Will e-readers make us lazy readers?

Jonah Lehrer has an interesting <a href="http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/09/the-future-of-reading-2/">take</a> on e-readers and the possible neurological influence of developing technologies on how we read: <blockquote>The second reading pathway – it’s known as the dorsal stream – is turned on whenever we’re forced to pay conscious attention to a sentence, perhaps because of an obscure word, or an awkward subclause, or bad handwriting. ... Sooner or later, every medium starts to influence the message. I worry that, before long, we’ll become so used to the mindless clarity of e-ink – to these screens that keep on getting better – that the technology will feedback onto the content, making us less willing to endure harder texts. We’ll forget what it’s like to flex those dorsal muscles, to consciously decipher a literate clause. And that would be a shame, because not every sentence should be easy to read.</blockquote>


The "mindless" clarity of e-ink? what does that even mean?

After reading the article I think the author adequately lays out the concept of "mindless clarity of e-ink."

What if you add red shoes to the message?

I read the piece in full (having skipped it the first time thanks to the idiot "print books are dying" comment)...and I have to say: Huh?

If complex sentences and difficult words are what make us focus more, they should do so equally well on ereaders.

If smudged ink and bad typography are what do the job, that means that properly-produced books and magazines don't encourage focus. I never see smudged ink in hardback, trade paperback or even mass-market paperbacks, and rarely see inadequate typography in the first two.

There's something mindless here, but I don't think it's e-ink. Then again, we are talking Wired...

I think 99.9% of the time the idea introduced from this article is not useful. What I got out of the article was that sometimes when we have to struggle to interpret something or if we see something written in a different way we interpret it differently.

That is why I linked to the graffiti on the sidewalk. The same message neatly written in a book is interpreted different than something written on the sidewalk. Should everything be written on the sidewalk? No. But occasionally it is good to shake things up.

What about other variations--like the texture or gloss of a printed page--that differs even among "properly-produced books and magazines?" Maybe he's worried that, in the long run, the loss of the full spectrum of imperfection (smudges, texture differences, printing glitches, etc.) to the "mindless clarity" of e-readers will give the brain's "dorsal muscles" less and less reason to flex, and make our minds less and less tolerant of such challenges and of paying closer attention.
I don't know that the 1% referred to above would apply... Graffiti, billboards, neon signs, and the like will always be created to be different and eye catching, and are not terribly demanding on the intellect to begin with.

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