of variants, targeted at different sites, different apps and so on. That also seems to be the sentiment of Walt Mossberg, the former Wall Street Journal tech columnist who is now editor at large of Recode and executive editor of The Verge.
In The tyranny of messaging and notifications in The Verge, he tells how all those notifications from social media programs and others can actually make the new forms of communications less efficient in the end than old-fashioned email.
As he sees it, the “big fix” is “probably up to the makers of the operating system platforms. They permit and control the notifications, at the least. They could create more and better user tailoring and learning that could be shared by all messaging services. But the problem, of course, is that the two big mobile OS makers, Apple and Google, are also deeply enmeshed in the messaging wars.” Exactly. If we need laws to force vendors to be more respectful of our time and concentration, whether for work, school other elsewhere, then so be it.
I myself am pretty good at tuning out notifications (with the exceptions of those associated with IMs from TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows or Associate Editor Paul Mackintosh—not a problem, since this goes with the territory of publishing TeleRead). I can still focus on my writing. But not everyone is the same way.
Whether through proactive industry action or law, we need to end the tyranny about which Mossberg so correctly complains.
Related: Some here-and-now solutions from PC World.
I recently wrote about the same subject. My suggestion was that it would be logical to rename Flight Mode into Reading Mode, since most people might use it more often for reading than during a flight. At least I know I do.
I’m a little surprised that you missed what seems, to me, to be the biggest ebook-related angle here, apart from getting interrupted in the middle of them. One of the biggest problems Mossberg had with instant messages is that there are so many different IM clients and networks, and he wishes he could consolidate them all into one place.
How many readers of commercial ebooks have some books purchased here, some purchased there, and wish they could consolidate their libraries under one application? (They can, of course, if they crack the DRM, but that’s illegal.)
At least a lot of IM networks open their APIs so that you can get consolidated multi-messaging apps like Plus IM. Too bad ebook stores don’t do the same, huh?
@Chris: I’m all in favor of your vision if it will work out. But, yes, DRM could be a major hassle even with API possibilities. What’s more, how about the extent of cooperation between stores? Meanwhile I continue to be in favor of either no DRM or social DRM so that the books’ associations with stores matter less than with encryption-based proprietary DRM and you can use a universal reader if you want. I like the idea of stores making money, a “must” to stay sustainable, but they should do so by offering genuine services, such as superior community areas, as opposed to penning in customers with DRM. I realize Amazon doesn’t insist on DRM. But in practice, it might as well (at least in the case of many bestsellers from large houses).
Christian: Alas, not enough people currently associate “phone” with “reading,” so I don’t know if manufacturers would oblige. But I really really like your priorities. Here’s to books!
This goes back to the old push vs. pull. Major media and apps thinks they are helping you by providing notifications. Consumers on the other hand, want to reduce notifications. I would estimate that 90% of the mobile notifications are things I don’t want or need to know (but can’t disable).
As long as consumers insist on cheap or free, the people who actually pay will want their ROI and they will have it by whatever means are necessary. It is an inexorable process.
@Frank: Exactly why I’ve been calling for a library-run Facebook alternative.
… and I thought every device in the world has an OFF BUTTON … where is the problem???
@ebooksinternational: Yes, the “off” button will work fine – if you don’t want to use the same device for reading ebooks.
Airplane mode still works, tho… So does ignoring those notifications, but most people don’t seem to be capable of focusing on ANYTHING these days. Your device isn’t the problem, folks, your brain is!