Contributors: Sean Lim, Autumn Rhee, Jessie Xu
Problem and Solution Overview
With the overwhelming popularity of social media and quicker forms of entertainment, it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to find the motivation to read. Many studies have found that the average number of books read by Americans have been consistently declining, and this trend is expected to continue.
We want to provide a solution that can help individuals who want to read, but struggle with finding the motivation to incorporate reading into their daily lives. Since reading itself is a solitary activity and cannot compete with the sense community that social media provides, we want to design an online platform specifically catered towards readers. We believe specialized ways to connect with others over books will help reignite our enthusiasm for reading.
Design Research Goals, Stakeholders, and Participants:
While readers can be of any age, we focused on college students, seeking to find a solution for this demographic to engage in reading, an activity that demands sustained focus, while navigating an environment dominated by the fast-paced nature of social media, which has shortened the attention spans of this generation. Stakeholders that may be affected by our design include English educators, who will generally want to encourage young adults to read more often; and authors, who may be directly influenced by how many people engage in their books.
We engaged with our target participants using two self-reporting methods: surveys and interviews. For our particular project, we felt that observational methods of research were not appropriate, as many factors contributing to the lack of day-to-day reading are not directly observable but rather internal within the mind. While it can be acknowledged that there still is relevant value in observation for our study, like witnessing and verifying an individual’s packed schedule preventing an opportunity for reading, this can be more efficiently gathered from a larger sample population through methods of self-report. Rather than executing deeper level studies for a few individuals, we believe there will be higher value in attaining a greater database of stats from a larger population for our study.
For our interviews, we explored participants’ current reading frequency, habits while reading, motivations (or lack thereof) for reading, and their ideas on what technologies could help them stay more engaged with the activity.
Design Research Results and Themes:
Many people indicated that it is challenging to read for a number of reasons. 79.3% of respondents listed above a 3 in regards to the level of challenge they perceived reading regularly to be on a scale of 1–5, with 5 being ‘extremely challenging,’ . People are not motivated to read just based on purported benefits. A chunk of people pointed out that there is simply no strong incentive for reading, compared to other activities or forms of entertainment. Generally, reading is not an activity that people tend to gravitate towards among other options like movies, podcasts, social media which can be more entertaining. Some people also seem too busy to be able to sit down and read a book
Many people said that they would read books that are interesting to them, but that they don’t know which ones/have already read everything that is interesting to them. Reading books suggested by friends seems to motivate people to read, because they have someone to talk to about the plot. However, if they are not interested in the genres that their friends read, this doesn’t work. Overall, people are interested in talking about books they read, either online or with friends, and this is motivating to read more.
Overall, college students’ lifestyles don’t seem to actively encourage reading for leisure. There is a pervasive mindset that they should be productive most of the time, and reading can feel like it doesn’t accomplish anything tangible. Among people interested in reading, it is most difficult to start reading a new book. It may be helpful to develop a way to find new books that you are likely to be interested in, or provide a platform for engaging book recommendations. A secondary issue is reading without getting distracted, or finishing a book that is started. People also want to connect with others over books they like.
Our research participants have noted that if they wanted to view discussions around a book, they would navigate to online forums or search for podcasts/videos. We also believe that the unique forms of discussion possible through social media can create new means of discussing books. Our app would facilitate this task, as it provides a page dedicated to discussions on any book, reducing the need for readers to have to navigate elsewhere. This page would allow users to create posts (these can be in written, spoken, or video form (refer to storyboard snapshot 5) of their own, see others’ posts, and respond to others, creating a discussion thread. Users will also be able to click on profiles of others on this page, and request to add them as friends. We plan to additionally provide some new reading-specific tools such as filtering posts/comments based on what chapter or character in a book they are about, as shown in the 4th storyboard snapshot. Overall, the discussion features integrated into our app will incorporate and strengthen the aspect of community for reading, helping to motivate current readers.