Reading, paper and screens
There’s an interesting article in the Washington Post that concerns readers, but should also concern us as authors. It’s titled ‘Researchers say computer screens change how you think about what you read‘. Here’s an excerpt.
Reading something on a screen — as opposed to a printout — causes people to home in on details and but not broader ideas, according to a new article by Geoff Kaufman. a professor at Carnegie Mellon, and Mary Flanagan, a professor at Dartmouth.
“Digital screens almost seem to create a sort of tunnel vision where you’re focusing on just the information you’re getting this moment, not the broader context,” Kaufman said.
. . .
“Over time, it might lead to an evolution of thought that’s less inclined to look at the bigger picture,” he said.
. . .
The studies covered in the latest article were prompted by earlier research from Kaufman and Flanagan that found players using the iPad version of a disease prevention strategy game struggled with long-term strategy much more than those playing a physical copy of the game.
“On the iPad, they seemed not to focus or show consideration for the long-term effects of their decisions,” Kaufman said. “And they just lost the game much more often.”
There’s more at the link. Recommended reading.
This poses an interesting conundrum for authors. Are we writing primarily for the print market, or for the e-book market, or for both? Many would probably shrug and say, “I’m writing for whoever wants to buy my book, and I don’t care about the format!” However, that may be short-sighted. If most of our readers are buying in e-book format, wouldn’t it be a good idea to structure our books in such a way as to appeal to the reading pattern such customers are likely to adopt? If most of our readers are buying paper copies of our books, shouldn’t that affect how we write them?
I can see both sides. I’d say well over 90% of my sales (to date, at any rate) are in e-book format; yet I have a solid core of fans who prefer paper, and in fact won’t read an e-book for preference. They say they just can’t ‘get into’ the book until they’re holding it in their hands and can turn the pages. Therefore, if I ‘optimize’ my writing towards an e-book mode of reading and comprehension, I risk putting off (and perhaps losing) those who prefer a paper copy. What’s more, if my market grows and I start getting my books into bookstores, it’ll be very important to make the paper edition as readable and attractive to potential customers as possible.
What say you, Mad Genius Club readers? Do you agree with the research cited in the Washington Post? What’s your preference, e-book or hard copy? Do you find that your approach to either format has changed over the years, given greater exposure to reading on screen instead of on paper?