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Anyone who has spent more than a few minutes “surfing the ‘net” has an intuitive awareness of how different it feels to encounter textual information in a digital as opposed to a typographic environment. The inert features of the printed page that make reading essentially a solitary psycholinguistic process and only incidentally a visual one, as Goodman argued many years ago, are transformed on the computer screen to make reading more dynamic, more interactive, more essentially visual, and even auditory. In comparison, the experience of reading printed materials, especially books, as Richard Lanham (1993) has argued, is static, silent, introspective, and typically serious (see also Olson, 1994; Ong, 1982). These characteristics of conventional reading derived from printed materials have come to be culturally valued (see Birkerts, 1994, for a romantic expression of these values), and they have been reinforced, if not determined, by the material concreteness of conventional printed materials and the relative expense and difficulty in producing them.


This chapter is an excerpt from "Literacy and Motivation: Reading Engagement in Individuals and Groups". The book can be purchased here:

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