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Old 05-20-2013, 06:17 PM   #1
tomsem
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"The Science of Paper versus Screens"

http://www.scientificamerican.com/ar...-paper-screens

I think the "science" is at best exploratory at this point, and am skeptical on many levels about any of the 'conclusions' that are being suggested.

Digital reading is a skill, and digital reading systems and technologies are not all created equal. But the studies referred to don't appear to explore more than one digital reading system. Books aren't equal, either: they can be poorly typeset, cheap paper, or have unpleasant odors.

Also the subjects of the studies likely have a lifetime of experience reading books, but only a few years (if that) with digital reading. Again, it is a skill and brains need to rewire to do it well.

Without reading the methodology, it is impossible to know what they have experimental controls for.

I agree that ebook navigation is not what it ought to be, but digital reading is still in the early stages, and has yet to really tackle the higher-hanging fruit (textbooks, technical) that would really benefit from improved reading systems.

Last edited by tomsem; 05-20-2013 at 06:23 PM.
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Old 05-20-2013, 11:24 PM   #2
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The comments to the article were more interesting than the article. Most responders were merely parroting their own opinions, not scientific fact. In my field, presentations are rarely ever printed, unless they appear in a journal. Most of the day-to-day results are shown in slides or word/pdf documents. I only print when I need to fly on a plane (and can't set up a large computer screen or screens).

I don't get lost with multipage electronic documents. If there is a need to view two pages simultaneously, I merely open up two viewers. The idea of someone flipping back and forth between two pages in a printed report or book is ludicrous. One of many things I can do with an electronic copy is to cut and past equations or definitions. Try doing this with a paper copy! On the computer you can also plop an algorithm into Matlab or Mathematica. This is the way real researchers work. I am sure that even non-scientists have developed effective manipulation tools using the features that modern readers and computers provide to the end user.
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Old 05-21-2013, 05:11 AM   #3
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The idea of someone flipping back and forth between two pages in a printed report or book is ludicrous.
.
why?
easy to do.
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Old 05-21-2013, 06:29 AM   #4
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Citing pre-1992 studies is questionable at best. Those were done with people reading very large print on televisions, and determined that they were slower.

If anything, people may remember less with e-texts simply because they expect the computer to remember things. Before writing became common, people could easily remember and recite exactly things they heard. Once writing became common, it was easier to let the paper do the remembering. Similarly, if I know where to go to find information, I don't have to remember the information. An easily-searchable etext gives me access to the information whenever I need it, without having to recall the information itself.

I'm certain there were naysayers when writing came about, and Gutenberg's press wasn't loved by all, as it removed the human element from texts. Different isn't always better, but neither is it always worse.
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:37 AM   #5
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Quote:
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Citing pre-1992 studies is questionable at best. Those were done with people reading very large print on televisions, and determined that they were slower.

If anything, people may remember less with e-texts simply because they expect the computer to remember things. Before writing became common, people could easily remember and recite exactly things they heard. Once writing became common, it was easier to let the paper do the remembering. Similarly, if I know where to go to find information, I don't have to remember the information. An easily-searchable etext gives me access to the information whenever I need it, without having to recall the information itself.

I'm certain there were naysayers when writing came about, and Gutenberg's press wasn't loved by all, as it removed the human element from texts. Different isn't always better, but neither is it always worse.
once people used knots or carved staffs for help to recite history
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Old 05-22-2013, 08:22 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sregener View Post
If anything, people may remember less with e-texts simply because they expect the computer to remember things. Before writing became common, people could easily remember and recite exactly things they heard. Once writing became common, it was easier to let the paper do the remembering. Similarly, if I know where to go to find information, I don't have to remember the information. An easily-searchable etext gives me access to the information whenever I need it, without having to recall the information itself.
Memory is a wonderful tool, but I wouldn't gamble the future of civilization on memory. Medieval Europe is an excellent example of what happens when people forget because written records were, by in large, forgotten. Likewise, the printed word is a wonderful tool, but I wouldn't gamble the future of our civilization on the printed word. Our world is dependent upon knowledge of both great depth and breadth. So much so that it is beyond not just our own memories, but likely beyond our ability to retrieve that knowledge from printed texts in a timely manner. I've searched for knowledge the old fashioned way, by tracking it through print. Something that can take a few seconds using a database query used to take weeks of tracking down references through printed indicies. (I'm talking about the volumes dedicated to research, rather than the pages found at the end of a book.) So yes, the technology is a net benefit even if a few things slip our minds because of it.
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Old 05-22-2013, 09:57 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fat Abe View Post
The comments to the article were more interesting than the article. Most responders were merely parroting their own opinions, not scientific fact. In my field, presentations are rarely ever printed, unless they appear in a journal. Most of the day-to-day results are shown in slides or word/pdf documents.
I guess fields differ. As a geneticist in a general cell biology lab, we print most results when discussing. Only presentations to larger audiences are given electronically.

Quote:
The idea of someone flipping back and forth between two pages in a printed report or book is ludicrous.
Personally I do it all the time, as do many colleges.

Quote:
One of many things I can do with an electronic copy is to cut and past equations or definitions. Try doing this with a paper copy!
Generally I find there is very little need to do that.

Quote:
On the computer you can also plop an algorithm into Matlab or Mathematica. This is the way real researchers work.
Hmmm, I guess I am not a real researcher then -- please don't let our funding agencies know.
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Old 05-22-2013, 11:24 AM   #8
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Different formats work for different things.

I will never, ever, want a report full of number and figures on paper. But reference books, books I'm going to want to look up specific parts in, those work much better in paper.

If specific formatting or diagrams are necessary to the text, it's much more likely to be faithfully replicated in paper. But if it's all text, electronic versions flow smoothly.
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Old 05-22-2013, 04:43 PM   #9
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If I am doing technical stuff, like trying to figure out why a say a "windup" didn't work right, I might have a electrical schematic, a control schematic, a monitor and printout with the ladder logic, a motor drive manual, and numerous notes all spread out at once on "anywhere that is convenient" and has a good light (hopefully.)

When I am doing my occasional author stuff, I will have notes, current written text, reference paper books (open or with the old fashioned book marks, or even a small piece of tape with writing sticking out on the side or top) on top of a writing table or desk. (Or even on the wall on some big whiteboards.)

I like to have a view of everything. It allows my eyes as well as my thoughts to jump about so my mind can pull it all together and make sense of it.
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