"I just prefer paper."

"I spot things more quickly on a paper copy."

"I tend to miss errors on a screen when proof-reading, so I print a paper copy instead."

This is just some of what you are saying to me about going paperless, and it highlights a very specific concern that you have.

Is it just your imagination, or is there more to it?

I've looked at the scientific research to find out!

Scientific American Magazine

In this article published in 2013 (click here to view online version) Ferris Jabr posed the question:

"How do our brains respond differently to onscreen text than to words on paper?"

His answers:

  • In the beginning (pre-1992) screen reading was slower, less accurate and less comprehensive than paper reading.

"Before 1992 most studies concluded that people read slower, less accurately and less comprehensively on screens than on paper."

  • More recently those difference have virtually disappeared.

"Studies published since the early 1990s, however, have produced more inconsistent results: a slight majority has confirmed earlier conclusions, but almost as many have found few significant differences in reading speed or comprehension between paper and screens."

  • It's an attitude thing - people don't read as 'seriously' when reading from a screen.

"An emerging collection of studies emphasizes that [...] people do not always bring as much mental effort to screens in the first place. Subconsciously, many people may think of reading on a computer or tablet as a less serious affair than reading on paper."

It's all about attitude, so here's what you should do...

If you're worried about reading from a screen instead of from paper, the main thing you need to do is change your attitude to screen reading.

  1. Remind yourself that what you are reading on screen is just as important as what you would be reading on paper (take it seriously).
  2. Give it the attention and concentration (mental effort) it deserves.

As Thomas Jefferson said:

"Nothing can stop the man with the right attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."