Thursday, October 1, 2009

Paper or On-screen reading?

I spend a significant fraction of my waking life reading. About ten years ago, most of my reading, and writing for that matter, was paper-based.

I distinctly remember that during my senior thesis, and the first few years in grad school - I couldn't read and think, off a computer screen at all. Writing was even harder, and I used to write stuff down on paper before composing a serious document.

Any technical paper, I had to download, print, and scribble on to really digest.

Here are articles from the Boston Globe and a University of Florida website which support the thesis that reading from paper is better. The latter website claims reading paper is 20-30% faster, more accurate (in terms of the ability to identify grammatical and typographic errors), and less taxing on the eyes.

But things change.

Personally I can now read much better off a screen. With a high-resolution monitor, I prefer it. My main reasons are the following:
  1. zoom
  2. place my paper online, and read it from any computer.
  3. "Go Green"
  4. read and create color documents at no additional cost
  5. follow hyperlinks
  6. organizing/searching papers is easier 
  7. search for a word in a long document
In fact, I write much better on a keyboard too. Not only has my speed increased, I can correct spelling errors, and especially because I use a sophisticated word processor invented in the 70s called LaTeX, I worry less about appearance and more about content.

Indeed, a not-so-new paper cited at the end claims that paper and on-screen reading have now become equivalent.

Something that my own experience mirrors.

Harrison, B, ‘E-Books and the Future of Reading’, IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, Volume 20 , Issue 3 (May 2000) , pp. 32 - 39.


Sumeet Pai said...

Hmm good stuff bey.

Guru said...

Nice information Sir.
But personally I have this problem. So I usually print the stuffs and read. Same even for writing.. :-D

Sachin Shanbhag said...

thanks guys!

@guru: one day things will change!

Sunny Red said...

Good Job!

I support the "Go Green" part.