Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Speaking Of E-Book Readers

      My last-week's blog post got me thinking. I've heard all kinds of arguments pro and con the various e-book readers, but one I've not heard seems important. How does reading comprehension from an electronic device compare with that from hard copy?
      I wonder about this because I've gotten the same answer from every writer to whom I've posed the question, "Can you do revisions/rewrites off your computer screen?" The answer is invariably, "Not only no, but hell, no." Everyone - myself included - says they can work over a manuscript endlessly on a computer screen, but then when they print out a copy, it's filled with horrible word choices, dreadfully-structured sentences, grammatical errors, inconsistencies of plot and character, and typos.
      To be specific: last Friday, I did a careful on-screen rewrite of the first two chapters of my current book-in-progress; then, this morning, I printed out the chapters and went to work on them. Three hours later, the pages were dense with squiggly cross-outs, replacements, and insertion arrows.
      Admittedly, writers may read more critically than non-writers. (My daughter tells me I don't read for pleasure, and I can't quite get her to understand that I am, in fact, reading for pleasure, just a little differently from the way she goes about it). But wouldn't it be interesting to do an experiment? Take a bunch of readers, some of whom are also writers, select a pair of books by the same author, and have the readers read one of the books on an E-reader, the other on hard copy. After each book, calculate the reading time per page, and subject the readers to a test of comprehension regarding plot, characters, and setting. I'd bet just a little money that they'll remember more of the books they'd read from hard copy.

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