Internet Linguistics in Digital Publishing

The advent of social media and rise of the digital age has revolutionized the way we communicate. From the pager and T9 technology to the character limits on social media posts, the devices and applications that run our lives affect the way we use language. In fact, the use of internet slang, acronyms, and emojis that come together under a unique syntax across digital media has been classified as its own field of study: internet linguistics. As ubiquitous as this distinct form of language is online, it doesn’t appear to have an application to digital publications outside social media. The internet and digital devices have allowed people to have instantaneous written communication as though they were face-to-face. In the absence of facial cues, body language, and vocal inflections, cyber linguistics rose as a way to convey meaning, emotion, and context beyond grammatical semantics.  Because it’s conversational by nature, it’s viewed as a casual form of language expression, at home on Twitter, but not on The Washington Post. In addition, with the understood intention of two-way interaction between poster and viewer, a user on Instagram would have a justification to follow the grammatical rules and syntax that govern internet linguistics, as opposed to a journalist who has no interaction with the reader of the article. In essence, the use of emojis or internet slang seems out-of-place and too informal for an online publication.

However, any language tool can be a useful tool to a writer, no matter the platform or medium, and the elements of internet linguistics are no exception. Because internet linguistics developed as a way to communicate meaning that would otherwise be lost in written language, it can serve a purpose in even the most serious digital media publications. Something as simple as a grammatical full stop or ellipsis, can convey new meaning when taken out of the context of traditional grammar rules and implemented under the principles of internet linguistics. Betsy Reed, creator of the digital style guide for BuzzFeed, outlines appropriate instances within the publication for utilizing the acronyms, emojis, capitalization, punctuation rules found in internet linguistics. In most of the examples outlined in the style guide, the use of cyber linguistic syntax serves as a means to declare informality or humor. For instance, the style guide outlines usage for the tilde (~) when making a “whimsical emphasis” to a word or phrase in an article, a grammatical practice mostly seen in social media posts. Again, it may seem that internet linguistics should remain within the realm of social media and lighthearted publications like BuzzFeed lists and has no place in serious or academic publications. However, a writer should be aware of the rules of internet linguistics when creating content for any publication, if for no other reason than to convey the proper tone.

A lesser known application for internet linguistics as it pertains to digital publications, is as a tool for readability and reader traffic. Cyber linguistics not only pertains to internet slang and emojis, but also encompasses the algorithms used for language processing tools like NPL (natural language processing) which is a type of AI tool that can be useful for people creating content in a second language, whether it’s proofreading a manuscript or writing an article. Internet linguistic tools can also be used for the practices involved in digital marketing such as keyword targeting for search engine optimization and the algorithms used to direct content to individual readers. These tools can be useful to a writer for a digital publication when trying to boost visibility for their content.

While internet linguistics is at the forefront of every social media post, it can also be a useful language tool for writers of digital publications. Whether it’s to emphasize a meaning outside traditional syntax, convey (or avoid) a specific tone, help edit an article, or generate reader traffic, cyber linguistics is a legitimate field of language expression and can be useful to any writer across a variety of digital publications.

Sora: Ushering Classrooms into a New Era

Technology is swiftly advancing, and students are encouraged to interact with tech on a daily basis in order to develop the foundational skills that they will need to thrive in a tech heavy society. Coupling the need for those skills with the constant fluctuation of the classroom setting utilizing distant learning, homeschooling, and alternative education, physical print books are a resource that is not easily accessible to students, teachers, and parents. All of those factors have been compiled to result in a need for digital resources that are easily accessible and user friendly.

The leading global digital reading platform, OverDrive, released the Sora app in September 2018. Since its release it has been acknowledged as TIME’s 100 Best Inventions of 2019. It has also received awards for the 2019 Academics’ Choice Smart Media Award and a Gold Stevie Award in 2021.

Benefits of Sora

A leading digital book distributor, OverDrive has built steadfast relationships with top publishing companies like Penguin Random House Canada, Harper Collins Publishers, Blackstone Publishing, and many more. Those partnerships ensure that the K through 12 app offers over millions of different titles for students to choose from at any given time.

  • The app offers 24/7 access to students with the ability to download the book to any device to be read offline.
  • There are options available to make the reading experience more accessible to students including screen lighting, font sizing, adjustable narration speeds, and screen reader support.
  • The app offers titles in multiple different languages, bridging the gap for multilingual students and teachers.
  • The capability to take notes and send notes offers students the opportunity to communicate with teachers and classmates about what they are reading.

OverDrive Education has reported that e-book checkouts through its Sora student reading app increased 62% year-over-year in 2021 and that digital audio checkouts grew by 24%. And they are not done developing. In January 2023, OverDrive announced Sora Extra, a partnership with recently acquired TeachingBooks that will offer even more resources for interactive learning.

Consumer Perspective

For schools, the availability of an app like Sora has enabled them to promote healthier relationships between students and reading. With easy accessibility and a user friendly platform, children as young as 5 years old are able to read along with stories that they normally would be unable to read independently. Students struggling with the smaller texts in print books are encouraged to use the option to enlarge the text to better see, simultaneously taking away feelings of frustration they may be experiencing. The surge in immigrants from different countries has resulted in many non-English speaking students who are now able to have access to stories in their primary language.

Teachers are able to assign student reading assignments and monitor their progress across the platform without worrying about the possibility of them not having access to the physical book due to lack of inventory or the book not being in the student’s possession. The capability of taking notes, highlighting passages, or messaging through the app, ensures that the students are able to personalize their education with the teacher and develop better reading comprehension skills.

School libraries are limited in their inventory, only receiving certain numbers of copies of physical texts. With access to Sora, they are better able to accommodate students demanding trending titles or subjects, resulting in more reading time by the students.

Publishers Perspective

Partnering with companies like OverDrive gives authors and publishing companies access to a wider range of distribution. The collaboration between the two parties provides many benefits that can go a long way in guaranteeing success for a book that may not be available with print copies. For example, OverDrive offers:

  • No cost merchandising and promotion. The teams compound that date to put options in the forefront of interested readers. This promotes books and produces larger scales of sales.
  • A large catalog reviewed frequently by libraries and educators drives discovery and purchasing availability.
  • Once purchased, the books are immediately available to students through the Sora app making it more appealing for consumers to utilize.
  • Real-time reporting offers publishers and authors insight on how the work is being received by readers.

The easy accessibility for such a large audience, with Sora being utilized extensively in the classrooms and by schools, has promoted a heavy traffic towards books and physical texts that many have not experienced due to the changing dependency on technology. By utilizing this option, publishers are experiencing an uptick in the production of books and texts.

The New Era

As the world becomes more and more advanced the need to adapt is paramount to success. The development and utilization of apps such as Sora affords all parties involved the chance to guarantee that the written word does not become an inconvenience. Sora, specifically, is making strides to ensure that the relationship between text and readers is still a promising partnership. They also continue to expand and develop to make the world of digital text a positive experience.

Psychology of Reading: E-books vs. Print

E-books are a part of many daily lives in the modern world. There are many benefits to the format of e-books that print books do not enjoy, but there seem to be many drawbacks, even beyond simple preferences. E-books enjoy portability, unbelievable access to numerous books, and the convenience of having e-books on devices that one would have at hand anyway. However, there are psychological benefits to reading print and digital books, but it seems that there are several cons to reading digital books compared to print that must be considered. 

Print books are notorious for being preferred by many, but aside from this, there are benefits psychologically to reading print compared to digital. One example of this is what can be called mental mapping. Like how many can visualize driving in certain directions to arrive at a specific destination, print books allow our brain to mentally map and remember where we read certain texts which digital books have not been able to recreate. Another example of a psychological benefit to reading print is the sense of sovereignty when reading a paper book. Many feel less in control of digital books than they do paper. Some of this can be attributed to a lack of digital ownership, but when considering the sense of sovereignty, what is really in mind is the ability to manipulate the physical copy in various ways to their enjoyment and benefit.  

E-books present various disadvantages or consequences to the medium. There are multiple studies that note the extra cognitive work that reading digitally requires. They mention that there is an extra visual burden reading digitally due to optic strain from screens. Beyond this though, digital reading causes the feeling of needing to complete dual tasks. One must operate the computer itself and complete whatever is trying to be achieved (the digital reading). The burdens caused by digital reading can be exacerbated by time pressures.  

In the relatively recent past, several studies noticed a considerable difference in comprehension between reading digitally and reading in a print format. However, in more recent years, more studies show little to no difference in actual comprehension no matter the format. The study performed by Mangen et al notes the insignificant difference in comprehension but does note the issue with mental mapping mentioned above.  

Another facet of the psychological effect of reading e-books compared to their print format is that of mindset. In an experiment meant to measure mindset when approaching studying using print versus digital expositions, one group was given seven minutes to read and take a quiz about the exposition while the other group was given as much time as they wished to self-manage their study time. The group whose time was limited performed equally well whether they studied using digital reading or print reading. However, in the group that self-managed their studying, those students who read digitally to study performed considerably worse than those who used print resources. The results indicate a difference in mindset approaching the task. Those who used print are believed to have approached the task with a more studious, serious mindset.  

One potential benefit of reading digitally, especially for kids and teenagers, is simply the format. The National Literacy Trust conducted a survey concerning whether children through teenagers are encouraged to read more due to digital formats. They found that children are nearly 69% more likely to read on a screen than print outside of school and around 52% of children reported they prefer to read on electronic devices than print. However, other studies indicate that kids may be distracted when reading digitally compared to print. This distraction can also be an issue for adults due to notifications, emails, and other forms of distractions that are meant to grab one’s attention.  

Another issue when comparing the psychology of reading digitally to that of reading print books is that of enjoyment of reading generally. This is not the same as simply preferring print or electronic books but rather is comparing the love for reading generally between those who read print daily and those who read electronic books daily. The National Literacy Trust survey gives readers a glimpse of this measurement with children between the ages of 8-16. Those who read print daily were three times more likely to say that they liked to read “very much” compared to those who read digitally daily. That is 81.3% for those who read print only daily compared to 44.5% for those who read digitally only daily.  

Clearly, there are advantages and disadvantages to reading digitally compared to reading in a print format. However, there seem to be many psychological disadvantages to reading digitally that are not found when reading print books. From mental mapping to simple enjoyment of reading generally, reading in print displays numerous psychological advantages that e-books cannot provide. Though, practical advantages to e-books may outweigh the psychological consequences of e-books for many. Either way, knowing and understanding the psychological effects of reading digitally compared to reading in print can help one make more well-informed decisions regarding their reading habits.