Reading behavior in the digital environment

Ziming Liu (School of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University, San Jose, California, USA)

Journal of Documentation

ISSN: 0022-0418

Publication date: 1 December 2005



This study attempts to investigate reading behavior in the digital environment by analyzing how people's reading behavior has changed over the past ten years.


Survey and analysis methods are employed.


With an increasing amount of time spent reading electronic documents, a screen‐based reading behavior is emerging. The screen‐based reading behavior is characterized by more time spent on browsing and scanning, keyword spotting, one‐time reading, non‐linear reading, and reading more selectively, while less time is spent on in‐depth reading, and concentrated reading. Decreasing sustained attention is also noted. Annotating and highlighting while reading is a common activity in the printed environment. However, this “traditional” pattern has not yet migrated to the digital environment when people read electronic documents.


Implications for the changes in reading behavior are discussed, and directions for future research are suggested.



Liu, Z. (2005), "Reading behavior in the digital environment", Journal of Documentation, Vol. 61 No. 6, pp. 700-712.

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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