Writing Wednesdays: paper books vs e-readers

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Reading a book

I have noticed I better understand information when I read it on paper than on a screen. A recently-published study that my friend Nan drew my attention to has confirmed my suspicion: we have better comprehension and retention of information read from paper than from e-readers.

The article shows it doesn’t stop there. We tend to skim on screens, and read more in depth on paper. But as more people read information on screens, the ability to pay attention long enough to immerse ourselves in printed material is being lost.

Although I certainly see the practical side of e-readers, I’m not a fan. I hadn’t thought of an e-reader affecting my “serendipity” but the lack of control the article describes, being unable to flip through pages at will (instead of at the mercy of the touch screen) is a big reason why I stick to paper books.

You can read the entire article here: Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books

Do you prefer reading paper books, or on an e-reader? Or do you enjoy both?

3 thoughts on “Writing Wednesdays: paper books vs e-readers

  1. I use both, but am gradually going back to printed books. When I first got my Nook, I read quite a lot on it, but realized that for serious reading paper is better. The Nook is still used for light reading at home and away.

    I’ve also heard there’s data showing better right/left hemisphere integration of the brain with paper books. If I had young children, I’d be researching that for sure. Young brains are still forming.

  2. I agree with April totally! I print out anything I need to study or memorize (I’m in grad school and also teach). I use my Kindle for the fun, casual reading and carry-long for travel. No more heavy book bags on airplanes! I developed allergies a few years back that are triggered by dust, so I’ve been able to decrease my book stacks significantly, and thus the dust they collect. Of course I still keep my very favorites and my professional library. I do love not having all of the yellowed paperbacks but instead the nice e-ink technology, so easy on the eyes.

  3. I love and use both. When on the go (daily stuff) or traveling out of town, I bless my Kindle and its ancillary apps gratefully. Do you have any idea how much my luggage used to weigh?? The challenge of trying to get a carry-on lifted over my head into the bin? And this was before the vultures at the airlines tightened up on the size and weight of all baggage, with nasty financial consequences for an overage of mere ounces. Or now, when caught unexpectedly waiting somewhere, the joy of being able to pull out my phone and pick up my book of the moment from wherever I left off (could’ve been iPad, Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, or Kindle Paperwhite LOL. That sync technology is amazing.) E-ink is also especially welcome. Spending 9-10 hours a day gazing at a monitor already, my eyes don’t always welcome the strain of staring at a shiny, lit surface for marathon reading. So I’ll more often reach for my Paperwhite or Kindle Touch first. The Touch requires strong direct lighting but is still my favorite of all e-readers (I’ve run the Nook gamut as well.) I take precious care of it, since replacing will be difficult; Amazon no longer retails this device since launching the Paperwhite.

    My little house is overwhelmed with the printed books I’ve collected since childhood; and this is the other advantage of e-books. As a sewist/crafter, erstwhile interior design student, and art and textile enthusiast, NO electronic media will take the place of a glossy crafting book or elegant coffee table publication. But I need another fiction paperback like I need a hole in my head. So e-readers allow me to indulge in acquisition without needing to evict furniture, appliances or spouse.

    As far as trotting out an old book, opening it at some random spot to get reacquainted, I’ve gotten comfortable doing this with my e-readers as well. Just sort of sliding the locator bar to some section within the the middle third of the book or so…it works for me.

    To the first part of your post, I realized early on in my professional life that I could not count on my proofreading proficiency when reviewing documents on my screen. If I had to get every word and letter right, it was imperative I print out my draft and read it. I don’t know why this should be so, but the comprehension aspect you mention may tie into it. Paradoxically though, I don’t find that e-books stay with me any less, or are less vivid and evocative, then printed books.

    Fun stuff. 😀

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