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    Danny Bloom

    Marlita, what about the differences between reading on paper vs reading on a screen, which i call screening and which i say is vastly inferior to paper reading? Can you google this meme and blog on this soon? There are MRI scan tests going on now which might prove my hunch right. Then again, I might wrong. Your POV? Can you blog on this? if want more info, email me at danbloom AT gmail

    Danny Bloom


    Danny Bloom

    New word needed for "reading" on screens

    by Dan Bloom

    As digital advances continue to transform the global media world day
    by day, a Taiwanese company, E Ink Holdings, has taken on an
    important role in the process with E Ink, which can render text on
    e-reader screens such as the Kindle and the Nook. The original goal of
    creating e-books, of course, was to make the experience of reading on
    electronic devices as similar as possible to that of printed books.

    According to industry sources, some 90 percent of all e-readers use E
    Ink now, including device readers made by Taiwan-based manufacturers
    Book11, Innoversal Communications and GreenBook. So the digital
    reading revolution is going to have a major impact within business and
    educational circiles in Taiwan, and it behooves us all to ponder just
    where we are headed as screens replace paper.

    Alex Beam, writing in the Boston Globe in 2008, asked: "Do we
    read differently on the computer screen from how we
    read on the
    printed page?" His column was headlined: "I screen, you screen, we all screen."

    The answer to Beam's question is, of course, yes.

    From most of the
    research that has come in so
    far from academics in Taiwan and Europe, the answer is clear, although
    not everyone's
    in agreement with what it all means.

    Given the differences between reading on paper and reading on screens,
    I have coined a new word for screen-reading, and it's called

    It's true, "screening" has multiple meanings. We screen movies at film
    festivals in Taipei, we screen
    cram school teachers for jobs as local buxibans, we screen
    patients for medical problems at hospitals nationwide.

    "Reading" also has multiple meanings:
    we read faces, we read maps, we
    read the weather, we read minds.

    I feel that reading on screens is not reading per se, but a new
    kind of reading and I call it "screening."

    With two new books about reading and the Internet making waves worldwide
    this summer -- William Powers' "Hamlet's BlackBerry" and Nicholas Carr's
    "The Shallows" -- academics at National Taiwan University are going to
    be talking about the pros and cons of
    reading on paper versus reading on screens for a long
    time to come.

    Anne Mangen at the
    University of Stavanger in Norway says she is not
    sure that "screening" will work
    as a new word for screen-reading, that "it's adequate in some
    respects, but not in others."

    In a recent email, she told this reporter: "[The term 'screening' is]
    adequate to the extent that it
    points to certain differences in the reading mode which has to do with
    the display nature, the central bias of a screen compared to a page of
    print text (our gaze is naturally oriented towards the center), and
    the image-like character of modalities (we tend to read a screen
    spatially, in contrast to the page which we linearly)."

    Mangen, in a widely-read academic paper published in London in 2008,
    listed a few reasons
    that reading on paper
    and reading on a screen are so very different.

    * Reading on a screen is not as rewarding -- or effective -- as
    reading printed words on paper.

    * The process of reading on a screen involves so much physical
    manipulation of the
    computer that it interferes with our ability to focus on and
    appreciate what we're reading.

    * Online text moves up and down the
    screen and lacks physical dimension, robbing us of a feeling of

    * The visual happenings on a compter screen and our physical interaction
    with the entire device and its set ip can be distracting. All of these things
    tax human cognition and concentration in a way that a book or
    newspaper or magazine does not.

    * The experience of reading a book or a newspaper or a magazine is
    both a story experience and a tactile one.

    The jury's still out on just how different reading on paper is
    from reading on a screen, but the public discussions in the blogsphere
    are getting interesting -- and heated. However, more and more, top experts
    in the computer and Internet fields, as well as typeface designers and
    readability gurus, are in agreement that we might someday need a new word
    for reading on screens.

    Mim Harrison, a book editor in Florida with Levenger Press, told me: "I find the
    distinction between reading and 'screening' to be intriguing, and it
    certainly gives us all pause to consider just what it is we're doing
    with our eyeballs these days."

    "Screening, of course, is not a new term," Paul Saffo, a top U.S. expert in
    the future, told me in an email. "But this might just be the
    time that it catches on in the way you suggest. Screening is a clever
    and useful term capturing the fact that the
    experience of reading on a screen is fundamentally different from reading
    on paper. Not a priori worse or better; just different."

    And then he added this important note: "It is the right word for the
    moment in terms of drawing people's attention to the vast literary
    shift about to wash over us."

    I believe that future MRI scans of the human brain while people are
    tested while reading on paper and reading on screens will help
    us understand the issue better. This work is being done now in
    a few research labs around the world and the results will be very interesting,
    to say the least.

    A medical doctor in Boston told me that he feels that "scanning" the brain
    while reading on paper or off a screen, either through MRI or PET-scans,
    won't be able to answer any questions about the better experience or health of a
    particular modality.

    "We don't know enough about the brain to tell
    which would be better, even if different areas of the brain are
    active," he said.
    "Most of the stuff we do with this research is really limited in
    determining formal conclusions."

    A writer on technology at a major university in New Jersey said:
    "Speaking of 'screening'
    as a new word for reading on screens, if one calls for MRI tests to
    investigate its difference from reading, isn't that a form of
    screening, too, privileging an image on an electronic display? A
    better test would be not telling the subjects the real purpose of the
    experiment, letting some read and comment on a text displayed in a
    printed book or on a computer screen or on a reader (e-ink or TFT),
    and then let raters, also unaware of the real purpose, look for
    differences in what people write after different modes."


    Dan Bloom is a
    writer in Taiwan.

    Marlita H

    Huge apologies for the delayed response. My own feeling is that, for an e-book, how much I can concentrate (fixation on the page) and how much I retain largely depends on the screen delivery and the formatting of the text itself.

    For example, I actually read much faster and can concentrate better on a Kindle than either the iPad or the printed page. Embarrassingly, I have proven this out by having a copy of each for the same book. In my defense, I've mostly done this when I want a signed copy of the physical book.

    I like the Kindle e-Ink concept. It doesn't glare and quite natural to read. The iPad Kindle app is not nearly as comfortable and, being very myopic and wearing contacts, I find I get halos and fuzziness in the text. Reading glasses help with the former issue but not the latter (glare).

    The only time I have found it comfortable to read something extensive on the iPad was a course manual in the form of a pdf document. For that, I used GoodReader for the iPad and the document was also done in fairly muted colours, which, I believe, cut down on the glare factor. I also tried porting said pdf document to the Kindle itself but (at least at the time I tried) there was no zoom and the formatting was distorted because of the amount of graphics, which Kindle doesn't handle well.

    I hope that answers your question on my POV and I apologize again for taking an entire month to reply.

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