People don’t read on the Web—they scan. Researchers Jakob Nielsen and John Morkes found that 79 percent of their test users always scanned Web pages and only 16 percent read them word-by-word (www.useit.com/alertbox/ 9710a.html).
But the Web challenge to “normal reading” goes deeper. Readers on the Web break the linear logic of narrative by clicking underlined or highlighted words and phrases that whisk them away to new topics, digressions, asides and elaborations. This Web “hypertext” allows a reader, or rather a “scanner,” to shape her own narrative line—and in the process often lose the kind of narrative coherency intended in a conventional linear printed text.
This article is available to subscribers only. Please subscribe for full access—subscriptions begin at $2.95. Already have an online account? Log in now. Already a print subscriber? Create an online account for no additional cost.