website statistics Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World - PDF Books Online
Hot Best Seller

Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World

Availability: Ready to download

People have been reading on computer screens for several decades now, pre-dating popularization of personal computers and widespread use of the internet. But it was the rise of eReaders and tablets that caused digital reading to explode. In 2007, Amazon introduced its first Kindle. Three years later, Apple debuted the iPad. Meanwhile, as mobile phone technology improved an People have been reading on computer screens for several decades now, pre-dating popularization of personal computers and widespread use of the internet. But it was the rise of eReaders and tablets that caused digital reading to explode. In 2007, Amazon introduced its first Kindle. Three years later, Apple debuted the iPad. Meanwhile, as mobile phone technology improved and smartphones proliferated, the phone became another vital reading platform. In Words Onscreen, Naomi Baron, an expert on language and technology, explores how technology is reshaping our understanding of what it means to read. Digital reading is increasingly popular. Reading onscreen has many virtues, including convenience, potential cost-savings, and the opportunity to bring free access to books and other written materials to people around the world. Yet, Baron argues, the virtues of eReading are matched with drawbacks. Users are easily distracted by other temptations on their devices, multitasking is rampant, and screens coax us to skim rather than read in-depth. What is more, if the way we read is changing, so is the way we write. In response to changing reading habits, many authors and publishers are producing shorter works and ones that don't require reflection or close reading. In her tour through the new world of eReading, Baron weighs the value of reading physical print versus online text, including the question of what long-standing benefits of reading might be lost if we go overwhelmingly digital. She also probes how the internet is shifting reading from being a solitary experience to a social one, and the reasons why eReading has taken off in some countries, especially the United States and United Kingdom, but not others, like France and Japan. Reaching past the hype on both sides of the discussion, Baron draws upon her own cross-cultural studies to offer a clear-eyed and balanced analysis of the ways technology is affecting the ways we read today - and what


Compare

People have been reading on computer screens for several decades now, pre-dating popularization of personal computers and widespread use of the internet. But it was the rise of eReaders and tablets that caused digital reading to explode. In 2007, Amazon introduced its first Kindle. Three years later, Apple debuted the iPad. Meanwhile, as mobile phone technology improved an People have been reading on computer screens for several decades now, pre-dating popularization of personal computers and widespread use of the internet. But it was the rise of eReaders and tablets that caused digital reading to explode. In 2007, Amazon introduced its first Kindle. Three years later, Apple debuted the iPad. Meanwhile, as mobile phone technology improved and smartphones proliferated, the phone became another vital reading platform. In Words Onscreen, Naomi Baron, an expert on language and technology, explores how technology is reshaping our understanding of what it means to read. Digital reading is increasingly popular. Reading onscreen has many virtues, including convenience, potential cost-savings, and the opportunity to bring free access to books and other written materials to people around the world. Yet, Baron argues, the virtues of eReading are matched with drawbacks. Users are easily distracted by other temptations on their devices, multitasking is rampant, and screens coax us to skim rather than read in-depth. What is more, if the way we read is changing, so is the way we write. In response to changing reading habits, many authors and publishers are producing shorter works and ones that don't require reflection or close reading. In her tour through the new world of eReading, Baron weighs the value of reading physical print versus online text, including the question of what long-standing benefits of reading might be lost if we go overwhelmingly digital. She also probes how the internet is shifting reading from being a solitary experience to a social one, and the reasons why eReading has taken off in some countries, especially the United States and United Kingdom, but not others, like France and Japan. Reaching past the hype on both sides of the discussion, Baron draws upon her own cross-cultural studies to offer a clear-eyed and balanced analysis of the ways technology is affecting the ways we read today - and what

30 review for Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rt

    Free review copy. Tragic irony or poetic justice: the e-reader advance copy was a total formatting mess. For a book like this, it may be important to establish the reviewer’s bona fides. So here goes: Our house has a room of built-in bookshelves and another room completely covered in bookshelves, and I have designs on library-style back-to-back rows in the center eventually, when the space in our current shelves runs out. We use Library of Congress categorization for the nonfiction. I love the s Free review copy. Tragic irony or poetic justice: the e-reader advance copy was a total formatting mess. For a book like this, it may be important to establish the reviewer’s bona fides. So here goes: Our house has a room of built-in bookshelves and another room completely covered in bookshelves, and I have designs on library-style back-to-back rows in the center eventually, when the space in our current shelves runs out. We use Library of Congress categorization for the nonfiction. I love the smell of old books; they smell like raisin bread. I’ve reread books to pieces, though admittedly not the great books the author wants me to be rereading. I tried to ban laptops in the classroom, but have reverted to just requiring an honor code pledge to stay off the internet, which I think at least decreases the amount of time my students spend “multitasking.” With that out of the way, this book in defense of print is half arrant nonsense and half very important issues worth considering, especially when there are indeed foolish people in the world who think that physical books can be completely abandoned. A significant part of the book tells the story of changes in reading practices over time, including a move away from reading aloud/moving one’s lips while reading; the adoption of an ordered alphabet and therefore the possibility of indexing; and the adoption of page numbers, which she considers particularly important in shaping how people interacted with books. Despite the reality of continuous change, we were, the book implicitly argues, at a perfect point in the mid-twentieth century, and e-books are sending us downhill. For example, “find,” Baron argues, reshapes reading from a linear/continuous activity to a “random-access” process. This strikes me as a misuse of computer jargon, though reading practices clearly are changing. She doesn’t discuss old accusations that the novel was destroying morality or the older accusations that print would destroy memory, though there’s something of an echo in her contention that e-reading threatens the survival of long-form reading. Unfortunately, Baron relies a lot on rhetorical questions (is it good that there are so many erotica groups on Goodreads?) and analogies (e-books are like exercise belts that purport to do the exercise for you, while print is real exercise), which is dangerous if your audience doesn’t agree with you. To me, the prospect of lots and lots of people reading erotica because no one else knows what they’re reading is not a parade of horribles. That’s just a parade. Baron also believes, because of her own experiences and those of various authors she quotes, that no one has ever cried reading an e-book. Nobody tell her about fan fiction. I mean, she’s gotten this far in life … In our fallen world, some people use reading to avoid social interaction. (The horror!) She even says that the Japanese have perfected this art on the subway, while acknowledging in the very same sentence that in fact, cultural constraints make it very unlikely that a stranger on the Japanese subway would approach you no matter what you were doing. Reading on electronic devices is simply standing in for parts of modern life she doesn’t like. For example, in her list of prescriptions for improvement, she argues that adults should “[m]odel focused face-to-face activity for students and progeny,” which sounds good but has essentially nothing to do with reading as such. Baron also makes the move I hate absolutely the most in critical treatments of electronic access. (1) Bemoan the loss of “serendipity” that occurs when we no longer wander the stacks. (2) Bemoan the way that it is so easy to get sidetracked when you’re searching online. You’re reading one Wikipedia entry (or TvTropes), and forty minutes later you’re still chasing down an interesting related thought. These are exactly the same thing! You’re just describing one in a positive way and one in a negative way! Infuriatingly, she offers these plaudits/criticisms one right after the other, insensible of the contradiction. I do think a more careful argument could be made about the likelihood that the stacks were in an order that kept you more or less on topic in your browsing versus random tangents on Wikipedia. However, I think even that argument would be wrong, not least because of the structures of power encoded in existing categorization systems—your serendipity was dependent on the decisions of the people in charge of those, or at least of the people in charge of your local bookstore. Algorithmic serendipity is not obviously worse and in some ways better. Probably the most ridiculous universalist moment comes when Baron argues that physical papers are good because you can leave them on your desk, be reminded of them, and come back to them at a more appropriate time. Apparently she’s never heard of a work folder or a to-do list. (Okay, that’s too snide. Apparently she does not appreciate that what works for some people in organizing their work spaces does not work for other people.) “It is faster to thumb through tangible files in a drawer than to open dozens of computer files to find what you are looking for.” I don’t know what OS she’s using, but mine lets me search in faster ways than that! I shudder to think what her computer files look like, but more to the point, that’s not what mine look like, whereas if I wanted to thumb through tangible files I would have to get off my couch, drive half an hour to work, and then try and figure out where the heck I stored whatever it is I needed to find. Or, more realistically, I could go to HeinOnline and get a copy without leaving my couch. She argues that digital files are at risk of deletion at the touch of a button, but I have Dropbox and multiple copies keeping stuff safe, whereas my father threw out all of the college notebooks I meant to save, so my feelings are quite different. Other considerations: E-reading means that carrying around an impressive tome is no longer as impressive to others, so reading is less of a way to show off, and we can read whatever we want, even if it’s of inferior quality. Baron thinks the inability to show off is an “irony,” I guess because she thinks e-readers are bad, though she does acknowledge the advantages of convenience, cost, and improved access for many people who wouldn’t have been able to get the same things in print (people with print disabilities do not show up in this book). But even cost is a double-edged sword, she suggests, because if books become too cheap, no one will value them. And then that’s the source of another annoying inconsistency: she touts used books as more desirable because they’re cheaper than e-books. This is the kind of throw-everything-at-the-wall argumentation that overwhelms Baron’s attempts at balance wherein she occasionally mentions the merits of e-readers. Baron likewise discusses real concerns about reader (and internet) privacy mixed with nonsense: she doesn’t want her sophomoric comments on Chomsky to be part of the public record, but doesn’t seem to realize that note sharing can be turned off on Kindle. Serious concerns: there is some evidence that reading electronically encourages less intensive reading and rereading, thus less contemplation of what’s been read. Whether this is generational and will correct itself very much remains to be seen. There’s also some evidence (again, its potential persistence unknown) that lack of physical engagement with a book—turning pages!—may decrease attention and memory, because of the physicality of our memory and the importance of remembering “where it was on the page.” We read web pages in an “F” pattern, ignoring a lot on the bottom right (though she doesn’t provide any data that physical books are actually read differently, or really physical magazines since those are the closest matches and have lots of ads to ignore). Many students she surveyed in several countries preferred physical textbooks because they found them easier to study from even though they were otherwise fond of reading electronically; physical books encouraged rereading. If that’s right, then replacing schoolbooks with iPads or electronic texts may be foolish in the long term, whether or not it saves money now. It’s important to note the significant amount of variation among students, though—nearly 60% would prefer a print textbook at the same price, but that means 40% wouldn’t; another poll of MBA students found that 20% said they read more in e-textbooks than they would have in print, while more than 40% said they read less. Additionally, she cites research suggesting that comprehension is pretty similar across media, at least for adults. It’s also notable that the students’ common preference for print in certain circumstances refutes any apocalyptic account. People seem to have a decent sense of when print would be helpful to them, even if they’re youngsters who mostly interact electronically—like the sixth-greater who almost never writes by hand, except when she’s writing poetry; apparently she wasn’t ruined by her mostly electronic experience. So one good point Baron makes is that we shouldn’t assume that, just because youngsters have a lot of devices, they can be shifted completely to electronic texts for educational purposes. More to worry about: There is also evidence people are reading more shorter things, and taking less time with each thing they read, and she even cites a study suggesting that digital availability of journals makes references more recent (people don’t bother to read the older stuff) and narrower. Forced browsing, she suggests, may have deepened scholarship. Now we are mere flaneurs, flitting from work to work. But it is notable that she quotes Robert Darnton’s description of English readers in the second half of the eighteenth century as similar to the present condition: “[Men] read all kinds of material, especially periodicals and newspapers, and read it only once, then raced on to the next item.” Electronic reading is often more discontinuous—people browse away and read something else; we (me too!) check our email in the middle of reading a book. Multitasking is, empirically, terrible for concentration and attention, and we’re far more confident than we should be of our ability to give attention to two things at once. But we don’t actually have much empirical data about how people used to read physical books. In any event, this distractibility decreases intense concentration, which is why some people have seen the need to put technological controls on their own ability to wander (I use LeechBlock). This is a very real phenomenon, but I don’t think it’s exactly about reading—playing online games has similar effects. Likewise, while the concern she has that electronic communication is distancing—she cites a study where the mere presence of a mobile phone led subjects to judge a relationship as being of lower quality and to have less empathy for the person they were talking to in person—that’s not a reading problem. Baron is also concerned that e-books seem less like owned things—and of course our user agreements say they aren’t. If people don’t see themselves as owners, do they engage less? Well, I don’t know. She argues that people take less care of rental cottages than of their own homes, but that analogy doesn’t exactly work with a digital text, which is hard to leave with a leaky faucet. She also isn’t happy with our accumulation of digital objects like photos, either. “Yes, they have a kind of permanence, but it is more like the clutter in our attics or garages than the phsyical photos we once selectively preserved.” (Get offa my lawn!) Not entirely relatedly, Baron doesn’t like the shrinking of college reading lists over the past few decades. Though she acknowledges that students didn’t always read everything on the syllabus, she thinks they read substantially more than they do now. (Citation needed.) On one point we’re in unqualified agreement: we cannot assume that students know how to read well onscreen. They need to be taught how. This is also true of print. That’s the most sensible passage in the book. Charming tidbit: from the “more things change” category, Seneca rebuked “those who displayed scrolls with decorated knobs and colored labels rather than reading them.”

  2. 4 out of 5

    Biblio Files (takingadayoff)

    I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a book as much as this while disagreeing with practically everything the author said. In Words Onscreen linguistics professor Naomi Baron details her concerns about the effect that digital devices are having on reading and learning. One of her arguments is that reading a book deeply, with no distractions, enables you to have a conversation with the author, which is less likely when the internet is only a finger swipe away. I read Words Onscreen on an iPad I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a book as much as this while disagreeing with practically everything the author said. In Words Onscreen linguistics professor Naomi Baron details her concerns about the effect that digital devices are having on reading and learning. One of her arguments is that reading a book deeply, with no distractions, enables you to have a conversation with the author, which is less likely when the internet is only a finger swipe away. I read Words Onscreen on an iPad and an internet connection and can assure Professor Baron that I had many conversations with her as I read the book. Baron concedes that certain kinds of reading are better for onscreen reading than others. Newspapers and airport novels that are read once and discarded fit into that category. But she thinks that textbooks and literature require more concentration -- concentration that is undermined when reading pixels rather than ink on paper. She cites many studies and cites many of her students in their preference for paper over screens. In making her case, Baron throws every possible argument against digital reading, not just the distraction argument. You see this in some court cases, where there is an airtight case for manslaughter, but the prosecution goes for murder one, assault, illegal possession of a weapon, and tax evasion. The defense picks away at the weak edges of the case, and the jury acquits because they now have doubts about the whole case. So we get charts and statistics, but we also get the serendipity of browsing in a bookstore, the smell of the book, the ability to collect and lend books, and have them autographed. I'm sure we've all been down the rabbit-hole of an internet search and that can be as serendipitous as a bookstore browse. As for the smell of the book, well, if I can smell a book, I toss it because it's mildewed or has cigaret smoke on it. The smell of paper and ink I find to be as subtle as the scent of a Kindle. The number of books I plan to re-read is quite small and even if I want to read a book again in five years, I feel confident I can find it again in a bookstore or online rather than lugging it around with me through two or three moves. Some of the arguments have a recycled feel about them as well. In her concern that young people will lose the ability to socialize face-to-face after excessive internet socializing, Baron echoes the arguments of parents after the invention of the telephone. Her arguments about internet distractions while reading sound much like the worries over whether TV should be allowed while students are doing their homework. Even if you could eliminate all distractions, students (or drivers or neurosurgeons) will still find themselves daydreaming or suddenly remembering to make that dentist appointment just when they should be concentrating. One concern I do share is that of privacy and the fact that Amazon or Apple or Kobo or The New York Times or the National Security Agency can monitor what you are looking at and how much time you spend on certain pages. I did quite enjoy Words Onscreen and it certainly inspired me to think about what it means to read and even what a book is. It's been the subject of a lot of conversation around our house the past few days and it's a subject that is going to continue to get people talking for some years to come. I don't expect print books to go away a la buggy whips. I think they'll be more like the radio, which did not disappear with the advent of talking movies or even television, or even now with podcasts and Spotify. The paperless office never arrived, and paperless books won't kill off the print book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Wanda

    The print is just too small for me to deal with right now--perhaps after my eye surgery I'll give this another try. The print is just too small for me to deal with right now--perhaps after my eye surgery I'll give this another try.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Vince Darcangelo

    http://ensuingchapters.com/2015/03/03... On Feb. 6, I waited in the cold for 7.5 hours to meet author Neil Gaiman at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, Colo. An estimated 2,000 fans bravedWords Onscreen the elements to have the author of The Sandman graphic novels, Coraline and American Gods autograph his new hardcover collection, Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances. Despite the wait (and the fact that I was terribly under-dressed), everyone was jovial, and it felt more like a bibli http://ensuingchapters.com/2015/03/03... On Feb. 6, I waited in the cold for 7.5 hours to meet author Neil Gaiman at Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, Colo. An estimated 2,000 fans bravedWords Onscreen the elements to have the author of The Sandman graphic novels, Coraline and American Gods autograph his new hardcover collection, Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances. Despite the wait (and the fact that I was terribly under-dressed), everyone was jovial, and it felt more like a bibliophile block party than a reception line. Any weariness I may have felt was quickly (and repeatedly) dismissed with an idealistic sentiment voiced by many in attendance, “Isn’t it great to see this many people waiting in line for a book?” Indeed, it was this very love of books that compelled me to read Naomi S. Baron’s Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, an impressive work of scholarship and social commentary by this professor of linguistics at American University. One of Baron’s professed interests is “electronically mediated communication,” and Words Onscreen combines research, anecdote and history to explore the differences between the printed and digitized word. This isn’t a trend piece, but a wide-reaching study on reading, beginning with the inquiry that “if eReading is less well suited for many longer works or even for short ones requiring serious thought, what happens to reading if we shift from print to screens?” Baron takes us to some expected places (studies on digital vs. print reading habits; the effect technology has on our brains; the digital democratization of information; emerging social norms for electronic devices) and some unexpected ones (the history of anthologies and abridged editions; the slow reading movement; the impact of the scroll bar on reading habits). Scrolling and reading, if you’re curious, leads to “worse comprehension” of content. Though Baron’s scope is wide, she never loses sight of her target. She successfully threads each narrative sojourn into the conversation of how we engage with text. One of her deeper philosophical meanderings concerns the definition of reading itself. Is the act of reading simply scanning our eyes across the page? What about those passages whose complexity or sheer beauty cause the reader to set down the book and meditate on those words? What about re-reading? Studies show that pausing while reading and re-reading leads to better comprehension of the material (not surprisingly). Research is important, as it informs best practices for teaching and learning, but Baron admits the difficulties with measuring reading comprehension. Mere content recall provides only plot summary, and deep understanding takes both time and contemplation. Take, for instance, Gogol’s classic novel, Dead Souls. “Some of the benefits of literature come from discussions with others or personal reflection at quiet moments. Payoffs may not surface until years later when, having lived and experienced more, we discover the relevance of Gogol’s world to ours. Try measuring that.” Indeed. Like many academic books (as opposed to general nonfiction), Baron tends to over-support some of her conclusions, citing studies with overlapping information, but that’s to be expected. The author has many insightful things to say throughout the book, but there’s not much in the conclusion that would be news to an academic audience. For this, I don’t blame the author, but reality. There’s no closing the barn door on the Kindle or Nook (on which I read my digital galley of Words Onscreen), and it’s hard to predict the direction of accelerated technology. Also, there are many positives to digital reading to weigh against the negative, from minor conveniences (not having to carry five books on an international flight) to those of great importance (the facilitation of increased global literacy). Baron instead advises instructors and avid readers on how to navigate the digital-print hybrid. Her criticisms of e-reading are fair and supported by research, and her tone is never melancholic or luddite. The ultimate takeaway from Words Onscreen is that the content matters more than the container, although Baron also makes a compelling argument for the container as totem. For the roughly 2,000 bibliophiles in line with me at the Neil Gaiman signing, the container was still something of value: a beautifully printed and16277386370_74c41c8a45_o bound edition with a personalized signature in permanent ink. As Baron points out, it’s not just the text on the pages that matter. We fall in love with the smell of books, the crispness of the paper, unique typefaces that digital readers can’t reproduce. We can underline, highlight, write in the margins. Some keep their books in pristine condition, while others dog-ear, fold and break-in a book like they would a new baseball glove. Their utility extends beyond the reading. Bookshelves provide memories for the reader, a conversation spark for guests and ready access to favorite works. There is something lost in the translation from print to digital. For me, it calls to mind Harlow’s monkeys. If all they needed was food, then the monkeys wouldn’t object to curling up with a wire mother. Except, they needed the nurturing touch of the cloth mother. For the same reason, meal replacement shakes or futuristic food pills will never take the place of an actual dinner, because eating is not just about the absorption of nutrients. With technology advancing at a bullet’s pace, who knows what will come of books in the future. It’s clear from Baron’s research that the format of what we read affects how we read, but it’s hard to predict where that will take us. Wherever we end up, Words Onscreen should serve as an important guidebook. It’s a wonderful and important book, no matter how you read it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sam Sattler

    Digital reading, via such electronic reading devices as the Nook, the Kindle, and the recently departed Sony Reader, has been around long enough now that its side-effects are starting to be measured and discussed. The root question regarding digital reading explored by Naomi S. Baron in Words Onscreen is one of whether or not “digital reading is reshaping our very understanding of what it means to read.” Readers of Words Onscreen, if they had not already reached that conclusion before beginning Digital reading, via such electronic reading devices as the Nook, the Kindle, and the recently departed Sony Reader, has been around long enough now that its side-effects are starting to be measured and discussed. The root question regarding digital reading explored by Naomi S. Baron in Words Onscreen is one of whether or not “digital reading is reshaping our very understanding of what it means to read.” Readers of Words Onscreen, if they had not already reached that conclusion before beginning the book, are likely to come away from a reading of it with a resounding “yes” in answer to the author’s question. Few would argue that reading a book on a Kindle provides the same experience as reading that same book in its physical form. Each format has its own set of distinct characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages and, largely depending on personal preferences, each format attracts strong advocates – and equally strong critics. Naomi Baron, by exploring those advantages, disadvantages, and related characteristics in detail, explains why that is and why it is unlikely to change. If not always surprising, what Baron learns in her study of digital reading (and digital readers) is always thought provoking enough to steer the reader toward self-examination of his own feelings about the electronic reading process and environment. Baron begins with the premise that digital reading is suitable for shorter pieces of light content, the kind of thing the reader neither intends to analyze nor to reread. At the same time, she states that digital reading is not at all suited for reading most long works or works of any length that require “serious thought” on the part of the reader. Does this mean that, as the prevalence of digital reading continues to increase, certain types of reading will be abandoned by even the most serious of readers? Baron, in her chapter detailing the ever-increasing adoption of digital textbooks by American colleges, argues that this might just be the case. And that shift in focus and ability to deeply study a text, she argues, will have detrimental effects on all of our futures. Words Onscreen explores these and many other issues related to America, Canada, and Britain’s eager (although the pace has slowed in recent months) adoption of digital reading. Interestingly, for a variety of reasons, some of which are financial and some cultural, the rest of the world has not moved toward digital reading nearly as enthusiastically as have these three countries. Even more interesting, because it seems to defy common sense, is the discovery that much of the resistance toward digital reading comes from readers in their twenties and younger. One would have expected such resistance to come almost exclusively from older, more tradition-oriented, readers. That this is not the case, however, is only one of the surprises to be found in Words Onscreen. Side Note: I read Words Onscreen in digital form and, as a result, while reading it I experienced firsthand some of what Baron describes in the book. I have found, however, that as I gain experience in reading e-books, I am beginning to overcome some of the limitations inherent to digital reading.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    Baron's "concern is that deep reading and rereading, uninterrupted reading, and tackling longer texts are seen by fewer and fewer people as part of what it means to read." This book is terrifically researched, so offers one thing I'm looking for: help finding research on how the brain processes reading on- and off-line differently. Most of this book I would characterize as unhelpful nostalgia for reading print. Baron seems to quick to dismiss the value of all our screens for making reading mater Baron's "concern is that deep reading and rereading, uninterrupted reading, and tackling longer texts are seen by fewer and fewer people as part of what it means to read." This book is terrifically researched, so offers one thing I'm looking for: help finding research on how the brain processes reading on- and off-line differently. Most of this book I would characterize as unhelpful nostalgia for reading print. Baron seems to quick to dismiss the value of all our screens for making reading materials accessible. She's distracted by the idea that screen reading is ephemeral and therefore inscrutable in the way print is and therefore has less value and is dumbing humanity down. There are some kinds of reading where I can see her point. But we have centuries of ephemeral reading in the print mode (e.g., newspapers, pamphlets), which did not contribute to the ruination of humankind's ability to think deep thoughts. Baron also gives this reader too many pages of her or study subject "preferences" for the medium of print. For anyone interested in the subject, I recommend reading Chapter 10, and trolling through the robust References section.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donna Parker

    Texts, tweets, blurts, emails, abbreviations, short posts...the world seems to have an issue with too many words. Apparently books, screenplays, posts, etc. all used to have just the amount of words the author thought they needed, but now it's generally too many. The author and others are expressing concerns about the effects of digital reading and learning. But is it too early to know? Obviously the process of reading and learning has been and is constantly being altered, but for better or wors Texts, tweets, blurts, emails, abbreviations, short posts...the world seems to have an issue with too many words. Apparently books, screenplays, posts, etc. all used to have just the amount of words the author thought they needed, but now it's generally too many. The author and others are expressing concerns about the effects of digital reading and learning. But is it too early to know? Obviously the process of reading and learning has been and is constantly being altered, but for better or worse or is it some of both? When I first saw this on Netgalley, free for an honest review I thought the subtitle, 'The Fate of Reading in a Digital World' was a tad dramatic, but at the same time intriguing. The author tries to be unbiased in a subtle, but well-presented discussion of how reading and learning has changed in the digital age. Personally, as interesting as this is, I really think it's early days yet in the electronic versus print debate, not that's it's not worth discussing, just a bit early.

  8. 4 out of 5

    McKayla Moors

    I am a physical book reader. I am not a fan of reading on screen, particularly for any great length of time. If I’m going to be sitting down with a book, it’s going to be in my hands, not on a screen. That being said, I really don’t appreciate Baron’s tone and fairly aggressive bias in this book. While one cannot ignore the data she provides, such as the statistics surrounding information retention after reading on a page versus reading on a screen, it is also impossible to ignore the fact that I am a physical book reader. I am not a fan of reading on screen, particularly for any great length of time. If I’m going to be sitting down with a book, it’s going to be in my hands, not on a screen. That being said, I really don’t appreciate Baron’s tone and fairly aggressive bias in this book. While one cannot ignore the data she provides, such as the statistics surrounding information retention after reading on a page versus reading on a screen, it is also impossible to ignore the fact that she set out to compile this data with the idea of page-reading being superior in mind, considering she admits as much in her introduction. As someone who studied anthropology and languages in my undergraduate career, I value the presentation of cultural information without judgement, and Baron fully cops to passing judgement in this text. It’s irritating, and it makes me value the points she’s trying to make less. Additionally, most of the arguments Baron makes deal with user preference, which have little to do with whether or not reading on a screen is beneficial. Again, to return to the judgement point, if a person prefers to read on a screen, why does that matter, in the grand scheme of things? If they aren’t retaining the information as well as they might were they to read on a page, or if they are causing themselves more eye strain in the long run, or any other number of cons to screen reading, it is the responsibility of the reader to take care of themselves. I hardly see how lecturing them will prompt them to change their behavior. Besides, as much as I personally detest screen reading and audiobooks, I will never begrudge anyone the path they choose for consuming stories. To me, exposing oneself to stories, to differing perspectives, to new and challenging information is the most important thing one can do to make oneself a more rounded person. If that means squeezing in an Atlantic article on the train or scrolling through an ereader on the beach, then fine. I’m certainly not going to judge. If Baron were presenting evidence that suggests that screen reading has seriously adverse health effects—and I am not going to suggest that it doesn’t—or that using screens to read is demonstrably a drain on society, then perhaps I would be less irked by her book. But while I think it’s okay to have a strong opinion about screen reading (I do) and to present evidence to support that opinion (I always appreciate evidence), the tone with which Baron does so is simply unbearable. Again, I hate screen reading, and she makes me want to vociferously defend it. (This is unrelated, but at the end of one chapter she suggests that a reader is more likely to reread The Scarlet Letter than they are 50 Shades of Gray. I’m sorry, but what fantasyland is she living in?) On a slightly different note, much of the focus of these studies is on college students and textbooks. I understand that Baron works for a university, and that focusing on textbooks is a noble cause, given their outrageous price tags, but the vast, vast majority of reading that people while do in their lifetimes, on a page or on a screen, will not be in textbooks. It seems odd to me to frame a text as being about screen reading on the whole, but to focus primarily on four to eight years of a person’s life. While I agree with Baron that reading for class on a screen did not help me learn a thing in undergrad, I think focusing on it for a discussion on the larger cultural impacts of screen reading is a weird choice.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    This was a nicely balanced book about the advantages and disadvantages of reading works in print and on ebooks. And, I agree with her take on the future of reading. I like the distinction the author makes between intensive, deep reading and extensive, broad reading. My reading tends to weigh heavily on the latter. I usually read for fun, and I rarely choose “challenging” books. I’ve tried, but most bore me. Non-fiction tends to be a little heavier. I think about 95% of the books I read are in pri This was a nicely balanced book about the advantages and disadvantages of reading works in print and on ebooks. And, I agree with her take on the future of reading. I like the distinction the author makes between intensive, deep reading and extensive, broad reading. My reading tends to weigh heavily on the latter. I usually read for fun, and I rarely choose “challenging” books. I’ve tried, but most bore me. Non-fiction tends to be a little heavier. I think about 95% of the books I read are in print, but that’s because I’m a heavy user of our local library. I haven’t packed books in a suitcase for travel (unless it’s a car trip) in quite a while. I’m a big fan of my Kindle, especially when I travel. Unlike some of the folks quoted in this book, I have no problem immersing myself in a novel on a Kindle. I change it to airplane mode to make it less likely that I’ll flip to email or the internet, and if it’s a good book, I’ll be fine. I do agree that the main problem with ebooks is the issue of distraction – with my Kindle Fire, if I’m not in airplane mode, it’s just too easy to go to email or the internet. And if I read on my phone, it’s even worse. I dismiss all that blather about the physicality of books. I too can get a case of nostalgia when I smell a new book. It brings me back to childhood and the start of school. Good thoughts, but not enough for me to declare that print books are superior. I find all that talk quite silly. The younger the kids, the less this will be the case as many will have grown up with digital books and not know what I’m talking about. The bottom line: it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There’s room for both print and ebooks, and it’s quite likely both will be around for a long time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Kelly

    A meaningful investigation into the many aspects of reading on screens (eBooks, articles, social media, and much more). The author covers the impacts on cognition, attention span, and memory. She tackles the myth of multi tasking, and the physical/sensory elements involved in reading. She also discusses cultural differences, social aspects, legal issues, and privacy concerns. I found value in the questions the author asks, even moreso than the answers she provides. Her conclusion: both digital a A meaningful investigation into the many aspects of reading on screens (eBooks, articles, social media, and much more). The author covers the impacts on cognition, attention span, and memory. She tackles the myth of multi tasking, and the physical/sensory elements involved in reading. She also discusses cultural differences, social aspects, legal issues, and privacy concerns. I found value in the questions the author asks, even moreso than the answers she provides. Her conclusion: both digital and print have value and are beneficial - but for different purposes. They are complementary, not contradictory, but the shift has implications for how we define "reading."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Yong

    Surprisingly, This is an interesting book. Very well written and researched with wide coverage on the subjects of books - in physical book or in digital form However, I personally disagree on a part of her writing. We human are not from ape. (“...human have 90% of DNA from apes..” ??) That’s why apes don’t read but we human reads. Otherwise, it’s worth reading if you don’t have better books in hand.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Miguel Panão

    This book is informative as well as formative. I couldn’t imagine the reality behind the difference between reason in print and reading digital, although I felt it. Thanks to Naomi Baron, we able to better understand where the equilibrium should be. Although, as she writes in the end, it’s up to you where the boundaries lie.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Court

    An average book discussing eBooks vs print books. The author does have some compelling moments (chapter 8 was really stellar), but the point that prints books are superior to eBooks was made very clear from the beginning, did not need 300 pages, and did not clearly address all the counter arguments to her stance.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    A fascinating work, bolstered by substantial data, analysing how eBooks, the internet, and digital technology have transformed our reading habits; how our uses and perceptions of both digital and print text have evolved over time; and what the future of print books and eBooks may look like. This will be an invaluable academic source for my postgraduate dissertation.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Angel

    Quick impressions: A look at research on reading and how digital texts and devices can and do affect reading ability and habits. It covers a lot of ground but keeps the focus on reading. Overall interesting. I'd say it is a book librarians and educators need to read and consider the findings presented. (Full review on my blog later) Quick impressions: A look at research on reading and how digital texts and devices can and do affect reading ability and habits. It covers a lot of ground but keeps the focus on reading. Overall interesting. I'd say it is a book librarians and educators need to read and consider the findings presented. (Full review on my blog later)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I loved Baron's foray into examining the role of reading in a variety of formats. The questions and arguments she raises are good ones, and her attempt to chronicle our current transitional moment leaves few stones unturned. I loved Baron's foray into examining the role of reading in a variety of formats. The questions and arguments she raises are good ones, and her attempt to chronicle our current transitional moment leaves few stones unturned.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Very informative and readable exploration of the challenge readers face when their "books" are on screen. The author is not dismissive of all electronic media, but does raise appropriate and serious questions about "the fate of reading in a digital world." Very informative and readable exploration of the challenge readers face when their "books" are on screen. The author is not dismissive of all electronic media, but does raise appropriate and serious questions about "the fate of reading in a digital world."

  18. 4 out of 5

    Zöe

    Interesting. Prose-like experience. Worth reading.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Axel

    This book is a good mix of technical and narrative writing. There were plenty of studies included to back up the author's ideas but I didn't feel like I needed an extra degree to finish it. This book is a good mix of technical and narrative writing. There were plenty of studies included to back up the author's ideas but I didn't feel like I needed an extra degree to finish it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kim Sasso

    Word of Mouth Podcast 9/2015

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andréa

    Note: I received a digital review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Bailey

    yes i read the eBook // 3.5 stars

  23. 5 out of 5

    Violet

    Words Onscreen gave me a broader appreciation for the evolution of the written word while simultaneously giving me anxiety over the future of reading in this distracted, information overloaded age.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Quietgirl255

    E reading is the wave of the future. If you don't own a Kindle, or other device to voraciously read you are doing it all wrong. This is how I feel when I see the whole e-reading vs physical book debate going on around me. I was gifted devices twice and as much as I love to read, I found I had great difficulty really being able to get into and enjoy what I was reading, much less retain what I was reading. I tried to use them, and felt my brain wandering and an inability to focus on what was in fr E reading is the wave of the future. If you don't own a Kindle, or other device to voraciously read you are doing it all wrong. This is how I feel when I see the whole e-reading vs physical book debate going on around me. I was gifted devices twice and as much as I love to read, I found I had great difficulty really being able to get into and enjoy what I was reading, much less retain what I was reading. I tried to use them, and felt my brain wandering and an inability to focus on what was in front of me, no matter how desperately I wanted to read and enjoy it. I left them by the wayside and went back to my paper books. For academic assignments, I was finding I could not comprehend and retain what I was reading, unless I printed that material off, and then read a hard copy. I became convinced I was old fashioned, over the hill and my brain was just too set in its ways to handle this new technology that kids have grown up with since the crib. Reading this book has set my mind at ease. It is not just me, I am not odd, and those younger than me feel some of the same things. Words Onscreen was an interesting read about how reading has changed over time, from the beginning of the mass written word for consumption to our current day. It is easy to forget that ereaders are a relatively new phenomenon, although we have been reading material online with the internet for quite some time. I have seen school districts flocking to making their campus, book free, putting all student's needed textbooks on a portable reader and wondered what the ramifications of this experiment will be, all in the name of cost savings, not bothering to consider the educational cost to the students. The author begins to ponder some of these issues. I found her surveys of undergraduates and their feelings about reading everything on a screen, quite reassuring to this old brain. Their comments and feeling were many of the same things I was feeling. As much as they love it on one hand for the portability and other reasons including saving money on textbooks, many respondents also find it easy to be distracted and wonder if they absorb enough from their reading. What I found really enlightening is that her surveys of students from Japan and Germany were very similar to results from US students. It is also important to note the students she surveyed were humanities students. I think the difficulty of using ereading entirely for math and sciences would be much more difficult. I think the author does a really good job of providing food for thought. She comes at it from an academic or educational bent, more concerned about how we read on a screen, how we view reading on a screen, and how we retain information reading on a screen, for information we need to learn/comprehend, not for how we view and accomplish reading on a screen to read the latest bestseller. I found her chapter dealing with the marketing/tax structure and how it influences ebooks eye opening. The view of ebooks is that they are cheaper and more environmentally friendly than traditional books, and yet when you dig deeper into this it is not always the case. Was interesting how parents of young children prefer reading traditional books to small children and how this approach is probably better suited to small children in terms of their enjoyment and retention of stories. I think the book was well written. Felt a bit repetitive at times, and I would have like to read about more neurological studies about how our brain works with screen material, but I understand perhaps not enough research has been done to this point. Would be very interesting to continue surveying students over a longer period of time, to see if attitudes change, especially to see if those that grow up using ereaders in middle and high school have different attitudes once they reach college. I think there is a place and type of material for ebooks. I also think though that anything that gets people reading more is a good thing, no matter how it is accomplished. I just know for me I will have to keep buying books and working out my library card. At least now I can feel a little better about it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gwen Kaplan

    I found this fascinating and thought-provoking. As a librarian (and a general consumer of news media, I suppose) I frequently encounter what feel like unsubstantiated sound-byte speculations about the current and future states of reading. I am also asked many questions about reading: should children read ebooks? is reading on the decline, or the rise? in which products should we invest library funds to best fit patron's needs and desires? are young people automatically better at using devices an I found this fascinating and thought-provoking. As a librarian (and a general consumer of news media, I suppose) I frequently encounter what feel like unsubstantiated sound-byte speculations about the current and future states of reading. I am also asked many questions about reading: should children read ebooks? is reading on the decline, or the rise? in which products should we invest library funds to best fit patron's needs and desires? are young people automatically better at using devices and multitasking (lots of adults, particularly parents who do *not* have to teach children how to create sophisticated products, seem to assume this is the case... I invite them to one of my technology classes!)... and so on. The author certainly describes and substantiates some of her own preference for print materials, but I did not feel that her book was unthoughtful, fearful of change, or unwilling to acknowledge opportunities inherent in digital advances. Instead, I found that she encouraged me to think more thoughtfully about the style of reading I do for different needs. Some examples: I find it very appropriate to read news articles online, often on my phone, skim children's books very rapidly because I have a professional need to "get the gist" (her words) of as many of them as possible, semi-passively enjoy light, one-off reads (pulp fiction) on my non-Internet connected Kindle (often while traveling or commuting), and when feasible (thank you, Internet!) obtain print copies of lengthy, challenging, or thoughtful works so as to allow comfortable flipping back-and-forth, distraction and eyestrain free immersion for hours, and affectionate display on my bookshelf later on. Like many young residents of NYC (I assume), I consider cost and space when purchasing print books. However, like Baron's current university students, if cost and space were not variables that mattered, there are many occasions in which I would choose print over ebook. Her surveys of university level students also interested me because I have recently done (less scientific) studies of my 4th-8th grade students, and found some similar attitudes echoed there. I enjoyed her book not necessarily because she shared my observations (I noticed a few she didn't share), but rather because she provided additional information, explanation, and investigation into phenomenon that I observe anecdotally. I would recommend this to readers (particularly educators) who have wondered about the same phenomenon, who wonder how to sort between conflicting news reports or predictions, and who maybe sometimes wonder "how do my own reading patterns fit in? should I be changing something about what I do, or what I encourage my children and students to do?"

  26. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    Reading is an important part of my life and I'm also trying to encourage it with my kids. So the effectiveness of digital vs. traditional reading is a big question for me. Personally I recall hardcover books, or even paper versions of magazines e.g., The Economist, than I do their digital counterparts. In that way I agree with Nicholas Carr author ofThe Shallows. Yet the world is seemingly moving more towards digital. So what should we do? My soluton is that I read what I want to reflect on in tr Reading is an important part of my life and I'm also trying to encourage it with my kids. So the effectiveness of digital vs. traditional reading is a big question for me. Personally I recall hardcover books, or even paper versions of magazines e.g., The Economist, than I do their digital counterparts. In that way I agree with Nicholas Carr author ofThe Shallows. Yet the world is seemingly moving more towards digital. So what should we do? My soluton is that I read what I want to reflect on in traditional format and search or browse for information in digital format. This works best for me.....and in reading Words Onscreen, it's a bit comforting to see that this practice is quite widespread. Specifically Naomi Baron tackles the traditional and digital divide over reading with logic and quantitative research in the United States, Japan and Germany showing that traditional is preferred for "reflective" reading - both in the form of school studies and reading for pleasure - among Millenials across the globe. For Baron the issue is not an "or" proposition but an "and" proposition where digital is making inroads but traditional has its place. I think it's important for anyone to read "Words Onscreen" to understand how digital is affecting books - e.g., why have page numbers when you can use a search engine? And for any parent interested in the education and continued learning of their children to understand the arguments for both types of reading. Baron does a great job with this.

  27. 5 out of 5

    John

    While I agreed with most of the main arguments in the book about how digital reading has yet to match physical reading, I find several of the methods and reasoning faulty. The author claims never to know someone who has cried while reading an ebook and that ebooks are good for lesser fiction, but who could really read James Joyce digitally and truly understand it. So many of the assumptions made in this book are just wrong. Baron even reminds the reader that correlation does not mean causation, While I agreed with most of the main arguments in the book about how digital reading has yet to match physical reading, I find several of the methods and reasoning faulty. The author claims never to know someone who has cried while reading an ebook and that ebooks are good for lesser fiction, but who could really read James Joyce digitally and truly understand it. So many of the assumptions made in this book are just wrong. Baron even reminds the reader that correlation does not mean causation, but then mentioned surveys about American college students and compares their study/ reading habit now to those decades ago and not once mentions the changing demographics of undergraduates. And then blames technology for this lack of deep reading in today's students and not the teachers or the educational system that has formed the students. The book frustrated me as every time I found something to agree with in the book it was quickly connected to the idea of technology as a tool of cultural degeneration, the same as music, movie, television, comic books, and even novels were in the 20th Century. Chapter 9 covered the international aspects of digital reading and I wish more attention and time was spent on that as it provides a view not often covered in books on media technologies. I found it the most useful and engaging chapter in the book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris Aylott

    Baron takes a close look at how the process of reading is altered by the tools we use, in particular the traditional paper codex and the electronic book. A linguistics professor, she takes on not just the well-worn social issues that have swirled around reading but the history of books and the neuroscience behind reading. I loved Baron's attention to history and cognitive science, but I think she falls into the traditional trap of the habitual reader: the assumption that the world has always bee Baron takes a close look at how the process of reading is altered by the tools we use, in particular the traditional paper codex and the electronic book. A linguistics professor, she takes on not just the well-worn social issues that have swirled around reading but the history of books and the neuroscience behind reading. I loved Baron's attention to history and cognitive science, but I think she falls into the traditional trap of the habitual reader: the assumption that the world has always been full of people who love books and that the act of reading should be privileged in some way. It's a noble sentiment that I would love to agree with, but it ignores the fact that historically books are expensive objects used by a small minority of the population. Books got longer, more popular and more useful when paper and printing made them cheaper, but there is little reason to believe that books and reading are inherently better than any other method of information storage and transfer. Baron takes a big step towards a rational discussion of "the fate of reading" by treating books and ebooks as what they are -- tools -- but she fails to take the next step and treat reading itself as one tool among many.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I was torn between three and four stars because while there is a lot that the book says that it interesting, I feel that the author's biases are too apparent for it to be objective by not argued enough to be persuasive. Maybe this is because of my biases-- I read this book in hardcover, but I do most of my reading these days on my phone or my tablet, and my experiences with reading electronically are very different from what she believes e experiences to be; I DO reread e books, I do get deeply I was torn between three and four stars because while there is a lot that the book says that it interesting, I feel that the author's biases are too apparent for it to be objective by not argued enough to be persuasive. Maybe this is because of my biases-- I read this book in hardcover, but I do most of my reading these days on my phone or my tablet, and my experiences with reading electronically are very different from what she believes e experiences to be; I DO reread e books, I do get deeply moved by them, I do think about lovely lines in them, and I do highlight and occasionally annotate sections of e books as I read them-- it's actually pretty easy to do so on the kindle app. I read both short romances and more serious works on the kindle with no problem. I do agree that e books aren't great for textbooks; being able to hold places and physically flip back and forth is a big advantage in textbooks, to me at least, and while marking a place in e books is certainly possible it isn't as easy to flip and see at a glance.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Barry Martin Vass

    This is probably too technically dense for the casual reader, but I found it interesting...to a point. Naomi Baron is a teacher, and this reads like a college-level textbook (she is designated as Professor of Linguistics and Executive Director of the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning at American University in Washington, D.C.). Ostensibly she's writing about the gradual change from the printed word to words read digitally, but I found her focus to be distracting. Words Onscreen begins This is probably too technically dense for the casual reader, but I found it interesting...to a point. Naomi Baron is a teacher, and this reads like a college-level textbook (she is designated as Professor of Linguistics and Executive Director of the Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning at American University in Washington, D.C.). Ostensibly she's writing about the gradual change from the printed word to words read digitally, but I found her focus to be distracting. Words Onscreen begins by discussing etchings on animal skins hundreds of years B.C., moves on to the scrolls and tablets of the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and then Romans, discusses Martin Luther's translation of the Bible in the early 1500's from Hebrew to German, and then the introduction of books, magazines, and novels in the ensuing years. And of course the Kindle was introduced in 2007, the Nook in 2009, and the iPad in 2010. This is a book for a classroom, not the average reader.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...