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The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: Why Paper Still Beats Screens

E-readers and tablets are becoming more popular as such technologies improve, but reading on paper still has its advantages

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One of the most provocative viral YouTube videos in the past two years begins mundanely enough: a one-year-old girl plays with an iPad, sweeping her fingers across its touch screen and shuffling groups of icons. In following scenes, she appears to pinch, swipe and prod the pages of paper magazines as though they, too, are screens. Melodramatically, the video replays these gestures in close-up.

For the girl's father, the video—A Magazine Is an iPad That Does Not Work—is evidence of a generational transition. In an accompanying description, he writes, “Magazines are now useless and impossible to understand, for digital natives”—that is, for people who have been interacting with digital technologies from a very early age, surrounded not only by paper books and magazines but also by smartphones, Kindles and iPads.

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