I’m a screen kinda guy but even I’ve noticed that there is a difference, most particularly in my comprehension and retention of what I read. I get more from novels printed in paper- or hardback but I’m surprised to say I enjoy reading them more on my iPad. That is a hard thing to admit, feels like I’m going against what I’ve believed all my life. but it’s true.
It just might also be bad.
Of course, there’s no clear-cut answer to the paper vs. screen question—it’s tangled with variables, like what kind of medium we’re talking about (paper, e-book, laptop, iPhone), the type of text (Fifty Shades of Grey or War and Peace), who’s reading and their preference, whether they’re a digital native, and many other factors. But many researchers say that reading onscreen encourages a particular style of reading called “nonlinear” reading—basically, skimming.
In a 2005 study out of San Jose University, Ziming Liu looked at how reading behavior changed over the past decade, and found exactly this pattern. “The screen-based reading behavior is characterized by more time spent on browsing and scanning, keyword spotting, one-time reading, non-linear reading, and reading more selectively,” Liu wrote. In the face of endless information, links, videos, and images demanding our attention, we’ve adapted our reading to fit our screens.
Now here’s an interesting thing: I copied and pasted that quote out of the Fast Company’s Design section and it looked fine there but I felt compelled to break it up into two paragraphs. I just added a return, I wouldn’t alter the quote, but on this screen at this time, it looked like an impenetrable wall of letters. On the original site, it looked fine.
So I’m looking at it on the same screen but the font choice, the layout, the spacing make giant differences. Read the full piece