There are plenty of great reasons to prefer reading an eBook over a paper book; but there’s also something very satisfying about cracking the cover on a paper book and smelling the irresistible combination of woody paper and printed ink.
Making your way through the pages of a printed book is a lot more rewarding than an eBook. It feels great to turn through the pages and see one side of the binding gradually become thicker than the other.
Paper books are shareable, so you can hand your copy over to a friend when you’re done. When they return the book (if they ever do) you get to place it on your shelf like a trophy.
On the other hand, eBooks are easier to take with you to the office or on public transportation. They’re also lighter to carry in a backpack.
Getting your book is a lot easier with an eReader. You can download a copy whenever you like instead of having to pick it up at a store or shipped from Amazon.
Ask a neuroscientist and they’ll tell you that paper books are a much better choice.
For starters, multiple studies show that people who read paper books have better recall. Part of that has to do with the kinetic connection we have with paper books.
“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,” Anne Mangen of Norway’s Stavanger University wrote in a 2014 study. A big reason is that we construct a mental picture of the words we read based on their placement in the book.
Mangen also speculates that the difference in comprehension “might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading.”
Neuroscientists also believe that our eyes behave differently when reading paper books and eBooks.
Ziming Liu, a professor at San Jose State University, and author of “Paper to Digital: Documents in the Information Age” found that when we read on a digital screen our eyes tend to browse the page, skimming and skipping words more often than when reading a paper book.
Reading on screens “is characterized by more time spent on browsing and scanning, keyword spotting, one‐time reading, non‐linear reading, and reading more selectively, while less time is spent on in‐depth reading, and concentrated reading,” Liu said according to National Library Wellington.
When it comes to education, a study by Naomi Baron found there are definite advantages to reading in print.
Studies show that students spend more time when reading in print than digital and use fewer study strategies such as note-taking when reading digital material.
Baron also found that students who read digitally do better at answering concrete questions about the text, but fared better on abstract questions after reading in print.
Many of us like to relax with a good book before falling asleep at night, but according to a study published in the journal PNAS, eReaders may actually be keeping us up.
The study found that “reading an e-book before bedtime decreased the production of melatonin, a hormone that preps the body for sleep. E-books also impaired alertness the following day.”
Americans may be getting the hint that print is the way to go. In the early 2010s, it looked as though eReaders would eventually overtake print books. But the sale of books on eReaders peaked in 2014 and then rapidly fell 17% in 2016, while print books took an 8% leap in popularity.
Unfortunately, the number of Americans who read for leisure is dwindling. In 2004, the average American read 23 minutes per person per day and in 2017 that number fell to just 17 minutes per day.
So, the real lesson here is that regardless of how you choose to read, the most important thing is that you keep reading in the first place.