I do a lot of online reading in a given day, whether it be on my home PC, my laptop, or my tablet – as I suspect many of you do too by now. And there is no question that digital reading is a different type of reading. Shorter “bytes” of information; less careful thought and comprehension; easier distracti0ns. Is it my preferred method of reading? NO! Give me a print book any day! And yet my position(s) and work demand it.
Are there things we can do to become better online readers? According to this New Yorker article (posted July 16, 2014), yes. It has some technical information in it, but also some very helpful material. I post it here today in hope that it will give you direction in reading more and better, whether digitally or traditi0nally.
Below is an excerpt; you will find the rest at the link above.
Certainly, as we turn to online reading, the physiology of the reading process itself shifts; we don’t read the same way online as we do on paper. Anne Mangen, a professor at the National Centre for Reading Education and Research at the University of Stavanger, in Norway, points out that reading is always an interaction between a person and a technology, be it a computer or an e-reader or even a bound book. Reading “involves factors not usually acknowledged,” she told me. “The ergonomics, the haptics of the device itself. The tangibility of paper versus the intangibility of something digital.” The contrast of pixels, the layout of the words, the concept of scrolling versus turning a page, the physicality of a book versus the ephemerality of a screen, the ability to hyperlink and move from source to source within seconds online—all these variables translate into a different reading experience.
The screen, for one, seems to encourage more skimming behavior: when we scroll, we tend to read more quickly (and less deeply) than when we move sequentially from page to page. Online, the tendency is compounded as a way of coping with an overload of information. There are so many possible sources, so many pages, so many alternatives to any article or book or document that we read more quickly to compensate. When Ziming Liu, a professor at San Jose State University whose research centers on digital reading and the use of e-books, conducted a review of studies that compared print and digital reading experiences, supplementing their conclusions with his own research, he found that several things had changed. On screen, people tended to browse and scan, to look for keywords, and to read in a less linear, more selective fashion. On the page, they tended to concentrate more on following the text. Skimming, Liu concluded, had become the new reading: the more we read online, the more likely we were to move quickly, without stopping to ponder any one thought.