Reading over the ages has changed a lot. From the days when there was no papyrus to the days when there will be no papyrus. Reading as a concept was popularised with the coming of the printing press. It was the printing press that could make the reading a ubiquitous activity. With the transformation of the papyrus to the stream flow of electrons carrying our fonts and the texts, the way we read has undergone a fundamental change.
The pre-requisite for reading is pleasure. And that pleasure can only be derived from the turning of pages. However in the dog-eat-dog world of today, pleasure has become inversely proportional to the time you have. Therefore we all have to supplement our thirst and quest to read by resorting to the electronic forms. The essential anatomy of reading is co-ordinated from the left to the right. That is why we often feel uneasy to go to captions or footnotes as it breaks this natural movement of eyes from the left to that of the right (Just a note that this does not apply to urdu). Even when we turn the pages of the books it is from the right to
left. Imagine for each page if we had to turn from left to right, we would not be reading anything for the pleasure of it.
However with transport of reading from the left to right to the top to bottom something very fundamental changes. First of all the natural rhythm of reading patterns is broken. That is why we often find it difficult to read in this top-down manner. Moreover books do not have any problems related to that of eye stress originating due to colour or structure of the book. In the electronic forms our eyes are already loaded and irritated due to the intrusion of the top-down mannerism plus one has to adjust the layout of the screen to suit the intensity that can be bared easily.
What used to be referred to as "I have to read 3 pages from Chapter 1" shall now be termed as "I have to read three scrolls from top to bottom". Never were mice so important to reading. Structurally one could the reading is like flow of water. In a book water flows in a continuous manner from the left to right. However in a screen it is like water reaches at the end, then it is re-routed to the next level and so on to the end. Papyrus made using memory as a media of information transfer obsolete. It made information laying and transfer easier.
With the coming of the electronic media the papyrus has/will become obsolete. We all will end up making different meaning by seeing the same set of electrons in our CRT. It is just that these electrons desctruct some natural rhythms and create rhythms of their own. What the electronic media achieves is to break the structure of the book. Rather than make the book look fatter in breadth dimension, it obliterates the entire dimension itself. In these electronic books there is no breadth, there is only length. This is an example of going back. Remember the days when we used to have those lengthy scrolls. It is the same. The e-book is a long book that goes into pages just that organised in a linear fashion.
Suffice to say that - reading earlier used to belong to the three dimensions, now it is just a linear exercise. The tangible feeling that we all experience while reading is now lost. We all are left asking for more, but something at the end we could say yes I read through the entire of this. In other words reading is now de-objectified.
and if you want
There is no turning back or seeing left or right.