Apparently electronic screens still aren’t as good at being paper as paper is.

This link is from Sci Amer from last year, but there’s also a more recent article in New Sci if you can access it. In both articles some examples are given of how reading from paper and reading from a screen seem to be different experiences. Different parts of the brain apparently. Seems to me that there is a lot of culture and expectation tied up in this.

I agree that paper is different, but as a older person I have come to find it intensely frustrating. It’s heavy, it doesn’t hyperlink, I can’t search it, I can’t copy-and-paste it. That means I have to give in to the author’s preferences read all of their article, and only their article, and in the sequence they choose. I can’t Google their key phrases to see who else has commented on this topic. I can’t check their sources without using another device (or another piece of paper). Worst of all, if I want to make notes I can’t just Evernote it and annotate – I have to start typing my own words from scratch.

In my head I can hear a certain academic saying that these are all good things. Text should be on paper precisely to stop me doing all of these superficial things. Should it?

Paper is more individual and it may promote a more intense reading of a whole article or book without distraction. The thing is, that was never the way I read things. If I picked up a book at all, I always skimmed through it and went looking for other sources before I’d finished it. If it was good I spoke to other people about it. I remember reading Catch 22 when I was about 17 and giving my copy to a friend to read when I’d only got half way through. Mistake! I had to buy another copy.

But actually, books were not my first choice. I always preferred short stories or articles. When I moved on to reading scientific stuff, I always looked at the abstract first and the conclusion second. Then, if I was really impressed, I’d check out the figures and then the references. Then I’d be off looking for another article to get another view. Did I ever read paragraph three of the introduction? Not often.

That’s why I say that it seems as if paper wasn’t really invented with me in mind.

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