Are our brains ready for digital reading?

Journalist Dan Bloom – who writes for TechEye from the beautiful island of Taiwan, has written a piece which has provoked a great deal of comment and controversy.

Following reports that spell the end of print in favour of digital images shown on tablets and the like, Bloom asks a good question that as far as we’re aware hasn’t been answered by researchers.

He says: “WHAT IF, what if reading off screens — what Marvin Minksy at MIT calls “screen-reading” and what I call “screening” — is vastly inferior, in terms of brain chemistry and neuroscience, to reading text on paper surfaces? WHAT IF, what if reading on paper surfaces is real reading and reading off screens is faux-reading? WHAT IF, what if reading on paper surfaces — a book, a newspaper, a magazine — is vastly superior to “screening” off screens — computers, iPhones, iPads, BlackBerrys, nooks, Crannies, you name it! — in terms of information processing, information retention, information analysis and, perhaps most importantly, Ross, critical thinking skills?”

He suggests that in the future it’s possible that scientists will discover that reading digitally has an effect on the brain, and could show that “we have been barking up the wrong tree with this gadgethead fixation”.

You can read Bloom’s open letter here, and see what Roy Greenslade from the Grauniad has to say, here.