Bookmark on Reading “Actual Books”

The seasonal flu among expositors of the future of the book and the future of reading is upon us. No sooner does one town cryer sneeze about the latest reading device or software than a town de-cryer follows heralding the superiority of reading print – or vice versa.

Sure enough, here is the Guardian today: “Whisper it quietly, the book is back … and here’s the man leading the revival“. That would be James Daunt, CEO of the UK bookstore chain Waterstone’s, who has used a Russian oligarch’s money to bring the chain to breakeven.

And without a hint of irony, here’s the online-only .Mic demonstrating that variant strains can cross generations and oceans as well as media: “Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books“.  That would be the oft-repeated Norwegian study of two groups of 10th graders, one of which – the print readers – comprehends and retains more than its ebook-reading counterpart.

There are plenty of days remaining before the year’s close for the digital riposte surely on its way to envelop us.  In the meantime, here is a combined and fortified reading list from Christmas bloggings past:

Reading List

Association for Psychological Science (2010, August 30).  Eye movements reveal readers’ wandering minds.  ScienceDaily. Accessed September 8, 2012.

Bookmark for “A Brief History of Reading” (and a Revisit of “The Future of Reading?”). BooksOnBooks. Posted February 13, 2013.

British Association for the Advancement of Science (2007, September 11). Reading Process Is Surprisingly Different Than Previously Thought, Technology Shows. ScienceDaily. Accessed September 8, 2012.

Dehaene, Stanislas. Reading in the Brain. New York: Viking, 2009.

Florida State University (2012, February 14). How Do Children Learn to Read Silently?. ScienceDaily. Accessed September 8, 2012.

Hill, Bill. The Magic of Reading. 1999.

Jabr, Ferris. The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus ScreensScientific American. April 11, 2013.  Accessed 14 April 2013:

Kozlowski, Michael. Amazon Unleashes Immersion Reading and Whispersync for Voice. GoodEReader. Accessed September 8, 2012.

Mangen, Anne, et al. Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension. International Journal of Educational Research. 58 (2013) 61-68.

Mangen, Anne, et al. Evolution of reading in the age of digitisationISCH COST Action IS1404. Updated May 6, 2014. Accessed December 14, 2014.

Mangen, Anne, and Velay, Jean-Luc. Cognitive implications of new media. The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media. Edited by Marie-Laure Ryan, Lori Emerson and Benjamin J. Robertson. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

O’Callaghan, Tiffany. Reading on screens is different – does it matter? New Scientist. October 30, 2014.

Rollins, H.A. Jr., Hendricks, R.  Processing of words presented simultaneously to eye and ear.  J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 1980 Feb; 6(1): 99-109. Accessed September 8, 2012.

Vinall-Cox, JoanMoving From Paper to E-Book Reading.  eLearn Magazine. March 2012.  Accessed September 8, 2012.

Walker Reading Technologies, Inc. LiveInk® (four papers:  jaltcalljournal, National Educational Computing Conference, Reading Online and IEEE International Professional Computing Conference).

Bookmarking a Book Burning – II

tumblr_l26w5m1KrM1qzg1xu
Untitled, Unknown student artist.

Ferris Jabr’s article “The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens” in Scientific American (April 11, 2013) revisits the themes raised in Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid mentioned in the previous posting.   Jabr highlights much insightful writing on the neuroscience of reading, on which more in a bit.  He begins, however, with a “haptic” anecdote that will resonate with parents and grandparents of children who are learning to read now or have learned in the last 3-5 years.

In a viral YouTube video from October 2011 a one-year-old girl sweeps her fingers across an iPad’s touchscreen, shuffling groups of icons. In the following scenes she appears to pinch, swipe and prod the pages of paper magazines as though they too were screens. When nothing happens, she pushes against her leg, confirming that her finger works just fine—or so a title card would have us believe.

Earlier the same year, I was lying in bed with an iPad reading Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov.  As the story drew me in and admittedly as the hour grew late, I found myself repeatedly reaching into the upper right-hand corner of the screen with my left forefinger and thumb to pick up and “turn the page.”  I had not developed the habit of “sweeping” or “tapping” to move through the book.  These real-life mirror images of the haptic habits of a young soon-to-be reading brain and an old reading brain bring Wolf’s speculations alive.

Numerous studies cited by Jabr suggest different areas of the brain at work in screen reading vs print reading and connect that to poorer retention and comprehension in screen reading than print reading.   But one of the more recent ones (“Metacognitive regulation of text learning: On screen versus on paper,” by Ackerman and Goldsmith) shows that where readers

studied expository texts of 1000–1200 words in one of the two media and for each text […] provided metacognitive prediction-of-performance judgments with respect to a subsequent multiple-choice test[,] [u]nder fixed study time (Experiment 1), test performance did not differ between the two media, but when study time was self-regulated (Experiment 2) worse performance was observed on screen than on paper. The results suggest that the primary differences between the two study media are not cognitive but rather metacognitive—less accurate prediction of performance and more erratic study-time regulation on screen than on paper.

S0 the reading brain may not be rewiring itself, but print and screen do demand different strategies of reading and study.  Might the “haptic habits” of physically turning the page or recalling three dimensionally the place in the book and on the page where a sentence occurs (or pinching, swiping and prodding) be clues to how we learn to learn what we read?  What we may be seeing in the one-year old are the beginnings of the metacognitive cues that will raise the performance of tomorrow’s screen reading brains, and in Ackerman’s and Goldsmith’s subjects, the familiarity of today’s reading brains with the metacognitive cues so key to studying from print that the students print out the relevant ebook chapter.

As Jabr concludes,   “When it comes to intensively reading long pieces of plain text, paper and ink may still have the advantage. But text is not the only way to read.”

Which harks back to the conclusion of the previous post and  Jerome Bruner’s  apt observation of Vygotsky’s fondness for Bacon’s epigram, “Nec manus, nisi intellectus, sibi permissus, multum valent” (Neither hand nor intellect left each to itself is worth much)” (247).   Perhaps neither print nor digital left each to itself is sufficient.