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People of the Screen

Christine Rosen’s article “People of the Screen” made a lot of sense to me and made me think, as well as consider, a lot about how we are required to be “digitally literate,” as she puts it. She explains in her article how we take for granted how we are able to just pick up a book and start reading. It has not been until recently that we have had the technology to create books that can be produced on a large scale. She says that technology is evolving which means that the screen will replace the book. She means that we will be viewing books on small, personal computers such as a cell phone, or something similar to an ipod. I agree with Rosen in that the book will be completely replaced by digital versions that will be much more easily accessible as well as less costly. I also believe that this is a good thing and will have positive effects on our society. As is presented in her article, there seems to be a problem with this transformation of books to online files. She points to several articles that seem to demonstrate that we are not reading printed books as much as we used to. There is a lot in this article and a lot of ways to go about explaining it, but one thing that is very important is how we are becoming less efficient readers of printed material.

Rosen’s article points to a study done by the National Endowment for the Arts. Rosen states a fact from the article that says nearly half of Americans ages 18 to 24 do not read books for pleasure and Americans ages 15 to 24 spend only between 7 and 10 minutes per day reading voluntarily. She also says that two thirds of college freshmen read for pleasure for less than an hour per week or not at all. That means that only one third of freshmen read more than one hour per week. What Rosen fails to mention in this section of her article is an important fact that is in the actual National Endowment report and can be accessed through the link that is provided. It says “Americans are read reading less well.” It explains that besides that we are not reading enough on our own, we are not reading as well as we once were. According to the report reading scores for American adults at all different educational levels have been declining. This is true for even the best educated groups. The report also says that from 1992 to 2003, the percentage of adults with graduate school experience who were rated proficient in prose reading dropped 20 percent. There is a direct connection between these two groups of statistics. One is saying that people are reading less and the other is saying that they are not reading as well as in the past. It makes perfect sense that because we are not reading, we are not reading as well but there is certainly more to it than just this.

Another part of this article adds to this and states that the study done by the National Endowment did not include online material. It is easy to criticize and say that people are not reading books because they read everything online, but this would not explain the decrease in test scores. As pointed out by Johns Hopkins University historian James A. Bell, there is a much different way that we read a screen than a book. He suggests that we read on a screen and look for specifics. A report published by the British Library also adds to this and says that we read books horizontally and online articles vertically.

The declining of reading scores seems to be directly linked to the ways that we read. The tests that we take may be geared towards printed material. Maybe these tests need to be re-written to account for the online content that we skim through and pick up. Or maybe we are becoming worse readers as the transformation of online books takes over. It is evident that books will eventually convert to online databases but when that happens could be far off in the future. We may or may not make up for our decreased scores but it seems as though we are doing just as much and being just as efficient with these slightly lower scores.

Comments

With everything in technology changing I also believe that the computer or device like an iPod will take the place of the books. It is much less costly to view books online instead of having to print books and someday the library may be obsolete. I’m not saying I want it to be but I think that in the future it will be. When you think about it then the cost of building libraries and the cost of maintaining and employing them will also no longer exist. Your point about people not reading as much as they used to twenty years ago and that people don’t read as well shows a good connection. Fewer and fewer young people are reading an hour for leisure and some are not reading at all. Also American’s are not reading as well and they used to. But of course not everything is as simple as the fact that we don’t read as much then we are not as good of readers. Then you bring up a very valid point about how the amount people are reading was not including what they read online, yet the tests scores are still behind. Then it was brought up by James A. Bell that people read a screen much more differently then they do an actual book. This then ties it all together saying that Americans read less physical books and mostly online material which in turn is making them less smart because they skim for the specific details they are looking for and don’t get intellectually better readers.