We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
In the eye-tracking test, only one in six subjects read Web pages linearly, sentence by sentence. The rest jumped around chasing keywords, bullet points, visuals, and color and typeface variations. In another experiment on how people read e-newsletters, informational e-mail messages, and news feeds, Nielsen exclaimed, "'Reading' is not even the right word." The subjects usually read only the first two words in headlines, and they ignored the introductory sections. They wanted the "nut" and nothing else. A 2003 Nielsen warning asserted that a PDF file strikes users as a "content blob," and they won't read it unless they print it out. A "booklike" page on screen, it seems, turns them off and sends them away.
I think I agree that people do not read online material the same way they read books. However, that could be because so much online stuff is thinner in content than books.
It's not reading, exactly; it's more like grazing. Our reading habits have changed in much the same way that our eating habits have. We sample, and what we like, we consume for as long as it is satisfying, as long as it offers needed information, instruction or just entertainment and fun. But there's no ending to read to, no final chapter to be won because no literary mountain to climb, most of the time. And with all due respect, Jon, short paragraphs, bolded, red-colored breaks, and the like, are not going to arrest our wandering because we know, as we encounter new material, that there's so much more out there, just waiting for us to taste it.
I don't really like to read long, involved text in electronic format, period. Maybe it is a mental hang-up, but it bothers my eyes, or at least my mind says it does. I would much rather read in on paper.
Books are usually linear, without a whole lot of distracting graphics, sidebars, and buttons, and they aren't interactive the way webpages are, which may allow people to concentrate better.
I have noticed that both my reading and writing style are quite different from just a few years ago. If I, a previously-obsessive book reader and dinosaur with regard to usage, make such changes automatically after age 50, I cannot imagine that those who grow up with web-reading will not soon have a different meaning for the word "reading."
Assistant Village Idiot
Exactly, AVI. I've been an obsessive reader since I was 8, and I've been a reader who reads every word. I still do read every word and do so on blogs despite the annoying distractions. When I get in bed and pick up my latest book, it is so totally soothing to let my eyes relax over the text. Unless it's a book with Russian names.
Yeah, those Russians. Fifty characters, all with different names depending on who they are talking with: one name used by the family, one used by the guys he was in the military with, one official title, one familiar name with friends. I never could take more than forty pages of that before throwing the book down in frustration.