Kids aren’t DNA-level digital natives and “best selling” eBooks are free — but you knew that

In the past few moments, I’ve been reminded of how distorted my view can become when I limit my beliefs to the reality I find from the firehose of news and information that floods forth from the RSS/Twitter sources I have set up. In that world, people have already back-lashed against technology and techniques that most people in the real world have not yet even heard of. In that world, the nuance becomes the make-or-break. In that world, millions of people have already signed up for services you’ve never heard of — and hundreds of thousands, to services I’ve never heard of.

Here are two reality checks: An article in the New York times “revealing” that more than half of the “best selling” ebooks on the Kindle are available at no charge. I’ve posted links to free ebook resources for years and, as someone commented here the other day, someone linked to an old post by John Walkenbach regarding analysis that 44 of the top 50 Kindle titles being free.

So, reality check one: The whole “eBook” thing is not just about the price-point that publishers want to charge for books. In fact, it’s not about eBook readers. It’s about channels of distribution and new ways of offering all that stuff we call “content.” And, oh yeah, it’s not about saving any industry that wants to replicate its content onto a rectangular hunk of plastic and charge for it by calling itself something e- or i-.

Second item. Please, I beg you: Listen to this Weekend Edition, Saturday piece called “Not All Kids Are Computer Whizzes.” In this world I live in, bloggers and social medians and parents believe that if you are a child, you know everything there is to know about using computers — because, well, you are a member of some “digital native” culture where using technology was fused into your DNA. Yet, in reality, most kids are clueless when it comes to some of the most basic understanding of things like, get this, “using Google.”

Reality check two: Your children need help learning how to search the Internet (like they need help learning everything else in life) — according to research sponsored by, get this, Google. Bottomline: If a search takes more than one step, kids give up. In other words, they sound a lot like adults who are digital immigrants.

Bonus: Here are some basic search “helps” from Google. And here are the two most helpful search hints I can give you search giver-upers-after-the-first-page: “use quotation marks around a string of words” and use a minus sign “-” in front of words you want Google to ignore. (Someone may have suggested these before, but chances are you ignored them because they started saying things like “boolean.”)

  • Great points. For a long time, I took for granted that everyone knew how to find stuff quickly on Google. But in the past year, I've had the random opportunities to see 2-3 people I know to be highly intelligent searching on Google. And I kept redirecting their efforts, because I knew their instincts weren't going to turn up the results they wanted.

    You can imagine how well that went over.

  • Great points. For a long time, I took for granted that everyone knew how to find stuff quickly on Google. But in the past year, I've had the random opportunities to see 2-3 people I know to be highly intelligent searching on Google. And I kept redirecting their efforts, because I knew their instincts weren't going to turn up the results they wanted.

    You can imagine how well that went over.