Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Absorbing Discussion

The relative merits of traditional ink-on-paper books as opposed to e-readers is a topic about which people tend to have very definite ideas. I, for one, prefer the traditional hard-copy book over the e-reader for many reasons … here are just a few:

- You can easily page back and forth to specific locations without difficulty. This is especially helpful when you're reading a history book in which all the maps are clustered together in a few pages at the front or the back of the book.

- You never have to worry about running out of battery power at a critical point.

- If you drop your hard-copy book on the floor, it won’t break, and if you drop it into the bath while you're reading you can dry it out and continue to read.

E-readers have their place, of course. I find it a lot easier to carry my iPad with the Kindle app on the bus while I’m commuting to and from work, and when I’m traveling and need to worry about weight and bulk. But generally speaking, I prefer the traditional hard-copy book.

And as it turns out, there’s yet another reason to read traditional books: a recent study indicates that people who read them retain more of what they read than people who use e-readers. Researchers who conducted the study at Norway’s Stavanger University had this to say about the results: "the haptic* and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.” In another study conducted last year, 72 Norwegian 10th-graders were given texts to read in print, or in PDF form on a computer screen, and were then administered comprehension tests. The researchers found that "students who read texts in print scored significantly better on the reading comprehension test than students who read the texts digitally.”

You can read more about the subject in this article by Alison Flood in The Guardian.

I found this to be very interesting, and to be borne out by personal experience. I have all five of the currently-released volumes of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series (on which the TV miniseries Game of Thrones is based) as digital books on my iPad, and am re-reading them to compare the action of the stories to the plot of the TV series. In this second reading, I’ve found that there's quite a bit I missed the first time through.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that it’s much easier to turn a page when all you need to do is tap the edge of the e-reader screen; this seems to encourage reading at a faster pace, or at least speeding through parts which might seem to move more slowly than others. The act of turning the page of a physical book, on the other hand, requires more coordinated actions to complete, and tends to slow down the progress … perhaps providing more time for thought and concentration.

So, Dear Readers, what's your opinion? When we've talked about this topic before, your general preference seemed to be for printed books rather than e-readers, but is that still true? If you've read the same book in both formats (as I have with several), do you notice a difference in your comprehension and retention? Leave a comment and let me know.

Have a good day. Read more. More thoughts tomorrow.


* "Of or relating to the sense of touch, in particular relating to the perception and manipulation of objects using the senses of touch and proprioception." So, is the combination of "haptic" and "tactile" in this sentence redundant?


eViL pOp TaRt said...

In general, I prefer e-books for light fiction; but when I'm studying in a textbook, especially one with detailed illustrations, I prefer the hard copy. I imagine art books are preferable in the traditional form.

Grand Crapaud said...

In general, I prefer my fiction in an e-reader form because there's not the old book storage problem.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

BOOKS,BOOKS, BOOKS. I have no ereader and never will. I'll be holding the last damn book ever printed I suppose. Although I hear ereaders make a good book mark.

Linda Kay said...

Some books are just a quick read, so e-books are probably the best way to go on these, and as you mentioned so easy to pack around with you. I do on occasion pick up a hard copy of a book by some of my favorite authors, so I can pass them on to my daughter.

Gonzo Dave said...

I don't have an e-reader because I have too many books-in-print that I haven't read yet. Once I finish all those (maybe in 2048?) I'll consider an e-reader. But a wall full of bookshelves that are full of books has always been a part of my life.

Duckbutt said...

I prefer my Kindle as the vehicle for books.

Mike said...


Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Whatever one is cheaper.

Brandi said...

I prefer books.