Here’s a terrific post from Jonah Lehrer, with this sparkful idea:
The act of reading observes a gradient of awareness. Familiar sentences printed in Helvetica and rendered on lucid e-ink screens are read quickly and effortlessly. Meanwhile, unusual sentences with complex clauses and smudged ink tend to require more conscious effort, which leads to more activation in the dorsal pathway. All the extra work – the slight cognitive frisson of having to decipher the words – wakes us up.
So here’s my wish for e-readers. I’d love them to include a feature that allows us to undo their ease, to make the act of reading just a little bit more difficult. Perhaps we need to alter the fonts, or reduce the contrast, or invert the monochrome color scheme. Our eyes will need to struggle, and we’ll certainly read slower, but that’s the point: Only then will we process the text a little less unconsciously, with less reliance on the ventral pathway. We won’t just scan the words – we will contemplate their meaning.
See also this post by Tim Carmody. The technologies associated with reading — and punctuation and printing styles are technologies — have always been in flux, but now they’re fluxing faster than they used to. But what if developing technologies allow us to situate our reading environment at any of the previous points in the history of reading? What if the future of reading can also be the past of reading? Now that would be cool.