When you think about it, the process of reading is the same regardless of whether you read online or off. Reading starts with the eyes as they begin looking at letters and the words those letters create. Right away, the brain kicks into gear, breathing meaning into the images received by the eyes.
If the reading process is the same, why does it seem there’s a difference between speed reading online and reading material in a book?
A lot of the difference has to do with presentation. When we read books, we pretty much know what to expect. We’ll see crisp black letters against a white background. We’ll see plenty of space between each sentence and usually, the same type of font. We’ll see formatting that helps break apart the text, adds more white space and makes reading easier on the eye. Images may or may not be included, but when they are they’re included in a way that’s easy on the eye.
This is what we’ve come to expect from printed material and that consistency helps ensure that the speed reading techniques we’ve learned can be uniformly applied.
But that all changes when we begin reading on screen. The ability to visit so many web sites so quickly and with such ease is really terrific. Unfortunately though, it also means that our eyes are at the mercy of thousands of different web site owners who each have their own ideas about the way their sites should look.
As we visit different web sites, our eyes are bombarded with inconsistent presentations of on screen text. They encounter different fonts, different-sized fonts and different-colored fonts. They see pages with varying amounts of space between each line, with some text presented in the familiar space and a half and other text crammed together with barely a single space separating each line. They see varying column widths and links to other sites.
And not only that, there always seems to be things popping up all over our screens that serve no other purpose than to grab our attention away from the information we initially visited the site to review.
Add to all of this the vast differences in computer monitor resolutions and refresh rates and it’s easy to understand why our eyes sometimes have trouble focusing on what we seeing online.
Unlike the crisp clear letters that appear in printed material, the letters on computer screens are comprised of tiny pixels. The more pixels a computer screen is capable of displaying, the clearer the image that appears on the screen. In this case, text is also considered an image.
Computer screen resolution is referred to as PPI or Pixels per Inch and the general rule of thumb is more is better since pixels reflect color and brightness. The downside is that more usually costs more. More pixels also consume more memory and can, depending on your computer hardware’s overall configuration, slow image display rates.
The point I’m trying to make is a higher computer monitor resolutions produce much clearer and much more detailed images than a computer screen with a lower output capacity. There are other ways computer screens affect how you speed read online, and I’ll cover them in detail later on in the next post.
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