WE READ more than ever -- three times as much as we did in 1980, according to one study. But we're reading differently. Take a look around a train carriage full of commuters nowadays and you'll probably see more people perusing text on phones and tablets than in newspapers and books. We're writing differently, too. Not so long ago people at meetings and lectures scribbled away furiously with their pens as they took notes. Today, talks and presentations are accompanied by the manic click-clack of laptop keyboards. Hurrah, some say. Our smartphones and tablets are expanding our worlds. We now have access to vast libraries literally at our fingertips. Good riddance to shoulder-wrenching textbooks, teetering towers of dusty papers, leaky pens and cramped hands. Others, though, worry that the benefits of digital technology come at a cost. Is all that skimming, scrolling and flicking around electronic screens dulling our capacity for sustained attention and deeper reading? Is there something special about pen-on-paper that typing fails to reproduce?
There is no going back, of course. Digital screens are here to be superseded. But if they do affect the way we read and write, we need to know so we can maximise the benefits and minimise any downsides.
And we need to know sooner rather than later.