I.M.H.O., Internet

Up, Down, Sideways

I try to skim the New York Times every day. Today, for a change, I’m reading it. And I’m reading it because I’m holding the paper in my hands, and perambulating the apartment with it.

The fact that I’m able to get a take in the entire broadsheet, in a single frame, with its clear delineation of the content—text, photos, advertisements—into neat blocks, facilitates reading.

It also hastens my comprehension. I’m better able to concentrate as well as get a quicker grasp of a paragraph, when it’s not on the laptop, requiring one’s gaze to shift along its length of it.

As a digital immigrant, who’s grown up reading print, I’m comfortable reading from left to right, not top to bottom.

Once I reach the end of a page, my fingers have an involuntary impulse to flip it like a pancake, and go on to the next. The motion of turning a page seems far more effortless than clicking on a link to proceed to the next tract of digital text.

How we read today is nothing, if not oddly similar, to how people read in classical Greece up until the Middle Ages. Scrolls read longitudinally, from up, down, down, and down—much like what we do online.

And that isn’t the only problem with reading on the computer. It also keeps one chained to the “Page Up” or “Page Down” button. E-readers are an improvement on that.

They may accommodate a whole page in one frame, but they don’t give one a spatial sense of one’s location within a book or a magazine.

O.K., now, let’s scroll down.

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