This article resonated with me so much. I used to think the difference in my e-reading speed and comprehension was because I learned to read on paper as a child but I think it goes beyond that. I still see many young children reading print books, in addition to their electronic materials. Anecdotal experience from parents and those who work with children (YA librarians, teachers, etc.) is that children still use paper in addition to digital resources. We’re not necessarily replacing one format with another.
My belief is that the print industry will follow the footprints of the music industry; print books will become more like vinyl LPs; over time more casual reading material or niche materials – like textbooks – will move primarily to digital formats — but many variables come into play.
Another factor with print books is the content itself. I think about artist books, art textbooks, “coffee table” books, children’s books, and photography books. All of these rely heavily on the image and are still easy to find in print. Perhaps, the printed page seems to be less of a barrier to the content? Could it be that the printing process – not only the resolution but the ink itself – CMYK – adds to the experience? Does the heavy use of lossy JPG images contribute to this?
Could it be something else entirely? Do we actually read more quickly on paper? Studies seem to indicate yes (here ; table included below)
but some studies are indicating that comprehension changes, too; others like this one indicate no difference in comprehension!
In terms of my own experience, I am comfortable reading short articles and professional posts online; for casual reading, my paperbacks have been replaced by ebooks. However, for scholarly articles and other deep literature, I do find that I have better comprehension in reading on paper. Part of that is that I will highlight and markup a printed article and do not use that tool in ebooks as much. Of course, some ebooks do not support that ability, so perhaps, it is about the limitations of the technology impacting the process of reading.
Paper books also allow for different types of annotation: underlining and dog-earing and margin-scribbling, which for many people is integral to deep reading. Screen-reading software may allow annotations, but the process is far less tactile—and some researchers say tactility may be important.
Scrolling “took a lot of mental resources that could have been spent comprehending the text instead,” said Wästlund. Like being distracted when memorizing a phone number, scrolling’s interruptions knocked information from short-term memory. That’s the basic level of information processing, laying a foundation for long-term memories and knowledge.
It seems likely that many factors are impacting comprehension and reading on the web.
Reading Online or on Paper: Which is Faster?
Reading Comprehension: Print vs. Screen
Reading in Print, Versus on a Computer or Kindle, Doesn’t Change Comprehension http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/06/study-reading-in-print-versus-on-a-computer-or-kindle-doesnt-change-comprehension/276818/
Reading On Screen Vs Paper
E-readers help dyslexics improve speed, comprehension
How Does Electronic Reading Affect Comprehension? http://dmlcentral.net/blog/john-jones/how-does-electronic-reading-affect-comprehension (comments are really interesting)
New study suggests ebooks could negatively affect how we comprehend what we read http://wp.me/p4qnqR-1mQf
Images on the web
Other reading related:
Speed reading apps