E-readers and tablets are becoming more popular as such technologies improve, but research suggests that reading on paper still boasts unique advantages
An emerging collection of studies emphasizes that in addition to screens possibly taxing people’s attention more than paper, people do not always bring as much mental effort to screens in the first place. Subconsciously, many people may think of reading on a computer or tablet as a less serious affair than reading on paper. Based on a detailed 2005 survey of 113 people in northern California, Ziming Liu of San Jose State University concluded that people reading on screens take a lot of shortcuts—they spend more time browsing, scanning and hunting for keywords compared with people reading on paper, and are more likely to read a document once, and only once.
When reading on screens, people seem less inclined to engage in what psychologists call metacognitive learning regulation—strategies such as setting specific goals, rereading difficult sections and checking how much one has understood along the way.