Reading e-books instead of “real books”? Maybe your reading more, but you are probably re-telling-less
If you are curling up with your favorite pair of ripped blue jeans, warm cup of tea and your favorite Dostoevsky novel in hand, did you really just miss the e-book explosion or do you know something about reading a “real book” that the rest of us don’t?
Do old technologies ever die?
In 2010, sales of e-books had already risen to extraordinary double-digit rates of 252%. But recent data shows their levels no longer rising as they had before, with 28% in 2012 and sales up only 5% in the first quarter of 2013. Is it just because old technologies never really die? Or does science have some great news for people who have kept their unwavering loyalty to printed books?
Let’s first look at what happened to vinyl records back in the 80’s. It seems that radio and e-books followed the same trend. Vinyl records took off in WW ll after playing a significant role for the armed forces. They ruled the roost until music sales fell flat in the 80’s.
It was the CD, born in 1982, that re-ignited excitement of buying music again. CD’s exploded everywhere until vinyl was soon nowhere to be seen. But late last year, according to the Wall Street Journal, vinyl was called the “biggest music comeback of 2014,” surprisingly, by young indie-rock fans who appreciated their superior music quality and the “ritual” of putting the needle to the groove. But it’s not just “rituals” that have kept us from burning our books, there’s intuitively something more.
An “E-book moment”
The ongoing transition of reading from printed words to digitization, such as computers, tablets, e-books, and smartphones began to leave some fundamental questions of the ability to comprehend texts viewed on a screen versus when viewed on the printed page. And according to consumer reports, many of us are resistant to the transition, not only because of the high costs but because of the shortcomings of e-book technology. One of them is people beginning to notice that screens make it harder to remember what they just read. Are we having problems focusing or could we be simply experiencing what should be called, an “e-book moment”?
What the research says
Researchers gave the matter thought. A 2012 Norway study determined that subjects reading comprehension were significantly lower when the text was viewed on a digitized screen versus read from the printed page.
According to the study, there were several reasons comprehension was lower via the digitized screen. With the digitized screen, scrolling with your finger is inevitable which affects the ability to remember the text.
Other habits acquired from reading on screens such as skimming a novel to look for key words and ideas leads to rushed and disjointed reading. Your eyes may be passing over the words, but the reality is your comprehending very little.
A string of other studies on attitudes towards digital learning listed distraction as the number one problem while surfing the internet.
So what exactly is it about print that makes a difference? According to the Norway study, reading the printed word from an actual book, allows the reader to mentally visualize the physical layout of the text on the page which supports recall, memory, and comprehension.
Printed books by giving access to the entire book versus one page at a time on the digitized screen, affects the overall organization and flow of the text, the study concludes. Tactile sense also comes into play to anchor your memory. Even just the weight of the book in your hand acts as an inroad to durable learning.
But don’t get me wrong, e-books do have some benefits. They have made reading more convenient, they’re easier to obtain, and the success of devices such as the Kindle, through the collision of technology and culture, has most likely increased our desire to read.
I don’t think die-hard “real book” aficionados have much to worry about, as old technologies maybe fade a little but never really die.
Today, an actual book, a meaty thick, you can firmly grasp in your hand- kind of book, with its new paper smell, neatly folded sheets, printed words and perfectly straight spine has resoundingly survived the e-book revolution.
And unlike Vinyl Records that smoked the music industry from the 1950’s-80’s, and largely replaced by the CD, real books won’t need Indie-rock fans to revive them.