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Just as we learn that certain features—roundness, a twiggy stem, smooth skin—characterize an apple, we learn to recognize each letter by its particular arrangement of lines, curves and hollow spaces.
After all, we did not invent writing until relatively recently in our evolutionary history, around the fourth millennium B. So the human brain improvises a brand-new circuit for reading by weaving together various regions of neural tissue devoted to other abilities, such as spoken language, motor coordination and vision.
Some of these repurposed brain regions are specialized for object recognition—they are networks of neurons that help us instantly distinguish an apple from an orange, for example, yet classify both as fruit.
And recent surveys suggest that although most people still prefer paper—especially when reading intensively—attitudes are changing as tablets and e-reading technology improve and reading digital books for facts and fun becomes more common. S., e-books currently make up between 15 and 20 percent of all trade book sales.
Even so, evidence from laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way.
We often think of reading as a cerebral activity concerned with the abstract—with thoughts and ideas, tone and themes, metaphors and motifs.
As far as our brains are concerned, however, text is a tangible part of the physical world we inhabit.
Perhaps his daughter really did expect the paper magazines to respond the same way an i Pad would.
Or maybe she had no expectations at all—maybe she just wanted to touch the magazines. Young children who have never seen a tablet like the i Pad or an e-reader like the Kindle will still reach out and run their fingers across the pages of a paper book; they will jab at an illustration they like; heck, they will even taste the corner of a book.
When we read, we construct a mental representation of the text in which meaning is anchored to structure.
The exact nature of such representations remains unclear, but they are likely similar to the mental maps we create of terrain—such as mountains and trails—and of man-made physical spaces, such as apartments and offices.