Young Americans are doing less “voluntary reading” in the traditional sense, but they’re spending lots of time reading online. Writing on Britannica Blog, Dana Gioa of the National Endowment for the Arts suspects that people read differently online, but says we don’t understand the differences.
Early in our research, we spoke to an Internet expert employed by a major corporation who said that the companyâ€™s research showed that people rarely read more than about 20 consecutive words of text on the Internet.
However, the NEH wasn’t allowed to see the study.
If this assumption proves correct, then Web text is being experienced primarily as information and entertainment, and not as a format conducive to sustained engagement with writings of greater length. If this is the case, then future prospects for vocabulary growth, contextual learning, and memory retention â€” not to speak of spelling, grammar, and syntax â€” are bleak.
Also on Britannica, James Evans writes that online searching is more efficient but “may also accelerate consensus and narrow the range of findings and ideas grappled with by scholars.”
Ironically, my research suggests that one of the chief values of print library research is its poor indexing. Poor indexing â€” indexing by titles and authors, primarily within journals â€”likely had the unintended consequence of actually helping the integration of science and scholarship. By drawing researchers into a wider array of articles, print browsing and perusal may have facilitated broader comparisons and scholarship.
Is there more opportunity for serendipity in a library than in a Google search?