Which is the correct usage?

Reading on screens causes a drop in productivity.


Reading from screens causes a drop in productivity.

I'm under the impression that the first usage is correct, and indeed shows up more frequently in searches, but I do see the latter used on occasion...

  • You mentioned doing an online search to see what is used more. Keep in mind that there are plenty of non-native speakers writing articles in English. These articles get swept up into search results, and cause confusion as to good / correct usage. – michael_timofeev Aug 19 '15 at 14:56

It is better to use "from." Reading "on" screens has the potential for misunderstandings..

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  • Would you say that the same applies when saying "reading on/from paper"? "From" sounds strange to me, but that's just me falling back on native speaker intuition, which can prove wrong quite often ;) – Alex Aug 20 '15 at 9:05
  • Doesn't matter...reading on a screen or paper means standing on the screen or paper. You read from something. – michael_timofeev Aug 20 '15 at 9:09
  • The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls. And tenement halls. Not to mention bathroom stalls. And you read them on those places as well. You also read things on billboards and bumper stickers. And you probably read the credits on the movie screen. "From" is the choice for books and scripts and computer displays, but I doubt few native speakers would interpret "read on" to mean standing on while reading. – deadrat Aug 21 '15 at 8:21
  • @deadrat well, I agree with your examples, so the real question is, Why do we change it to from for books, paper, and computer screens? Of course, now that I've looked at your sentences a few times, I ca't tell what is correct anymore. – michael_timofeev Aug 21 '15 at 8:26
  • Welcome to my world of befuddlement... – Alex Aug 25 '15 at 13:35

Google's Ngram viewer shows the usage of "reading on" has increased over the years. The google autocomplete for "reading on " gives "reading on kindle", "reading on ipad" whereas "reading from " gives "reading from a file in java"(This might be just my result, but I highly doubt it suggests reading from a screen or reading from a kindle).

Google Ngram Graph

I would use the phrase "reading from" when I am reading "from" a book. Reading "on" a phone/tablet/kindle sounds more familiar.

However, as the graph above suggests, both "from" and "on" are used today.

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  • Why is it that, when I use Ngram for the above clauses, I get an entirely different graph? – Hot Licks Jun 17 '16 at 2:45
  • And the frequencies are much lower, with lots of artifacts such as "... gulf, tennis and reading. On screen as child actor ...". – Hot Licks Jun 17 '16 at 2:48

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