Digitization of reading
Reading has highly been appreciated in the sense that it enables participation in a literate society. It has a cognitive and emotional effect on the individual reader. Again, there has been sufficient awareness of the cultural and social significance of reading. In this age of digitization, the textual reading is expanded to include a number of screen-based technologies and reading devices such as e-book readers and tablets. These technologies have conspicuous appeals than paper has. Textual reading and literacy have been redefined by these digital technologies.
An increasing complexity of digitization replaces the linear, static and logical presentation of written text. Digital reading can be defined as multimodal, dynamic and interactive representation. This major change in the reading practice over the last few decades paves the way for new reading and literacy research. This new research serves as a model for the transformational nature of the recent digital developments.
The new literacy practice or digitization of reading involves the use of Flicker, blogs and Twitter. According to some researchers, digital literacy is multiple in nature. "We define digital literacies as socially situated practices supported by skills, strategies and stances that enable the representation and understanding of ideas using a range of modalities enabled by digital tools" according to O Brien and Scharber.
Digital reading is very common to young learners who prefer to scroll more than turning the pages of the book. Young children who use a tablet like the iPador an e-book reader like the Kindle tend to reach out and run their fingers across the pages of a paper book. But unlike this, older generation who don't know digital reading, would even taste the corner of a book to have reading sensation. Today's so-called digital generation still interact with a mix of paper magazine and books as well as tablets, smartphones and e-book readers believing that one kind of technology does not obstruct them from understanding another.
Digital texts and technologies become more prevalent and create mobile ways of reading -but are we still reading attentively and thoroughly? How do our brains respond differently to onscreen text than to words on paper? Such questions have been investigated by researchers in many different fields since at least the 1980s. Before, 1992 most studies confirmed that people read slower, less accurately and less comprehensively on screens than on paper. However, studies conducted in the early 1990s, have claimed the contradictory results. Recent studies suggest that reading digital books for facts and fun becomes more common. In USA e-books currently make up between 15 and 20 percent of all trade book sales.
The difference between reading on screen and reading on paper relies on the fact that how the brain interprets written language as well as digital language. Reading is defined as a cerebral activity concerned with the abstract thoughts and ideas, tone and themes, metaphors and motifs. Text has a unique strength that set it apart from many other means of communication. To be specific, language spoken as well as written, makes possible communication between different mental faculties. Human brain may also perceive a text entirely as a kind of physical landscape.
When we read on paper, we construct a mental representation of the text. In contrast reading on screen interferes with intuitive navigation of a text and inhibit people from mapping the journey in their minds. A reader of digital text scrolls, tap forward and backward, instantaneously search and locate a particular phrase. But it is difficult for him/her to construct a physical landscape of the text. In most cases, paper books have a more predictable natural sequence than on-screen text.
There is a rhythmic reading sensation closely associated with paper books. Paper books generate a sense of belongings into the mind of the reader. The smell of new book's paper can make a sense of encouragement to reading. In contrast on- screen texts only able to display a single virtual page generates sense of feasibility into the mind of the reader. Various sort of advertisement along with adult pictures makes distraction on reading.
Digitalization redefines reading and literacy in education and learning. Within a few decades, this new reading habit has become widespread. It is a matter of debate whether reading as literacy skill has been deteriorated by digitization. The profound reading practices formed by the centuries of book culture are at stake! It is supposed to be replaced by facile forms of on-screen reading. It has already been observed that individual and social attitudes to reading are changing. Digital learning environment replace books for education and leisure reading. Due to the universality of on-screen texts, paper books seem to be intrinsically less immersive.
A main objective of e-read is to bring a coherent relationship between the reading techniques and the contents or themes of that text. There are lots of advantages of e-reading as well. Firstly, e-books are portable. A reader can get rid of carrying multiple bulky books by carrying only a single device or e-book reader. It allows the reader to store plenty of books on this device which he/she may not even able to read in his/her lifetime. Secondly, accessibility of e-books marks it as the most convenient reading practice. Some readers even prefer the option of offline accessibility which allows them to access any e-book even in the absence of internet connection.
Thirdly, e-books can easily be updated as they are mostly cloud-based. Authors' and publishers can always add up to date information's that saves re-printing costs and time involved there. Fourthly, e-book social feature allows readers share and link contents with multiple users. Getting a full book on a click by receiving a pdf file or a third-party link can save huge money of a printed text books. Fifthly, e-books are presented with an augmented three dimensional visual. Moreover, e-books are designed with text to speech or read aloud features that allow people only to listen to the text without reading it! People can easily find out a difficult word's pronunciation, synonyms or antonyms. Furthermore, e-books are designed with audio and video facilities which contribute to its more interactive features of reading.
Reading is inherently a multidisciplinary task. Due to the extensive digitization, there has been increasing attention for reading recently. The reading task has been carried out through many perspectives such as historical, socio-cultural phenomenological and so on. Additionally, an increasing amount of reading practice contributes to literary as a whole. The current digitization adds urgency to the need to promote greater literacy practice.
The writer is a lecturer,
Department of English, BGC Trust