ATG Book of the Week: Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World

by | Jul 6, 2015 | 0 comments

words onsceenTitle: Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World
Author: Naomi S. Baron
978-0199315765 $24.95 (also available in eBook from various providers)
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015

“…In Words Onscreen, Naomi Baron, an expert on language and technology, explores how technology is reshaping our understanding of what it means to read. Digital reading is increasingly popular. Reading onscreen has many virtues, including convenience, potential cost-savings, and the opportunity to bring free access to books and other written materials to people around the world. Yet, Baron argues, the virtues of eReading are matched with drawbacks. Users are easily distracted by other temptations on their devices, multitasking is rampant, and screens coax us to skim rather than read in-depth. What is more, if the way we read is changing, so is the way we write. In response to changing reading habits, many authors and publishers are producing shorter works and ones that don’t require reflection or close reading.

In her tour through the new world of eReading, Baron weights the value of reading physical print versus online text, including the question of what long-standing benefits of reading might be lost if we go overwhelmingly digital. She also probes how the internet is shifting reading from being a solitary experience to a social one, and the reasons why eReading has taken off in some countries, especially the United States and United Kingdom, but not others, like France and Japan. Reaching past the hype on both sides of the discussion, Baron draws upon her own cross-cultural studies to offer a clear-eyed and balanced analysis of the ways technology is affecting the ways we read today–and what the future might bring



“A darkling view of what our world–and what we–will be like if codex reading eventually surrenders to the flickering screens of e-readers.” –Kirkus Reviews


“A must-read for all Americans concerned with having future generations skilled in critical thinking.” -Nat Hentoff, The Daily Herald


“From kindergartens to universities, schools are being pressured to replace printed books with electronic ones. But is reading from a screen the same as reading from a page? Naomi Baron provides the most thoroughgoing answer yet to that crucial question. Words “Onscreen is an essential book for educators, parents, and everyone who loves to read.” –Nicholas Carr, author of The Glass Cage and The Shallows


“Naomi Baron has written a tour de force on the changes to reading in a digital milieu. It includes and then goes beyond the work before it, including my own. It deserves our “deepest reading” and re-reading in either, or perhaps, both mediums!” –Maryanne Wolf, Tufts University, author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain


“Anyone who loves reading about reading will love reading Words Onscreen. Baron goes back in history to place current trends in context, gives a tremendously clear-eyed view of the present, and points towards a future for those who prefer printed books that is both perilous and hopeful. What’s particularly amazing is that a book so impeccably and thoroughly researched should also be so fun to read.” -Will Schwalbe, author of the New York Times bestseller The End of Your Life Book Club


“The book is an engaging history of reading as well as a provocative argument about its future.” –Wall Street Journal


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