Bill Eckberg forwarded an article from the November 2013 Scientific American. I've included an excerpt below. He writes: "Why the Brain Prefers Paper
discusses a number of studies that have investigated differences in comprehension between reading on a computer screen and reading a book. It's pretty interesting."
One of the most provocative viral YouTube videos in the past
two years begins mundanely
enough: a one-year-old girl plays
with an iPad, sweeping her
fingers across its touch screen
and shuffling groups of icons.
In following scenes, she appears
to pinch, swipe and prod the pages of paper magazines as
though they, too, are screens.
Melodramatically, the video replays these gestures in close-up.
For the girl's father, the video- A Magazine is an iPad That
Does Not Work -is evidence of a generational transition. In an
accompanying description. he writes, "Magazines are now useless
and impossible to understand, for digital natives"-that is,
for people who have been interacting with digital technologies
from a very early age, surrounded not only by paper books and
maga1ines but also by smartphones, Kindles and iPads.
Whether or not his daughter truly expected the magazines to
behave like an iPad, the video brings into focus a question that is
relevant to far more than the youngest among us: How exactly
does the technology we use to read change the way we read?
Since at least the 1980s researchers in psychology, computer
engineering. and library and information science have published
more than 100 studies exploring differences in how people read on
paper and on screens. Before 1992 most experiments concluded
that people read stories and articles on screens more slowly and
remember less about them.
As the resolution of screens on all
kinds of devices sharpened, however, a more mixed set of findings
began to emerge. Recent surveys suggest that although most people
still prefer paper-especially when they need to concentrate
for a long time-attitudes are changing as tablets and e-reading
technology improve and as reading digital texts for facts and fun
becomes more common. In the U.S., e-books currently make up
more than 20 percent of all books sold to the general public.
Despite all the increasingly user-friendly
and popular technology, most studies published
since the early 1990s confirm earlier
conclusions: paper still has advantages over
screens as a reading medium. Together laboratory
experiments, polls and consumer reports
indicate that digital devices prevent
people from efficiently navigating long texts,
which may subtly inhibit reading comprehension.
Compared with paper, screens may
also drain more of our mental resources
while we are reading and make it a little
harder to remember what we read when we
are done. Whether they realize it or not, people
often approach computers and tablets
with a state of mind less conducive to learning
than the one they bring to paper.
To read the complete article (subscription required), see:
The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: Why Paper Still Beats Screens
Wayne Homren, Editor
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