Why Creating A New Word For Reading On Screen Is A Terrible Idea…

Multi-column layout: better than a poke in the eye with a sharp pixel…

Dan Bloom is a journalist who currently lives in Taiwan. Over the past few days, he’s generated a flurry of activity on this blog, my Inbox and on FaceBook, with a suggestion that we need to create a new term to describe the activity of reading onscreen. He suggests the term “screening”. (See the comments on my previous post: Paper Dies – But Reading Lives: The Richness of Future Web Reading )

Dan was also very enthusiastic about the multi-column layouts I’ve been experimenting with on my website, and wants to know if there are free templates anywhere he can use, for example so he could read his email in multi-column.

He asked for my opinion on the term “screening”. So here it is:

Creating a new term for reading onscreen is not only unneccessary, but actually counter-productive.

However, Dan’s heart is clearly in the right place, so rather than just respond with another in a string of comments, I decided to escalate the topic and make it the subject of this post. (It’s my party, and I’ll blog if I want to…)

First, the term “screening”. IMO, that’s like admitting defeat – that somehow “reading on screen” is different to “reading on paper”. It’s not. Yes, there are differences today. Reading on screen is not as comfortable as reading from paper. But it can – and should – be. Once it is, then all the advantages of digital information really start to pay off.

Imagine a conversation between two people, fifty years from now…

“How did they communicate information back in the old days?”

“Well, they’d plant trees. After 30 or 40 years of growth, they’d cut them down and transport them in hydrocarbon-burning vehicles to a place called a pulp mill. There, they’d mash them up with a load of chemicals (when they were done with the chemicals, they’d dump them in the nearest river).

“Then they’d roll and press the pulp into long sheets of “paper”. They’d transport those (again, in hydrocarbon-burning vehicles) to a printing works, where they’d use huge machines to put dirty marks on the “paper”, fold it, cut it up, and transport it (more trucks) to the readers, or “bookshops” where people would go to buy the information they wanted or needed.”

Anyone really believe we’ll still be doing that, 50 years from now? For any kind of information?

In the early days of automobiles, they were noisy, smelly and unreliable. In some parts of the world, you weren’t allowed to drive one on the road without a man carrying a red flag walking in front of you as a warning to other road users.

People said the automobile would never replace the horse as the primary means of transport…

As far as reading onscreen is concerned, it’s still the early days. It took about 400 years from Gutenberg to the Linotype machine. We’ve been doing onscreen reading for about 25 years – and it’s only been even halfway bearable for about 10.

We don’t need the man with the red flag any more, but the automobile is still noisy, unreliable – and stinks.

There’s no reason it should be that way. All the technology we need to make reading great on a screen already exists, and could be implemented within a year or two. But the technology companies who make Web browsers, and the people who create Web content, have decided that fighting battles over market share based on “features check lists” is more important than stepping up and implementing a comprehensive plan to make real improvements for everyone who reads on the Web.

Technology companies don’t “get” the importance of fixing reading on screen. Journalists do. That’s why I’m really happy to see someone like Dan stirring up the waters here.

Journalists should be giving technology and media companies a hard time, along the following lines…

  • Reading and writing are still the primary means of human communication (because text is easiest to create).
  • Reading and writing are moving from “making and viewing dirty marks on shredded trees” to “making and viewing digital information”.
  • Reading onscreen is still inferior to reading from paper.
  • What’s your plan to make reading onscreen just as good?
  • What’s your schedule for implementing that plan?

I’d like to see the answers they give.

Now, on the subject of templates for multicolumn layout. The short answer is: I don’t have any, although you’re welcome to use any of the HTML and CSS markup from my website.

But at the risk of repeating myself yet again:

  • Multicolumn layout is much more suited to the screen than single-column (because of the way human vision works)
  • However, it can’t work without Pagination (who wants to scroll down to the bottom of one column, then have to scroll a long way up to the top of the next?)
  • There are many different sizes and shapes of screen. Information has to be paginated “on the fly” for each device
  • This requires adaptive layout. It’s not rocket science – you can see it at work today in applications like the New York Times Reader. But no-one’s doing it on the Web yet, although it’s easily possible.

Fixing reading on screen is vitally important for the human race. You can instantly create the Library of Congress in a village in West Africa. Digital information can be easily translated into minority languages. Books will cost less. Information can be kept up to date. And so on, and so on.

I happen to believe that the first Web browser to do this properly will leave all the others sitting in the dust, wondering just where their market share disappeared to.

I see plenty of “features lists” from the browsers. What I don’t see is strategic, long-term vision.

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32 thoughts on “Why Creating A New Word For Reading On Screen Is A Terrible Idea…

  1. dan

    Hi Bill,I poked my head outside my cave here in Taiwan this morning and watched the total eclipse of the sun first — hey, wasn't that a song lyric once: "total eclipse of the sun" ? — and then I went back inside my cave, it's actually a local Internet cafe filled with Taiwanese men who look like gangsters, tattoos and all, playing all kinds of online games, while I, tattooless for now, try to mine the Internet for nuggets like yours, above.Very very good post, re screening and the lack of any need for such a coinage — a neologism, Alex Beam said in his Boston Globe column of June 19, I had to look up neologism before I emailed Alex and thanked him for the mention — and since I am not married to the word "screening" for reading on screens — or any word for that matter — perhaps, as you say, we don't neeed a new word for the kind of reading we do on screens, we just need, better layouts and better designs, and to that I say: amen, allmen, allwomen, allchildren, yes yes yes!I agree with everything you wrote. My only mission/agenda with the word "screening" is to get people talking, pro and con, like you just did, and admirably, BRAVO, about these issues, and if it's true that journalists can help move this discussion forward and toward the right places, then let's move in that direction. I can help with PR. I love PR for good causes.Bill, you said: "Fixing reading on screen is vitally important for the human race. You can instantly create the Library of Congress in a village in West Africa. Digital information can be easily translated into minority languages. Books will cost less. Information can be kept up to date. And so on, and so on.I happen to believe that the first Web browser to do this properly will leave all the others sitting in the dust, wondering just where their market share disappeared to.I see plenty of "features lists" from the browsers. What I don't see is strategic, long-term vision."And I with you on all this. I dislike reading on screens right now because i hate scrolling, i hate the designs, i hate so muc of what i have to look at, from a distance, inside my smokey cave in Taiwan, so it is VITAL to evolve the system, to change it, to get the attention of the movers and shakers……I have some informal contacts with blokes like Ashlee Vance at the NYTimes, who often visits Taiwan, he was just here last month, and also I got people like John Markoff and David Pogue and James Fallows and Brad Stone and Brian Stelter and Jenny 8. Lee and Richard Pena and Jason Pontin at MIT's Technology Review interested, slightly, in what I am doing with my Center for the Future of the Screen (google it) and your response above is just what i was hoping for and you are learning me, sir. Hillel Italie at AP in New York told me last week he is interested in looking into all this — reading, screening, books, paper, publishing, e-books, e-publishing, and he is eager to inteview Dr Anne Mangen in Norway, do you know of her work, she's great on this too, and I am going to give Hillel YOUR NAME too, so he can interview you, too. The New York Times, IMHO, which doesn't count for much on 43rd Street, alas, is that they should be doing a major feature on YOU right now. Instead, what are they doing? More lifestyle stories about iPod this iPhone this and consume consume consume, spend ourselves silly!Now you see why I live in a cave in Taiwan. Much simpler here. I can think. More later.– Danny

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  2. English is my second language

    As a translator and native speaker of a mother tongue other than English, I would also like to insert, regarding making up new terminology for reading on screen, that the word "screening" already exists with a different meaning, which would be confusing, not to mention even more confusing to translate. (In fact, "screening" in terms of pre-testing something to pick the eligible candidates out of a group does not have any good translation in my language. Medical professionals usually use the English term. Not my favourite MO)Also, it's called reading. No other words needed. Regardless if I'm reading a newspaper or a street sign or on my cell phone display. Reading is part physical process and part intellectual, but it's not dependent on what medium I read -from-. It may be affected by it, just like light conditions, previous knowledge and cortical function can affect it, but what I'm trying to do is still reading.We didn't invent a new word for speaking on the phone as opposed to speaking in person, nor for watching TV as opposed to watching a play in a theatre. Spare us the neologisms! English is full of words already =D

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  3. dan

    Dear "English is my second language" –Your good comment was exactly the kind of give and take discussion here I was looking for in terms of whether we need a new word for reading on a screen. Maybe we don't need a new word. Maybe some new word will come down the road in the future naturally, organically, and not because some bloke in a cave in Taiwan coined one that actually had multiple earlier meanings, such as screening cancer patients in a clinic or screening a new movie, so yes you are right. Screening is already taken as a verb. I agree. Good post.But then again, many words in English have multiple meanings and that's okay.The main reason i want to find a new word for reading on a screen, is that, even though it IS reading, it is NOT the same kind of reading process we do on paper, i feel, in my opinion. I might be wrong, i often am. but i feel that reading on paper, deep reading, is intellectually, mentally and emotionally VERY DIFFERENT from reading on screens. See Dr Anne Mangen's work in Norway via a google search on this. but yes, reading is reading. maybe we don't and won't need a new word. You have a point and thanks for joining the discussion. I am not trying to convert anyone, and I am not married to the word screening for reading on screens. I am just looking to generate a good global conversation about this. Thanks for adding your thoughts.– DannyRE"As a translator and native speaker of a mother tongue etc etc above…"PS, BTW, what is your native language. I am in Taiwan where the language is Mandarin and they do say they read on a screen, they say that LOOK at the news on the computer. Interesting. see? This is a huge discussion, waiting to happen. And there are no correct answers. It's all good food for thought, no?

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  4. dan

    Dear "English is my second language" –Your good comment was exactly the kind of give and take discussion here I was looking for in terms of whether we need a new word for reading on a screen. Maybe we don't need a new word. Maybe some new word will come down the road in the future naturally, organically, and not because some bloke in a cave in Taiwan coined one that actually had multiple earlier meanings, such as screening cancer patients in a clinic or screening a new movie, so yes you are right. Screening is already taken as a verb. I agree. Good post.But then again, many words in English have multiple meanings and that's okay.The main reason i want to find a new word for reading on a screen, is that, even though it IS reading, it is NOT the same kind of reading process we do on paper, i feel, in my opinion. I might be wrong, i often am. but i feel that reading on paper, deep reading, is intellectually, mentally and emotionally VERY DIFFERENT from reading on screens. See Dr Anne Mangen's work in Norway via a google search on this. but yes, reading is reading. maybe we don't and won't need a new word. You have a point and thanks for joining the discussion. I am not trying to convert anyone, and I am not married to the word screening for reading on screens. I am just looking to generate a good global conversation about this. Thanks for adding your thoughts.– DannyRE"As a translator and native speaker of a mother tongue etc etc above…"PS, BTW, what is your native language. I am in Taiwan where the language is Mandarin and they do say they read on a screen, they say that LOOK at the news on the computer. Interesting. see? This is a huge discussion, waiting to happen. And there are no correct answers. It's all good food for thought, no?

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  5. Richard Fink

    Oh, cool. Diction!"Screening" for reading onscreen? Bad idea. Although Cory Doctorow used the adjective "screeny" – meaning textual content that's written and formatted to work onscreen – and I kind of liked it. (He used it in a tongue in cheek kind of way.)Also, even though some manufacturers use it, "E-Ink" has to go. (And this means you, Bill. Did the E-Ink turn the bath water all muddy when you dropped your Kindle in the tub?)E-Paper is OK, though.See post: Read An E-Book On An E-Reader With E-Ink On E-Paper Today for further instructions.Really got to RSS the comments on your blog, I'm missing all the action…

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  6. dan

    An oped piece I submitted to the NY Times in mid-July 2009:Do we need a new word for the kind of reading we do on a screen?by Dan BloomDo we read differently on the computer screen from how we read on theprinted page? That's the question Boston Globe columnist Alex Beamasked his readers in anarticle on June 19.The answer is yes. Well, from most of the research that has come in sofar from academics inNorth America and Europe, the answer is yes, although not everyone'sin agreement with what it all means.For me, what is means is that we need a new word for reading onscreens. I have quietly suggested "screening", as Beam noted in hiscolumn. Of course,not everyone agrees that we need a new word or that screening shouldbe the word if we do need one. Are you reading this oped piece in aprint newspaper or are you screening it online?When I asked Anne Mangen at theUniversity of Stavanger in Norway what she thought about the wordscreening for reading on a screen, she told me by email: "My firstimpression is that the term 'screening' is adequate in somerespects, but not in others. It's adequate to the extent that itpoints to certain differences in the reading mode which has to do withthe display nature, the central bias of a screen compared to a page ofprint text (our gaze is naturally oriented towards the center), andthe image-like character of modalities (we tend to read a screenspatially, in contrast to the page which we linearly)."Dr Mangen, in her paper, listed a few reasons that reading on paperand reading on a screen are two very different animals.* Reading on a screen is not as rewarding — or effective — asreading printed words on paper.* The process of reading on a screen involves so much physicalmanipulation of thecomputer that it interferes with our ability to focus on andappreciate what we're reading.* Online text moves up and down thescreen and lacks physical dimension, robbing us of a feeling ofcompleteness.* The visual happenings on a compter screen and our physical interactionwith the entire device and its set ip can be distracting. All of these thingstax human cognition and concentration in a way that a book ornewspaper or magazine does not.* The experience of reading a book or a newspaper or a magazine isboth a story experience and a tactile one.The jury's still out on just how different reading on paper isfrom reading on a screen, but the public discussions in the blogsphereare getting interesting — and heated. I have been banned from severalforums already.But when I asked Kevin Kelly of Wired magazine what he felt about thisnew word for reading on screens, he told me in one short sentence: "Iwould be happy to see screening become a verb (for this)."————————-Dan Bloom is a freelancer writer and blogger in Taiwan.

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  7. Bill Hill

    Dr Mangen is both right and wrong.She's clearly based her analysis on reading on the Web as it is today in Web browsers – scrolling (a horrible thing to do to people who're trying to read), too much interaction with the computer, the fact that since only single-column text works with scrolling it generally is placed in the center of the screen, and so on.It doesn't have to be that way.She's not comparing apples with Apples. She's comparing a Ferrari (or a Prius) with a Quadracycle (the first car Henry Ford ever built).We're not even at Model T yet.

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  8. dan

    Bill,I really enjoy chatting with you, and I hope you are enjoying this give and take too. I re-read the MAGIC OF READING last night, printed it out, took it home and read it at a 45 degree angle on my sofa while listening to Lisa Ona singing bossa nova in Japanese….and I annoted the entire manuscript on both right and left margins, a great great read and a great great point of view. I salute you sir. I wish that mss could become a real paper book someday, to be read by thousands, on paper. What you say there is very very important. I agree with everything you say. You are my teacher here. Thanks. Glad we met up. I don't have many people to chat with here in Taiwan….I am trying to get Michael Kinsley on the line, phone or email, but he's a hard cat to find. The only email I can find so far is michaelk at washpost dot com, but i am sure he never answers that address. Do you know his email or msn email address? I wrote to his wife Patty also at the Gates place, maybe she can find him for me. Reason I am want to find MK? I want to see what HE thinks of the idea of "screening" for reading on a screen. He will probably agree with you and Esther Dyson and Bill Powers, that we don't need a new word, ever ever, but I just want to feel him out on this. I am sure he has not heard of our discussion yet, Bill. Do you have his contact email? Can you send via my gmail acct? Whatever.By the way, Bill, do you know a Seattle Times reporter who might be interested in a full profile about YOU? About your ideas for the future? I feel a good Seattle Times story focused on your ideas about cleartype and column formatting and readability will be a good way to jumpstart the national discussion, and later get the NYTimes to write about YOU too. Timothy Egan is the NYT reporter in Seattle, I am sure you know him, he has a column and a blog now, that's all. Just some PR ideas.As for Dr Mangen, I am in touch with her in Norway, and I can put you in touch with her too. She teaches at a college there. In fact, I am the one who brought her work to the attention of the Boston Globe story. THAT was his starting point, after I told him about Mangen. he emailed her and got a good quote and then he did his column. At first he was hesitant, but suddenly one day he read some Jakob Nielsen stuff online about the F curve online when we read and suddenly Alex Beam wanted to do that story, and he was first in USA to do it. It was reprinted in Providence Journal newspaper on Thursday, on my urging.Let me tell you what Dr Mangen told me about my idea of screening, Bill. She liked it and she also said it was not adequate at the same time. re:Dr Mangen is both right and wrong.BILL HILL: "She's clearly based her analysis on reading on the Web as it is today in Web browsers – scrolling (a horrible thing to do to people who're trying to read), too much interaction with the computer, the fact that since only single-column text works with scrolling it generally is placed in the center of the screen, and so on. [GOOD ANALYSIS! RIGHT!- db]It doesn't have to be that way. [YOU ARE SO RIGHT!]She's not comparing apples with Apples. She's comparing a Ferrari (or a Prius) with a Quadracycle (the first car Henry Ford ever built).We're not even at Model T yet."LOL.I agree with you, Bill. We are not there yet, and of all the people I have "met" so far, you seem to have the direction we need to go well-mapped out. The industry needs to listen to you. I will be glad to help out with PR forays for you here and there. I feel you got the goods on this but the industry aint listening. A shame.

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  9. dan

    Bill, to show you how heated this discussion of "screening" has become, it's true, a few tech forums have banned from even posting. Why is that? One editor at TechCrunch, who shall remain anon for now, told me EFF YOU when i emailed him a polite note on this idea. WTF? What's wrong with people in the USA these days? Seems so many people are angry. Why?

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  10. dan

    BillEsther Dyson told me:Hi Dan -yes, I read Alex Beam's column on screening. My personal opinion is that we are more likely to change the meaning of the word reading, than we are to develop a new word. But I could be wrong…Ready to be told "i told you so!"

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  11. dan

    BillAshlee Vance of NYTimes, who often visits Taiwan for his tech beat stories, told me re screening as a new word:" Am with you, but the e-readers seem to be working without Word, no?"He might be interested in doing story on YOU later…..interested? I got his email address. he answers his email….nice chap

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  12. dan

    Bill,A top techie ..and you know him…..in SF told me today: "Interesting topic … screening as a new word…..given the apparent wave of devices, post-Kindle, that are seemingly poised to move on from netbooks to allow a full media experience of, well, reading. Or screening. Whatever…" he added: "Do I think that we might need or invent a new word for reading on screens?" and noted: "Unclear to me that this will occur, just as people have been 'dialing' phones on phones with no dials for two decades or more; what would they do instead? Tap? Touch? It is the case that reading on computer screens tends to be more scanning, hopping from place to place, saccadic (sp?) motion skipping along. HOWEVER: reading on nice, reflective screens (eInk, and etc) is much more like the linear, sequential reading process we also use with books, etc. It, thus, occurs to me that the word 'reading' might endure. But the concept of a book, or a chapter? (By analogy: what has happened to nouns like record, album, etc., now that music has become digital – while our verbs remain play and record.)"

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  13. dan

    Bill,and this is the FULL quote from Dr mangen in norway to me: remy idea of screening for reading on screens, she told me:''my first impression is that the term "screening" is adequate in some respects, but not in others. It's adequate to the extent that it points to certain differences in the reading mode which has to do with the display nature, the central bias of a screen compared to a page of print text (our gaze is naturally oriented towards the center), and the image-like character of modalities (we tend to read a screen spatially, in contrast to the page which we linearly). BUT….It is not adequate insofar as it does not discriminate between different kinds of screening – we can also screen a print text (scan, filter, skim etc.), and we perceive different kinds of screens differently (compare the TV with the cell phone, the e-book with the laptop). Regards, Anne Mangen

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  14. dan

    bowerbird, yes, screening has multiple meanings, from cancer screenings for patients at hospitals, to movie screenings, to screening candidates for a job opening, to another 25 other meanings. you are right, screening has many earlier meanings. but so do most words: even reading has multiple meanings, and even the original word "read" meant something very different from read a book, way back when.also, I am not married to this word ''screening'' for reading on a screen. I agree with much of what Bill said in his post above. Could be we don't need new word at all to differentiate paper reading from screen reading. Then again, could be we do. The future will tell. I cannot see the future. But what other words or terms you would suggest, if any might be fun to look at, for reading on a screen, even though we most prob don't need any new word?diging?screen-reading?e-reading?browsing?scanning?screening?screading?screeding?pixelreading?preading?pixing?______________?Sugggest a few. Or one.Or none.Most prob we don't need a new word, and Bill is right. Then agian, one day in the future, when nobody is looking, a new word just might enter our common vocabulary for…."reading text on a screen"…..and it most likely won't be screening……awkward word, I agree….but it might be an interesting word, or term, whatever it is…..

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  15. Emilia

    "Swine flu screening starts at UK airports… " (today's hedline on Drudge…)Of course, screening is a bit awkward to apply to reading on a screen, I agree. Maybe I should re-think this cockamamie idea of mine…. SIGH

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  16. dan

    Bill,It has come to this? SEE? Now AmaZon wants to stuff adverts in books. This is the end. SMILE.DANNYNEWS ITEMhttp://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-plans-for-e-book-advertising-2009-7Books are among the last bastions of ad-free content. But they won't be so forever if Amazon has its way.The online retail giant has been nurturing a growing e-reader market with its Kindle device; analysts estimate more than a million have been sold since its 2007 debut. And the idea of serving ADVERTS in e-books has been a subject of chatter for a while. But Amazon appears to have taken the next concrete step in that direction. Recent reports indicate the online retail giant has filed patent applications to STUFF digital books with contextual advertising.

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  17. dan

    Bill,It has come to this? SEE? Now AmaZon wants to stuff adverts in books. This is the end. SMILE.DANNYNEWS ITEMhttp://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-plans-for-e-book-advertising-2009-7Books are among the last bastions of ad-free content. But they won't be so forever if Amazon has its way.The online retail giant has been nurturing a growing e-reader market with its Kindle device; analysts estimate more than a million have been sold since its 2007 debut. And the idea of serving ADVERTS in e-books has been a subject of chatter for a while. But Amazon appears to have taken the next concrete step in that direction. Recent reports indicate the online retail giant has filed patent applications to STUFF digital books with contextual advertising.

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  18. dan

    Don Norman tells me today (and says it is okay to publish this in public on this blog or any media)–''Dear Dan ,(cc’ing Jakob [Nielsen] because he might find my response interesting.)There are many forms of reading. We already talk about skimming and browsing, about being deeply engrossed in reading, and surface versus reflective reading. I see no need for yet another term that is dependent upon technology.When I read deeply on my Kindle, I call it reading. It is no different than when I read deeply with a book. In both cases, I want the technology to disappear (paper or book reader) and to become engrossed in the story or the ideas.You suggest “screening.” I see no need for such a term.– Don NormanNielsen Norman groupNorthwestern University & KAIST (Korea)

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  19. dan

    A continuation of this good discussion has now going on over at Canadian blogger and sci writer Nina Munteanu's blog:Dan and Bill had a most interesting discussion on the merits of using a new term for reading on screen. This prompted a blog response from Bill entitled “Why Creating A New Word for Reading On Screen Is a Terrible Idea.” (Well, it’s obvious what Bill thought of it from the title!) http://sfgirl-thealiennextdoor.blogspot.com/

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  20. dan

    Bill,A man I met online, Mark Coker, of Smashwords, an ebook website, tells me:"I'm teaching an online class Wednesday to about 100 independent publishers, and in my presentation I have a slide about how ebooks will eventually become more popular than print books because screen reading will become more pleasurable than print reading."he added: "For many ebook customers today (most of whom are age 40 and up), screen reading is already more pleasurable than print because because of their ability to customize font size."

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  21. dan

    Bill,The discussion is getting interestinger and interestinger….Today I heard from a top NYTimes teech reporter, who tells me, and this is okay to print here in public prints, er, public screens, ie, your blog, he says:"Dan,I agree with some of your other correspondents [that there is no need for a new word like screening for reading on screens]. Reading is reading. We speak of dialing a phone even though we don't use dials any longer. Screening already has another meaning as well. "Screening" is an interesting idea, but it's probably needed as much as if you were to say you "screened" television instead of "watching" it."AND, from a book publisher in NYC:His secretary tells me: for him, and permission to print here okay:"Dear Dan,Thanks very much for writing to Steve on his blog. He finds your distinction between reading and screening to be intriguing (and it certainly gives us all pause to consider just what it is we’re doing with our eyeballs these days!). He’ll see if he can blog on it somehow in one of his future blogs."AND, another top Internet thinker, who shall remain unID'd for now, but he will surface later, inhis own words, tells me:Hi Dan,Screening, of course, is not a new term, but this might just be the time that it catches on…Screening is a clever and useful term capturing the fact that the experience reading on a screen is fundamentally different from reading on paper. Not a priori worse or better; just different.It is the right word for the moment in terms of drawing people's attention to the vast literary shift about to wash over us."

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  22. dan

    Bill and everyone still scrolling down here to read the latest….A top reseacher on these issues in Canada, author an important book on this stuff, too, tells me today, and he also agrees with you that there is no need to create a word like screening (or any other word) for reading on screens:"Dear Danny,I agree that the reading experience on a screen is generally quite different from what it is with a book. However, …..if we should change our vocabulary each time a word takes a different meaning, we would have various dozens of words just for naming the different modes of reading in the history of humanity. Two thousand years ago, people read on scrolls, with no space between words : they had to read aloud in order to understand. Imagine that ! As a proof, we have a text by Augustine around 380 telling how he was surprised when he met a scholar who was reading silently : it was a completely new experience for him. When "silent reading" began the default mode of reading some 700 years later, the verb did not change but the epithet was dropped, and we now have to add a precision when we speak about "reading aloud". You will find more on that topic in a very good book titled ''From Papyrus to Hypertext'' published in 2009. I find interesting the comparison Anne Mangen makes between reading on paper and reading on screen. But all printed texts are created equal nor read alike. We do not read a newspaper the same way we read a book: we usually scan the newspaper looking for a title that would catch our interest and then we may decide to read the article at length or just the first paragraph. Some historians call this kind of reading "extensive reading" in order to differentiate it from the "intensive reading" required by a book.For my part, I would suggest that reading on screen is oriented toward action: people click, copy and paste, make bookmarks, jump from one place to another one in order to check the veracity of an affirmation, vote on the interest of a particular text, and interact with the author. I call that mode "ergative reading" (from the Greek "ergon": work). It has been practised by writers, historians and researchers in general since a long time ago, but today it is becoming the default mode for most people. The reading of books should not disappear but it will be a secondary mode and as such more difficult to adopt if it has not been properly practised in school. We can however expect that progress in the technology will make reading on screen more convenient thanks to legible fonts (ClearType was an important step), new monitors, a greater usability in the design of browsers and a way of writing more adapted to the changing habits of readers."

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  23. dan

    Bill,A tech blogger at the Christian Science Monitor (sic) tells me: re reading or screening:Hello Mr. Bloom,Thanks for your email. Interesting idea. I believe that I posted yourcomment online. Let's see if your new coinage sparks any conversation. Idon't think the CS Monitor is going to adopt "screening" any time soon. Perhapsif the word catches on, we'll use it sparingly. But I'm sure it will confusesome readers for now.Cheers,

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  24. dan

    And David Pogue told me last night definitely NO, there is NO NEED to use screening for reading on a screen. If so, he asked me, why don't I also campaign to get a new word for "writing" on screens, as opposed to "writing" on paper. See? Nobody wants to play with me! Everybody is against me….!SMILEbut i soldier on…..because I am playing a hunch…… you will see….

    Reply
  25. dan

    Well I finally finished reading Proust and the Squid, by Maryanne Wolf. Dr. Wolf is a professor of child development at Tufts University and the director of the Center for Reading and Language Research. The book is about the magic (and in the case of dyslexia, tragic) process of learning to read, and what this tells us about the changes happening as the so called digital natives develop new skills for a new medium.

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