After Hours

Steve Jobs: "People don't read anymore"

In our continuing efforts to poke the hornet's nest, we bring you this quote from Steve Jobs in response to Amazon's new Kindle ebook reader: "It doesn't matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don't read anymore."

In our continuing efforts to poke the hornet's nest, we bring you this quote from Steve Jobs in response to Amazon's new Kindle ebook reader:

"It doesn't matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don't read anymore."

Now, there is some basis for a general decline in readership, at least in the United States, but that's a long way from "people don't read." So, what's really up with Steve? Can't get a decent design for an iPod style e-reader? Can't figure out how to put ebooks in iTunes? Or are we just hatin' on the competition?

What's your take?

(Lifted directly from our betters at SFSignal.)

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

115 comments
Absolutely
Absolutely

99% of people don't understand Statistics, and darn near 0% recall everything they've read over the past year, in an impromptu interview. I just think he doesn't see it as a major factor in the computing industry. It's not a statistical subtlety, just an order-of-magnitude plausibility argument. He could have cited the time necessary to read a book, but that would not have suited his minimalist tastes. [i]One of the remarkable qualities that Mr. Jobs has is his ability to continue looking forward and not focus on the past. For its Apple TV set-top box, ?Take Two? is a great example of the computer impresario?s ability to recast an anemic first effort with great fanfare. Apple not only cut the price of the box from $299 to $229, it entirely revamped the user interface to a simple text display that is stark even by Mr. Jobs?s Spartan aesthetic.[/i]

n_johnson
n_johnson

Yes, it's true that there are many people who read very little, but Jobs obviously hasn't heard of BookCrossing, where people register books online and then either pass them on to other BookCrossers or read and "release" them. As of 9:58 this morning, BookCrossing has 634,273 members around the world, who have registered 4,515,755 books. Would he think that these people just leave books around for other people to find without ever reading them?

justchange
justchange

From my email archives - 1999 Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device (BOOK)... BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use, even a child can operate it. Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere, even sitting in an armchair by the fire. Yet, it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM. Here's how it works: BOOK is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom-fit device called a binder which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence. Opaque Paper Technology allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting costs. Experts are divided on the prospects for further increases in information density. For now, BOOKS with more information simply use more pages. Each sheet is scanned optically, registering information directly into your brain. A flick of the finger takes you to the next sheet. BOOK never crashes or requires rebooting, though, like other devices, it can become damaged if coffee is spilled on it and it becomes unusable if dropped too many times on a hard surface. The "Browse" feature allows you to move instantly to any sheet, and move forward or backward as you wish. Many come with an "Index" feature, which pinpoints the exact location of any selected information for instant retrieval. An optional "Bookmark" accessory allows you to open BOOK to the exact place you left it in a previous session, even if the BOOK has been closed. Bookmarks fit universal design standards; thus, a single Bookmark can be used in BOOKs by various manufacturers. Conversely, numerous BOOK markers can be used in a single BOOK if the user wants to store numerous views at once. The number is limited only by the number of pages in the BOOK. You can also make personal notes next to BOOK text entries with optional programming tools, Portable Erasable Nib Cryptic Intercommunication Language Styli (PENCILS). Portable, durable, and affordable, BOOK is being hailed as a precursor of a new entertainment wave. BOOK's appeal seems so certain that thousands of content creators have committed to the platform and investors are reportedly flocking to invest. Look for a flood of new titles soon.

jhhymas
jhhymas

He doesn't know everything! Even those sheep are indivudals. It is stupid to say things about "people" as a single category.

An Expat in France
An Expat in France

Why would you expect less from someone who's paid to be the chief advocate for the company's products/services? But remember: Just because he says it's so, doesn't mean it's so...

Qthqrz
Qthqrz

I think we just got a pre-view into the major feature in his next OS, just icons. Who needs word processing anyway. ;)

zzinkmetairie
zzinkmetairie

I hate Apple and it's enlightened, elite, retarded users.

microwavedave
microwavedave

Its all just speculation. I dont know the context for Steves statement. If it indeed does have to do with the Kindle, perhaps he should pay attention to user reviews as to why it isn't as popular as it could be. Then there is the idea that we probably read more now than we ever did. The average person now has much more to be informed about. We have multiple electronics that have to be learned about,how best to utilize all of their functionality Having to manage our own retirement accounts. All of the various credit options for all of the various purchases or leases that we make. Keeping current within our professions. Just using a computer with all of the programs and applications available and determining which programs and apps are best to use as well as learning about all of the peripherals and how best to use them can all take an enormous amount of time and reading. Even just learning about our vehichles is way more complicated than ever before. I think we read more than ever before, its just that we are reading more out necessity and less for enjoyment. Just about everything in our lives has become more complicated to use. Once mastered, we can save some time to a certain extent, for example. If I use a computer I can now compose and send multiple letters in a fraction of the time as handwriting and mailing... or even typing, and its easier to read e-mails than to gather, open and read a letter. But then thats still reading, isnt it.

gabrielbear
gabrielbear

google would be surprised to hear that people don't read. in a couple of years google will probably be surpirsed if apple still exists as other than a media company.

mlleeder
mlleeder

Apparently, he hasn't set foot in a bookstore lately - probably too busy contemplating his own virtual navel. Readership may be down as media options become more plentiful and diverse, but reading isn't dead (or dying).

sheila.chisholm@kay-son.com
sheila.chisholm@kay-son.com

Unfortunately reading books are in decline, but I tend to put the blame on the parent, schools, etc. You cannot blame the computers, games or TV. I think that parents should schedule 'reading time' and not 'TV' time or in the case of older children "computer time'. In a society where we tend to do everything in 'mult-tasking mode', you need the slow down of reading a book to settle your mind and spirit, especially children and young adults as they are being raised that fast pace is the norm. Sitting by a fireplace, book in hand, quiet background is the best way to relax and unwind. Maybe Mom and Dad need to get the "books" out.....instead of using TV and Computers as babysitters!

Dave - The Network Mule
Dave - The Network Mule

This pretty much proves to me that Steve Jobs is a flake. Oh sure, his company puts out some neat little gadgets but so does General Electric.

Mr. Tinker
Mr. Tinker

I (while not a "S.Jobs" fan) beleive he is partially right. It just depends on what interests people enough TO read. I'm a voracious reader myself, but only for what I consider worthwhile reading. We have become a society of Internet-learners/readers due to the consistant availability of information through the Internet as opposed to traditionaly accpeted institutions. It takes far longer for any new (or old) information to be distributed through paper & books compared to the Internet, with anyone being able to publish their work (or trash) via the Internet for next to nothing.

nightwatch
nightwatch

WHERE'S THE BEEF? ... I mean DATA. Where is the proof? Has anyone done a study? If this is true, why are there huge bookstores like Borders and others? I know it is an election year, but you can't make baseless claims unless you are running for office (and then everyone ignores you).

tikigawd
tikigawd

How else could he introduce a product that constrains you to the point that you have to send it back to the mothership once the battery dies, and still get people to argue that's a good feature? Not to mention all sorts of other constrictive features like ridiculous over-pricing, limit to one network, no ethernet ports, just the one USB port, some other port no one uses, no optical drives, etc etc etc. But, hey, it's the thinnest thing ever!! And look how puuuurty it is!! Super-Jobs sounds like Bush. He seems to surround himself with people who kiss his feet and can't wait to inhale his farts, and that makes him believe they're a representation of everyone in the world.

nilibrary
nilibrary

I can't imagine not reading, either to myself or to my grandchildren. Both favorite activities.

formbot
formbot

He may have said more, but the full quote from the original aricle is: "It doesn't matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don't read anymore,"? he said. "Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don't read anymore." He starts and finishes by saying people don't read but what he says is a long way off from that. Mr. Jobs is prone to the sweeping generalization, to be certain, and it seems he hasn't finished the math. According to his statement, 60% of the American population read two books or more a year. Maybe, in his view, an e-Reader is a non-starter product for Apple. But if the iTouch ever gets a good reader installed on it, I just might buy one. If he truly believes people don't read, he should be paying more attention to his sound bites. ;)

DaBigTrain
DaBigTrain

No, wait, Steve Jobs couldn't be an arrogant, self-centered SOB, could he?

james_voris
james_voris

Authors stop writing - Steve pronounced the book is dead. Darn... What will Steven King do for a living now, I hope it isn't turning all that agression into reality on Jobs!

james.tyrrell
james.tyrrell

Jobs is right. As an avid reader since my parents taught me to read long before my teachers did, I realize that most folks today read little but tabloid stuff. Children (and adults) who read have vastly better reasoning skills (and are much harder to fool or con) then people who only watch TV. If your kids become avid readers they go much farther in life. So don't shoot the messenger, Jobs is right on this one. But, the fact is the stuff he sells now contributes to the problem. In the "old days" (think Apple II, TRS-80, Kaypro) kids who had a computer were the brain kids, they could understand a DOS and most could write code. Today's kids use the computer primarly for entertainment (video games, music, surfing the web) And their parents think they are smart because they can create a cut-and-paste term paper out of Wikipedia!

htmapes
htmapes

Nintendo complaining that children aren't getting enough exercise. Flavor Flav complaining that black women don't get enough respect from young black men The CEO of Facebook complaining that people don't spend time with each other anymore. Bill Gates complaining that software quality isn't what it used to be.

dalebuchanan86
dalebuchanan86

After reading a few of the posts on this thread, I must agree in general with Steve Jobs. If you claim that you are an avid reader in a composition that is riddled with grammar and spelling errors, I won't believe you. People that read are typically better able to write. In order to understand (or create) effective written communication, a well-rounded exposure to English is required, and reading material on the Internet does not count. The Internet is not edited stringently enough to be considered an example of proper English. While reading a single word or even an entire advertisement might qualify as reading technically, it is not a substitute for actually opening a book and concentrating on the meaning of each sentence and paragraph (yes we still have paragraphs) in turn until you have taken in the entire book.

techrepublic.subscriptions
techrepublic.subscriptions

I think that the iPod self-selects the reading crowd OUT for at least two reasons: 1) Those who are avid readers apart from electronics, don't see the point in doing it on an electronic device. That's my wife all the way. 2) Those who are iPod users, bought the device with a specific usage in mind and don't generally use it in venues where reading makes sense. This is similar to the craze of WAP for cell phones. Promotion like "Imagine doing your banking or trading stocks while waiting for the train." The problem was there is a cognitive context created by a train station that screams "this isn't the place I want to be doing this activity - regardless of the ability to do it here." Although I do agree that true critical reading skills are in peril in modern society, I would modify Job's statement to say "People never have done serious reading on electronic devices." (Knowing full well that among the self-selected group of technicians who will read this - that some of you do serious reading via electronic devices.)

lsasadoorian
lsasadoorian

I read every day. Not only I.T. books but also history, mathematics, and good ol' newspapers. Why do so many put so much into what one person says? His company makes good products, but that doesn't make him omniscient or a sage. He has his opinion and this time I disagree.

Oktet
Oktet

on BOOK (Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge) device.

fransiskuss
fransiskuss

Steve Jobs reads a lot himself, on paper as well as electronically. Considering what he has achieved sofar, he presumably means: I don't want people to read anymore. I want them to hear look and listen to what I have to says. It's a way of self fulfilling prophecy. There is a bit of panic in that statement though. Normally, Steve Jobs throws unexpectedly a little miracle on the market and people just change their ways of life: i.e. all the i.bits and i.things and i.colors. I personally find that you cant beat books until you can cuddle up in bed with a computer, feeling as snug as a bug, dim the lights and fall asleep without breaking two ribs in the process. I find I hear more books these days, like "iCon" or the "Google Story". On my iPod.

karenm
karenm

It's actually "1 in 4 people" say they didn't read one book last year, rather than 60%. Here's an article on the study. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/21/AR2007082101045.html I'm in the publishing industry, and the pub news is that reading is declining, and the pub industry is hurting. If you take Harry Potter 7 out of last year's stats, it's pretty grim. However, I choose to look on the bright side, and know that even if reading is down, people--lots of people--still read. And until you pry the paper-and-ink book out of my cold, dead hands, there will be a market for me and readers like me. The pub industry just has to get on the bandwagon and provide their materials in several formats (digital, paper, audio) for ONE PRICE. Then people can choose how they want to read it. Publishers should take note of copyright issues plaguing the music and film industry, and build a new model that works for everyone.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

a TV Evangelist complaining of lack of faith. A lawyer complaining about lack of respect. A politician about apathy amongst the electorate. :D

seanferd
seanferd

There are several reasons why spelling and grammar may not be properly employed by avid readers with good comprehension. One, is that people are quickly responding on an internet forum, they do not have editors, and simply do not take the time for proofreading. Another reason is that some people have brains that are not set up to make proper use of written words, no matter how intelligent these people are. Dyslexia may cause this, and there are other "disorders" which cause similar writing problems. I have a friend who, in high school, was diagnosed with one of these disorders. He majored in English at university, is an excellent writer, but cannot consistently spell words correctly. I am sure there are other valid reasons.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Avid readers particularly those with eclectic tastes in terms of genre, generally have a good vocabulary, and pick up wide base of knowledge. This does not make them writers. Any fool can put words on paper or on a screen, communicating something a reader feels is valuable in a way they can understand is a completely different skill. Who say's English is our first language, which flavour of english? Have you heard the phrase, "people round 'ere don't talk like that" ? You want people to read, write stuff they want to read, what is Ben Hur going to communicate to modern youth? If you want them to appreciate , rhyme, meter , alliteration, composition, iambic pentatmeter, you could give them Delany's Dhalgren instead. Steve is not correct, he wants to sell a gadget to read anything, that he's had a cut of. The content, no matter how well composed or communicated is irrelavant. He'd be just as happy selling you Ben Hur and Joesephine Q Public a Mills and Boone piece of trash. Try and think about what you are going to say before you put pen to paper, writers do you see.

Nil Po
Nil Po

I'll bet that Steve's complete thought was "People don't read anymore, at least not enough of them to make me billions of dollars with an ereading device."

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I read a fair bit electronically, because I don't want to damage my books. I could kit out a school with Kindles from one book case. Tech books in a READABLE format are a boon as 9/10 the indexes are crap. But that's more looking up than anything. Now if there was a really good index / googleiser on the thing with a substantial amount of storage and choice of formats, then I might consider it. That ain't what Stevie boy wants to sell us though is it?

somewhereinCA
somewhereinCA

Someone needs to compare that statistics for 2007 to the same statistics from 50 years ago or 100 years ago. I suspect that the number of people who did not read even 1 book in a year was actually *lower* in the past than it is now. I would be interested in reading stats for the last 50 years. The pub industry is having problems but so are the newspaper/periodical, TV, movie, and music industries. Individual TV series/programs/channels have lower viewership numbers than in the past. The number of people attending movies is going down (it's so much easier to find parking at the theaters now and I never have to stand in long lines any more). CD sales are down. Radio listening is down. blah blah blah. What are *people* doing instead? Are we all(John and Mary Q Public) in persistent vegetative states? The problem, I think, is what is being offered by the industries versus what people really are interested and want. Besides reading a book and a half (the whole book was a used book, the half book was a new) yesterday, I watched some TV (my husband and son went to a hockey game). I channel surfed and decided to tried a CSI:Miami. Really lame and preachy. Won't watch that again! It's so damn hard finding something good to watch and I have 150 channels. Dear Ms. Pub Industry: I buy books, a lot of books, every year. Some new, some used. On the other hand, I do not buy many of the NYT bestsellers. (I did buy and read all the Harry Potters.) Is the problem with the pub industry that the money making blockbuster novel is dead? I don't buy 'em and I don't know anyone who buys books who does. Read "The Long Tail"...this is the current world. Most of my book reading, TV watching, movie going, music listening, and even clothing buying are all down towards the skinny end of the tail.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

on the bandwagon in my opinion. You pop into a store where they sell books as well, and look at the selection. Yet another auto-biography of a popular twenty something. A lot of Pratchett, Buffy and Star Trek and possibly an incredibly dsty copy of Lord Of The Rings, wedged in bottom right of the self. Authors create books, the publishing industry creates wealth. No different to the RIAA, or the MPAA. The value of the content is whether they think they can market it.

tikigawd
tikigawd

About spell checking: you can use a browser that checks your spelling as you type, like Firefox. As for proof reading, people who write in these forums might not take the time to proof read what they write, and that's their bad. I try to take the time to proof read what I write no matter if it's an e-mail, forum reply, or a story. And when I don't proof read, then shame on me. As for disorders, sure, there are people with disorders that prevent them from spelling correctly. Nevertheless, the majority of people who misspell, or use improper grammar are either too lazy to correct their mistakes, or just don't care. In the end they contribute to the degradation of the language, because the more people see something written incorrectly the more they get used to it, and the more they start using it themselves. Two examples: 1. using " 's" for plurals 2. improper use of "there," "their," and "they're." People make those mistakes all the time, while still spelling most other words properly. So it's not that they have some disorder, it's just that they're lazy bums. And I don't respect that whatsoever.

somewhereinCA
somewhereinCA

Finally, someone stated the obvious. When a person like Steve Jobs makes a remark like "People don't read any more" (which is a wonderful example of a statement based on poor logical thinking if taken literally), it's got more to do with that person's own life than anyone else's. We have e-reading devices already. They are called laptop pcs. ...no one reads any more is bologna... I read books, newspapers, magazines, blogs. Everyone I know well are avid readers, twenty-somethings and children included. What everyone I know does not read is eBooks in any form except for technical online documentation. So Kindle will probably fail and there is not a big market out there for an expensive device solely for reading eBooks. If I have a choice between a physical book and an eBook, I will *always* choose the physical book. (Only my mother, whose eyesight is poor, listens to audio books.) What I was really hoping for from high tech companies and publishers (and the other avid readers I know join me in this desire), is for hard-to-find out-of-print books to be put in a printable e-format (like pdf) and for a publish-on-demand service to be available for them. I would then be able to select my out-of-print book (or send them my pdf), select how I wish it printed (as a paperback or hardback), my chosen book would be manufactured, and the printed and bound book mailed to me a-la-Amazon. It seems an obvious service to me but I don't know of anyone offering it so there must be financial reasons against it. Instead they spend millions developing Kindle.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If it goes bump in the night, it's dark and someone bumped something.

glgruver
glgruver

Looks like you summed up SJ's statement perfectly.

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

Hehe, glad you saw the joke in there. You're right - there's a lot of posts around the internet which follow the template of "CAN YOU HELP ME??!!??oneoneone TIHS IS TEH SUXX0R!!!!!!11111oneoneone" And there's just no excuse for that. But my rule of thumb is to take the post as is if I can understand it, and ask for clarification if I can't. I'm sure most of the people here are the same. Anyhoo, back to the subject at hand: ways in which Steve Jobs is a tool. Discuss! ;)

seanferd
seanferd

The guy can comment on grammar if he wants, but he might as well stay on topic if he wants to argue a point with anyone re: nobody reads. My particular response to another post: people who demonstrate poor spelling, grammar, composition, whatever, are not necessarily non-readers. Your point is spot-on. I've seen too much of that sort of thing, with no apparently good reason behind it. Not to say that some posts (especially those in the questions forum) at least need to be formatted a bit better, and I'm not referring to folks for whom English is a second language. Some people won't even use periods, and all the text is just crammed together.

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

New to forums? Don't you realise that /every/ thread everywhere becomes about spelling and grammar everntually? (Please excuse my lame attempt at humour)

seanferd
seanferd

And who needs an excuse? Regardless of the reasons, people who do not compose correctly are not necessarily non-readers. I don't care if people are lazy when it comes to writing, it's beside the point. I had no idea that this thread was about spelling and grammar. Also note that spelling-checking functions do not account for misspelled words that equate to the wrong word properly spelled.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

living in a greenhouse. not to throw bricks.... In my experience those most concerned with correct spelling and grammatical correctness, usually talk complete bollocks, spell it correctly and compose their inanities in a most grammatical fashion.

john_ludlow
john_ludlow

You have a point, but at the same time you're being a little narrow-minded. Not everyone has the time to read back through their post six times for errors, and spell checkers aren't perfect. On top of that, how many people on web forums use English as a second or even third language? Web users come from all walks of life these days, and from all over the world, and most forum-based web sites mandate an "English-only" policy. We can't expect a builder from Moscow to be as fluent in English as a teacher from London, and that means a little patience and/or tolerance is called for. And that means not whinging every time someone drops an apostrophe or uses "there" instead of "their". +++ END OF RANT +++ ;)

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