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Old 10-29-2013, 07:47 AM   #1
sdpetersen
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Scientific American Article: Screen vs. Paper

There is quite an interesting article in the latest issue of Scientific American (Nov. 2013) entitled "Why the brain prefers paper." It cites many studies but fails to give information needed to judge the quality of the studies. Still, it raises many interesting issues. Let me point out that I read on the ipad digital version of the magazine. What is your reaction?

Link to summary of the article at the Scientific American website

Last edited by pdurrant; 10-29-2013 at 08:52 AM.
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Old 10-29-2013, 08:35 AM   #2
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Would have to see the full paper(s) involved. There are way too many variables - whether the subjects are screen-reading-naive, what sort of screen, what brightness (if any), contexts, what sort of material, how "prefers" is defined and measured, etc etc etc.
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Old 10-29-2013, 11:03 AM   #3
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I would say "The brain prefers e-ink vs backlight" instead. I love reading on e-ink for long periods compared to a LCD backlit screen. With e-ink I don't think there is much difference compared to paper.

Another factor if one has their tablet loaded with apps, they may fall into the "check email" every 3 seconds rather than read their book. Another reason for e-ink as most readers are just that readers, without a lot of other features. Although one think I like about the the B&N Nook simple touch is its hackablity (and its expand ablity), but I still prefer the format of my nook classic ultimately. Depends on the person, some people prefer to be on a less featured device, some prefer to have the features but can ignore them when reading a book.
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Old 10-29-2013, 11:08 AM   #4
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I think the Scientific American article is bunk. I once read 3 long Russian novels on my Palm Pilot -- without any trouble at all. I could read anywhere, which would have been a bit of a problem if I'd been carrying 6 pounds of books. Now I use a Koba Aura HD and hate it when I have to open a physical book (often with print that's small) and leaf through it. The article doesn't take into account the fact that people have to grow used to ereaders.
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Old 10-29-2013, 11:10 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DBDigital View Post
I would say "The brain prefers e-ink vs backlight" instead. I love reading on e-ink for long periods compared to a LCD backlit screen. With e-ink I don't think there is much difference compared to paper.
I agree. I find that I read faster and have better reading comprehension when reading e-ink than paper, which I attribute to the fact that e-ink allows you to (almost) always choose your preferred font, margins, line spacing, and font size. Whereas with paper books, you're stuck with fonts that are either too small, or not very pleasing to the eye. It could be I'm just a picky reader, but it's rare these days for me to read on anything but e-ink.
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Old 10-29-2013, 12:29 PM   #6
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I think the author fails to look at the full picture. What about paperback books that lose pages, even whole clusters of pages because the book was glued together rather than being stitched. Now that is a distraction. And what about the physical activity required to keep most books open. They tend to want to close up on their own. And what about the physical activity required to turn pages. The author said that scrolling in a digital reader was a distraction, but it seems to me that turning a book's pages are more distracting. I didn't read the entire article as I don't want to buy it. But this seems to be yet another article designed to support the author's views, rather than a truly exploratory article seeking to find answers. Meh....
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Old 10-29-2013, 02:27 PM   #7
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I think it's bullshit to say that "the brain prefers something".

Most people prefer what they have learned, and what they know best. For most people living today, that is (still) paper books.

Imagine a child that was born today would be given only e-readers to read from starting at age 4, then would be using e-readers in school, and in college, and then introducing him or her to paper books in 2060 (at the age of 47). "Look at how we read stories before 2007!"

I think a paper book would just be an amusing curiosity to someone like that, in the same way a black-and-white movie is a curiosity nowadays. Nobody watches them, except when in a nostalgic mood.

I know people who have never watched Shindler's List, on the sole ground that it wasn't in color. (Yes, I know the two split-second occurences of red in that movie.)
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Old 10-29-2013, 05:14 PM   #8
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I read the full (relatively short) article and find it highly speculative at the least. They cite just a couple of studies that one might be able to Google, some anecdotes, and unspecified 'surveys and consumer reports' in support of the idea that electronic reading's 'haptic dissonance' makes paper inherently superior.

The state of digital reading is a fast-moving target and people have to develop skills for it. You can't sit people down for a 'study' who have been reading paper books all their lives, have them read something in a book, then expect them to get comfortable reading some electronic rendition with some crummy reading system (which, frankly, most are at this point) and draw any conclusions that 'paper is better because of this or that'.

Last edited by tomsem; 10-29-2013 at 10:20 PM.
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Old 10-29-2013, 05:19 PM   #9
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I can see what the article is saying about getting used to things. I tried using my Kindle keyboard the other day and tried to turn the pages by swiping my finger across the screen. :lol: I've gotten so used to turning the pages using the touch screen that I forgot for a minute that the keyboard uses buttons.
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Old 10-30-2013, 08:48 AM   #10
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I can see what the article is saying about getting used to things. I tried using my Kindle keyboard the other day and tried to turn the pages by swiping my finger across the screen. :lol: I've gotten so used to turning the pages using the touch screen that I forgot for a minute that the keyboard uses buttons.
I find I do the same thing when I go from reading on one of my Sony readers to reading on my PW. I try to push a button that isn't there to turn the page. I'm sure we all did the same sort of thing the first time we used an e-reader. We automatically reached up to the top corner of the unit to turn the page. People who have the finger licking habit in turning paper pages probably did that as well. It's all conditioning, and once your familiar with a new way, it becomes routine.
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Old 10-30-2013, 09:43 AM   #11
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Old 10-30-2013, 10:46 AM   #12
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The brain may prefer paper, but I gave up reading the last paperback book I bought because it was just too much trouble to read. In contrast, I've already finished two eBooks this week.

The "brain" may prefer paper, but my fifty-year-old eyes prefer a screen.
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Old 10-30-2013, 02:04 PM   #13
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"Scrolling demands constant conscious effort..." Whaaat??? Who scrolls when reading a book (in eform) these days unless the reader themself prefers that... for everyone else it's a simple button press or page swipe that requires less effort to access the next page than a physical pbook page... research may be a touch out of date...
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Old 10-30-2013, 07:50 PM   #14
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"Scrolling demands constant conscious effort..." Whaaat??? Who scrolls when reading a book (in eform) these days unless the reader themself prefers that... for everyone else it's a simple button press or page swipe that requires less effort to access the next page than a physical pbook page... research may be a touch out of date...
This explains the results: they are using it wrong.
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Old 10-30-2013, 11:17 PM   #15
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If they are talking about tablets and laptops, exclusively, they ought to state that and limit their observations to what they observe. As it is presented, the study is naive.

Too bad, too, because as several of you pointed out above, there is a germ of a useful insight: people can read best when it's presented in the manner they are accustomed to. I configure my Kobo Aura HD with the font family and size, margins, line width and brightness that is most like my ideal book. The screen is not taxing and page turns are less intrusive than a paper book.

Here is a valid comparison, "screen" versus "paper" goes nowhere. You cannot use a computer without reading its screen after all and no one can afford to give up computing. The world has moved on.
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